With the NBA playoff race heating up and the Eastern conference specifically having teams toe to toe the rest of the way, the Milwaukee Bucks sit in the 10th spot 1.5 games behind the eighth place Detroit Pistons and tied with the Miami Heat (The heat are up 1 game in the win column.)
I caught up with Milwaukee Bucks beat reporter Gery Woelfel who covers the Bucks for the Racine Journal-Times.
You can listen to the full interview here:
Gery, to start, the Bucks didn’t make any deadline acquisitions, were you ok with this considering the current state of the team, really fighting for a playoff spot in the East?
“Yea, you know there hands were a little tied because they didn’t have a lot of assets. But I was a little surprised that they didn’t move Greg Monroe, cause that could turn out to be a major dilemma for them. Whether he ops in and they have to pay him 18 million or he ops out and they lose a player they invested a lot of money and time into. The fact of the matter is that they couldn’t get much in return for Monroe because of his contract and the fact that the game now is up-tempo and he really doesn’t fit into that style for a lot of teams. Other than that, Parker is damaged good so you cant trade him right now. Giannis is off limits. Khris Middleton would be the biggest asset to trade this offseason.”
Before we talk about the impact the Greek freak has had on the Bucks this season, there was a bleacher report article written the other the day that closely compares Giannis at age 22 to LBJ at age 22, do you think The Greek Freak has what it takes to have the same impact that Lebron has had through his career?
“No, there is absolutely no comparison. Lebron is just the complete package. Giannis is just an unpolished athletic freak, who relies strictly on the team or on the basket. When Lebron came in his first two years he was averaging 28-30 points per game. Some people may argue Lebron is the best of all time and some may argue he’s in the top 5, so at this point, Giannis is light years way from being the next Lebron.”
Now let’s get to this playoff race, we’ve seen the impact Giannis has had this season, does he have enough left in his tank to be a big part in pushing the Bucks to the playoffs?
“You know what I don’t want to sound negative about this, but Giannis seems mentally fatigued and physically fatigued. He played so hard the first half of the season and All Star weekend was just nonstop activities. The last two games he’s turned it over a lot and hes just not the same player he was in the first half of the season. He will still have his occasionally really good games, but I don’t think you’ll see this guy being the dominant player he was before the all star break.”
Someone who’s really surprised me this season is Jabari Parker, for the first time in his young career he’s really stepped up when this team needs him. How will his injury truly affect the Bucks offensive performance as well as on the defensive side?
“Jabari Parker is having a fantastic year until his injury. There were a lot of people around the NBA team that thought he should be on the all star team. The only thing that prevented him from being on the all star was the Bucks record. Being on a team that is below .500 going into the all star break can prevent you from making the roster. Jabari was emerging as one of the most potent young players in the NBA. As a 21 year old he was averaging 20 points per game and 7 rebounds per game. Those are the numbers you expect from a seasoned veteran that is actually 26-27. For basketball fan sake and especially as a bucks fan you hope he fully recovers.”
Someone that I’ve always rooted for since his Texas A&M days is Khris Middleton.. at the age of 25 I think this kid has the ability to get his game to next level. What do you see out of this kid that you really enjoy? And what are some noticeable things he can improve on?
“Yeah, I dont know if hes ever gonna be an all star player, but I think he can be in that fringe. He can be like a top 20 player in the eastern or in the western conference. Hes a very good player you have to give him a ton of credit for coming as far as he has. You know he was a 2nd round pick and he was a throw in when the Bucks traded Brandon Jennings for Brandon Knight.”
If you had one word to describe Khris Middleton’s game, what would it be?
“Smooth. He just does things so effortlessly. He just glides to the basket, his shot is textbook, and he doesn’t look like hes putting forth all the effort, but we know he is.”
Has Jason Kidd lived up to any sort of expectations in Milwaukee?
“No, I think the majority of Bucks fans expected him to come right in and not only lead the Bucks to the playoffs, but also to do well in the playoffs. After he traded Brandon Knight, this team has just plummeted. They were 7 games above .500 at the Knight trade and now at this point in this season they are 4 games below.500. They are 19 games under .500 in total since they have traded Knight and that doesn’t speak the best about Kidd’s coaching abilities”
What would it mean for Kidd and his position in Milwaukee if they were able to make the playoffs?
“Yea, I have no doubts if they make the playoffs his job is safe. On the flip side, if they don’t make the playoffs. In my opinion, I think they will have to move on and find somebody. This is pro sports, its not high school and 3 straight years of sub par records just doesn’t cut it in pro sports. If he gets in the playoffs he did his job, if he doesn’t, he didn’t do his job. Its simple.”
Have you seen positives out Thon Maker so far?
“Yes, I have seen some growth in his game. I guess im biased, because he is my favorite player on the Bucks roster right now. He’s got a very friendly personality and hes just a great person. He’s always got a smile on his face. I know he works extremely hard in practice and is a great teammate so im pulling for him obviously because of those reasons. I think hes got a shot, but its hard to say at this point in his career.”
Another guy I want to talk about is rookie Malcolm Brogdon. Do you think this kid has the potential to be a first tier player? Do you think he had a chip on his shoulder not being a first round pick?
“Yeah! It’s funny that you brought his name up. I just did a monstrous feature piece on him. He’s having a year that no one thought. He’s been a huge highlight this season for them”
“He definitely had a chip on his shoulder not being a first round pick. He flat out told me that. His motivation is to a better player everyday. Now he’s obviously trying to prove his skeptics wrong. There’s a good chance he could start the rest of the way.”
Right now the Bucks are two games behind the Pistons in the 8th spot and two games in the win column behind the Miami Heats.. what do you think really needs to happen if the Bucks want to make the playoffs?
“Yeah they def have the ability to make the playoffs. I thinks it a matter of their key players now. Giannis has to get back to his pre all star form. Brogdon has to keep averaging around 18-20 points per game. Monroe’s got to be a great push off the bench. Most importantly they have to tighten up their defense”