It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
This season began with such high hopes for the Milwaukee Bucks and their fans. Fresh off of a surprising 41-41 season that led to the 6th seed in last year's Eastern Conference playoffs, the Bucks were able to gain the commitment of young free agent big man Greg Monroe to add to their nucleus of youth and length (excuse me, I meant "leeeeeeeeeength"). Centers who post 16-point, 10-rebound seasons at age 24 rarely reach unrestricted free agency... and centers who post 16-point, 10-rebound seasons at age 24 who do reach unrestricted free agency rarely choose the Bucks. With another year of seasoning for superstar-in-waiting Giannis Antetokounmpo, the respective returns of Khris Middleton (re-signed) and Jabari Parker (last year's second overall pick returning from injury), and head coach Jason Kidd proving that he is not just a lackluster holder-of-sodas, the trajectory for this franchise was clearly pointing up.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs finally received the big-name commitment in free agency that has eluded them for years, when LaMarcus Aldridge spurned the Blazers, Suns, and others to return to his home state of Texas. Aldridge joined the championship-ready nucleus of the Spurs with a 4-year, $84-million deal, and the Spurs reaped the benefits almost immediately (although not necessarily in the way that many expected). Aldridge was supposed to be the offensive force that Kawhi Leonard has become, and the hope was that eventually his defensive play would get coaxed out by Pop and his teammates.
Fast-forward six months, and those questions about LaMarcus Aldridge being able to round into form defensively were gone almost from the opening tip of game one. In case you haven't heard, the Spurs are currently on pace to have one of the most historic defensive seasons of all time, and Aldridge has as much to do with that as anyone on the Spurs' roster not named Kawhi Leonard (or Tim Duncan). Only recently has his offensive game begun to round into form, and for the Spurs and their current 68-win pace, that could mean even better things are on the horizon.
Fast-forward those same six months in Milwaukee, and things are no longer all rose petals and kitten whiskers. Greg Monroe has been good - exactly as advertised, in fact. His per-game numbers are right in line with where they've been his entire career, but his defensive shortcomings still exist. His fit as a ground-bound, plodding big man with the young, fast Bucks was always somewhat questionable to begin with, but those issues are even more stark when he is being featured among a bevy of freakishly long and athletic perimeter players. This is not a Greg Monroe issue - this is purely a fit issue.
Which has led the Bucks to where they sit today, 14-22 after a 123-98 shellacking at the hands of the Spurs, and in 13th place in the surprisingly frisky Eastern Conference. The Spurs showed off their free agent acquisition of the summer in this game,
LaMarcus Aldridge ... excuse me, I mean Jonathon Simmons, who outscored both teams' max free agent signings with 18 points on seven shots. Just what does this guy truly have to offer going forward? It excites me to dream...
Line of the Night
"One of the biggest differences was Jonathan Simmons. He really came in and affected the game. His energy, his effort, pushing the ball down the floor and how aggressive he was. He really impacted the game." --- Joe Prunty, Milwaukee Bucks interim head coach
(Stat) Line of the Night
Jonathan Simmons: 18 points on 6-7 shooting, +21 in 20 minutes played.
Your Three (or Four) Stars:
1. Kawhi Leonard: 24 points, 9-12 shooting, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
2. Tim Duncan: 14 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
3. LaMarcus Aldridge: 16 points, 11 rebounds
3(b). Jonathan Simmons: see above. And below.
Jonathon Simmons highlights against the Bucks. 17 pts, 3 rebounds. pic.twitter.com/NcKdmKW13D— J.R. Wilco (@jollyrogerwilco) January 5, 2016
JAMMIN' https://t.co/Sd4bzlXFHU— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) January 5, 2016