With only seven wins near the midway point of the 2013-2014 NBA season, the Milwaukee Bucks are on pace to finish with their worst record in franchise history. They are also on track to finish as one of the 20 worst teams in NBA history.
Still winless in 2014 as of the date of this article (January 21st), Milwaukee is the worst team in the NBA. General Manager John Hammond has publicly said the team is now rebuilding. “It’s all about the future right now. I think we’re in a good spot,” Hammond said. “The young players on the floor are going to get better, and I think the future is going to be very bright for us.”
With all of that said, here is my assessment of the Bucks after the first 40 games of the NBA regular season:
The good: The youth. Considering all of these guys haven’t stop growing or haven’t hit puberty yet, you have to be encouraged by the young talent on this team. That young talent includes John Henson, Brandon Knight, Nate Wolters (when he plays), Miroslav Raduljica and Giannis Antetokounmpo of course. Giannis has taken the league by storm. His length and development is tremendous to watch and he’s exceeding my expectations for this year by a long shot. He blogs, wears Gucci and has already grown more than an inch since draft day. There’s a solid chance Antetokounmpo will be facing his teammate John Henson during the All-Star break in New Orleans for the Rising Stars Challenge next month.
Another good that I’ve able to take away from this disastrous season is the play of Khris Middleton. Middleton came over to Milwaukee this past summer from Detroit in the Brandon Jennings deal alongside Brandon Knight. After coming out of Texas A&M and going through a brief D-League stint, Middleton has been able to show that his shooting abilities are transferable to the NBA. Before being benched by Larry Drew, Middleton over eight games averaged 17 points and six rebounds in December. He also scored a career-high 29 points just four games before that stretch. Middleton is now struggling to find his grove but says he will get it back soon enough. “It's just something I've got to work through," Middleton said. "I'm in a little slump. But I'll figure it out and get my way out of it.”
The bad: Well, this might sound cliché, but the Bucks are just bad. The Bucks have lost 33 games this season but the notion that they are “tanking” is nonsense. If you’ve watched this team play, you know that they’ve been in tight games, but this just isn’t a good basketball team right now. Milwaukee from a numbers standpoint is statistically bad as well. The Bucks currently are ranked last in the league in field goal percentage and points, while also being 25th in rebounding.
The team was also plagued by injuries in the first two months of the season. This forced Larry Drew to give bigger minutes to players he might’ve felt weren’t necessarily ready to play. Nate Wolters played 30 minutes in the first game of the season in New York against the Knicks for crying out loud. The Bucks have also had four players in walking boots (Zaza Pachulia, Gary Neal, John Henson, and Carlos Delfino). If Milwaukee loses Wednesday against the Pistons, it will be their second time this season with a double-digit losing streak. Milwaukee as a franchise had only five double-digit losing streaks coming into this season.
The ugly: The veteran players that signed with Milwaukee this offseason aren’t in the best mood. Caron Butler has seen his minutes decline over the last few games and he’s not happy about it. Broadcasters around the world are saying that O.J. Mayo needs to hold the mayo. Plus Gary Neal got into an argument with Larry Sanders in Phoenix and then oddly didn’t play in the next six games. Some of the ugliness within this team can be directed towards Larry Drew -- who has used 18 different starting lineups this season for Milwaukee. In his defense, the veteran players that are displeased with their roles haven’t played like they deserve a starting spot either. Regardless, this team is historically bad, and the only healthy veterans besides Ersan Ilyasova on the team are not happy and probably want out.