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2015-16 NBA Preview: Can The Young Bucks Keep Improving?

We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here.


In his first season coaching the Milwaukee Bucks, Jason Kidd took a team that won a league-worst 15 games and turned it into a 41-win playoff team –- even though he didn’t have prized rookie Jabari Parker for nearly three-quarters of the season. So what does Kidd have in store for an encore? His task is to help one of the brightest young cores in the game take that next step from being thrilled to make the playoffs and gaining valuable postseason experience to winning a round or two and eventually challenging LeBron and the Cavs. FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO projection system is skeptical that the Bucks can take another step along that path, projecting the team to go 36-46.

carmelo_depth_chart_BUCKS

Kidd surprised many people this summer by persuading free agent Greg Monroe to sign with Milwaukee. The Bucks were tied for eighth in points in the paint last season, and now they have a legitimate scoring big man inside. Parker returns to give Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton another scorer on the wing to play with. Michael Carter-Williams, who was acquired at the trading deadline, now has a full season with the Bucks to show that he can be an elite point guard despite his shooting deficiencies. Kidd has always been a Greivis Vasquez fan, and the backup point guard will be a key reserve.

And here’s what’s in store for the key Bucks in 2015-16, according to CARMELO:

giannis-antetokounmpo

Fresh off playing for Greece in the EuroBasket tournament, Giannis Antetokounmpo hopes to take another one of his trademark long strides forward with his game this season. Set to turn 21 in December, Antetokounmpo has been working on his perimeter game after making just 7 of 44 (16 percent) from behind the arc last season. Kidd probably would prefer that Antetokounmpo create 3-point opportunities for other shooters, but the Bucks want the Greek Freak to become a complete player. Kidd would like to see Antetokounmpo be smart and tough on his drives, draw even more fouls, create for teammates, finish aggressively and score more in the paint. Antetokounmpo, at this stage in his career, is probably better offensively than his top comp, Darius Miles in 2003. And he has a higher ceiling than Miles did even before Miles’s injury issues. Antetokounmpo can play defense like his No. 2 comp, Josh Smith, but more efficiently under Kidd’s tutelage.


greg-monroe

Can Greg Monroe be the difference between the Bucks just making the playoffs again versus making some serious noise in the postseason? The Bucks now have an offensive-minded center who can average a double-double, score inside and from the perimeter, pass (key in Kidd’s system) and rebound. He also is one of two Bucks projected to have a positive plus-minus on both sides of the ball. The Bucks won’t complain if Monroe puts up similar offensive numbers to his comparisons LaMarcus Aldridge (21.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Al Jefferson (18.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg) in 2011. However, the Bucks will need Monroe to play a whole lot better defense than Jefferson does.


khris-middleton

All you need to know about Khris Middleton’s old-school game are his top comparisons: Bob Gross (’78), Sonny Parker (’80) and John Long (’81). Middleton may not be flashy, but he plays hard, and his throwback game is a nice complement to his flashier and younger teammates.


jabari-parker

We barely got a taste of Jabari Parker when his rookie season ended after 25 games. Now Parker returns to an even better and more experienced Bucks team. Unlike other No. 2 draft picks, Parker won’t have to carry the team. CARMELO might compare Parker to Luol Deng circa 2006, but Parker was drafted to play more like another versatile former Dukie: Grant Hill.


michael-carter-williams

OK, Michael Carter-Williams can’t shoot. But neither could his coach at this stage of his career. And like his coach, Carter-Williams is a former Rookie of the Year looking to prove something after being traded early in his career. One of Carter-Williams’s top 10 statistical comparisons is the 1997 version of Kidd. Let’s see if Kidd is right about MCW.


john-henson

John Henson was just rewarded with a Larry Sanders-like four-year, $44 million extension. Like Sanders, Henson will be counted on for rebounds and defense — but without the drama.


Read more:
All our NBA player projections
All our 2015-16 NBA Previews

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Milwaukee Bucks for ESPN.

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