OTG's All-Decade Team: Milwaukee Bucks Edition
Morry Gash - Associated Press
With the past decade coming to a close, what better way is there to ring in the new decade than by reflecting on the past? Off The Glass is taking a look at each NBA team and selecting their All-Decade squad, which is defined by one guard, one forward, one center, a role player (someone not selected as an All-Star, or to an All-NBA team), and one wildcard.
Today, we are highlighting the Milwaukee Bucks.
Guard: Brandon Jennings
The guard position was a revolving door during this decade in Milwaukee until the past couple years, and certainly not a strong point on many of these Bucks teams. However, Brandon Jennings led the Bucks to one of their best seasons in years to start the decade, going 46-36 in the 2009-2010 season, and thoroughly challenging the Hawks in a first round, seven-game playoff series. Jennings averaged 15.5 points per game his rookie campaign, including a 55-point breakout performance early in the season. He would go on to average a career best 19.1 points per contest in 2011-12 and led the Bucks to a playoff appearance in 2012-13 alongside Monta Ellis. After four years in a Bucks uniform, Jennings would be traded in a deal that landed Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton, and suffer a career derailing injury in Detroit. Jennings would never be the same but did resurface as an obvious fan favorite with the Bucks late in the 2017-18 season.
Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo
On June 27, 2013 the Bucks selected a young athletic player out of Greece who looked raw but had potential. No one thought much of the pick at the time, and frankly many Bucks fans were disappointed in the selection. But it turns out, that night would be the most important night in the decade for the team. In his rookie season Giannis played sparingly for a 15-win team but flashed potential upside with incredibly athletic plays.
He continued to develop under coach Jason Kidd, culminating in back to back All-Star appearances in 2016-17 and 2017-18 (the first Bucks player selected to the game since 2004). However, after the hiring of coach Mike Budenholzer in the summer of 2018, Giannis’s career has taken off; he has become he league's most unstoppable force on both ends of the court. Giannis posted averages of 27.7/10.3/5.9 in 2018-19 and won the MVP award. The only thing even partially missing from his game is the three-point shot, which he is now shooting at a much improved 33% clip this year - absolutely terrifying news for the rest of the league.
Whether Giannis remains in the cream and green over the next decade or not, he has completely turned around this franchise from 15-win laughingstock to title contender in a matter of years.
Center: John Henson
The center position hasn’t exactly been a strength in Milwaukee this decade either. It began with Andrew Bogut having a career year in 2009-10 before suffering a gruesome arm injury. It has ended with a phenomenal year and a half from 2018 free agent acquisition Brook Lopez, who was easily the second strongest contender for this slot. In between Bogut and Splash Mountain, there was not a whole lot, but one constant performer was John Henson. Henson was nothing special in his six plus years in the Cream City, averaging double digits in points per game in just one of those seasons.
However, the 14th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft was a solid bench player for the Bucks for many years and became a full-time starter for the team’s 2017-18 playoff squad. Henson’s biggest contributions came on defense, where he averaged 1.4 blocks per game over his six full seasons with the team. The Bucks have moved forward with a better center in Lopez, but Henson gave this team a big man they could rely on throughout the decade.
Role Player: Ersan Ilyasova
The Bucks have had numerous guys play big roles over the last decade, but one consistent force has been Ilyasova. He began his career all the way back in 2006 with the Bucks and after a couple years in Spain, would come back to play in Milwaukee from 2010-2015. Turkish Thunder would find his groove in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, averaging 13 points and eight rebounds per game while also shooting the three at a 45% clip.
Ilyasova would begin the second half of the decade with stints in Detroit, Orlando, Atlanta, and Philadelphia, but in 2018 he was welcomed back with open arms to the Cream City to play for his former coach in Budenholzer. While he has not been needed to be as much of a scorer in his second stint in Milwaukee, Ilyasova is a solid 3-and-D guy who is among the best in the league at drawing charges. His impact in two separate stints with the Bucks over the last decade has been largely underrated.
Wildcard: 2013 Offseason
The 2013 offseason changed the entire landscape of the franchise. Getting Giannis in the 2013 Draft at pick number 15 will forever go down as one of the greatest draft steals in history. Obviously, no one knew Giannis would be this good, but it was a great shot in the dark pick by then-general manager John Hammond for a small market team that has trouble luring stars to their city in free agency.
Now the Greek Freak has developed into an MVP, and is arguably the best player in the association. His partner in crime through this decade, Khris Middleton, was also acquired that offseason as a throw-in in the Brandon Knight/Brandon Jennings swap. No one could have predicted this at the time either, but it will go down as one of the better trades in Bucks history as Middleton has developed into an All-Star and perfect complement to Giannis on the wing.
Team High: 2018-19 Season
There is no doubt this was the highest point for the Bucks franchise in the past decade. They began the season by opening a brand-new world-class arena in the Fiserv Forum and won their first seven games of the year.
They would never look back, winning a league high 60 games and winning a playoff series for the first time since 2001. The Bucks would actually win two series and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals before being ousted by the eventual champion Toronto Raptors. Giannis and Middleton both were All-Stars, the Greek Freak won MVP, and Coach Bud instilled a culture this team hasn’t seen in several decades while winning the Coach of the Year award. The city was absolutely a buzz over this team and that has continued right on into this season.
Team Low: 2013-14 Season
The Bucks had a lot of lows before their recent success the past couple years, but it’s hard not to say the ultimate low was a 15-67 2013-14 season. It was the first and only time the Bucks had not reached 20 wins in a season since their inception, and it was a brutal roster to watch play. Giannis and Middleton did get their start in Milwaukee that year, and Brandon Knight showed some flashes, but other than that there was zero to write home about for this team. The only positive was that the bad record finally got them a top draft pick rather than a pick at the end of the lottery. However, the number two pick in the 2014 Draft would be spent by the team on Jabari Parker, who as we all know did not exactly pan out.
Upcoming Decade Prediction: Utterly impossible to predict right now.
Most of (if not the entire) decade's outlook will depend on what Giannis decides to do in the offseason of Summer 2021. If Giannis moves on and signs elsewhere, the Bucks will have a middling roster that will probably bring them back to the “8th seed or bust” mentality they had to begin this past decade. If Giannis agrees to a super max deal with Milwaukee, it is not crazy to think the Bucks could become a Golden State-esque dynasty that could win 3 or 4 championships over the course of the decade, with the new face of the league on their side. This postseason will likely be the wildcard factor that predetermines much of the Bucks' next decade.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.