First, a quick injury update for the Milwaukee Bucks:
Matthew Dellavedova, who strained a hamstring in the Bucks’ victory in Detroit, will not play tonight. Bucks coach Jason Kidd said Malcolm Brogdon still start at guard for Dellavedova.
But top reserve Mirza Teletovic has cleared concussion protocol and will play tonight. He and former Wolves player Michael Beasley are top reserves at forward for the Bucks.
Tonight’s game will match two teams following very similar paths. Both the Bucks and Wolves are building around a core of young players – Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine in Minnesota, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton in Milwaukee. Middleton is currently out while recovering from surgery on his left hamstring.
But the Bucks, who come into tonight’s game at 15-15, might be a year farther down the line than the Wolves (10-22) in the process.
“I was in the same division, so I watched what they’ve done,” said Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau, who was in Chicago when the Bucks were building their current team; the two teams faced each other in the playoffs in the spring of 2015.
That 41-41 Bucks team was something of a surprise, an interesting blip on the screen for the rebuilding team. Milwaukee won 15 games in 2013-14, when Antetokounmpo was a rookie, jumped to 41 wins a season later, then won 39 last season. Parker was hurt early in his rookie season of 2014-15. But his career is really starting to take off.
“They’ve drafted well, they’ve added some good pieces,’’ Thibodeau said. One of those pieces is defensive specialist Tony Snell, who played for Thibodeau in Chicago.
“There is a lot of young talent in this league,” Kidd said. “Minnesota is one of those teams with a lot of young talent and a great coach. But it takes time. There are growing pains in understanding how to play the game at a very high level. You have to learn. These are 21-year olds learning to play the game at high level.’’
Antetokounmpo and Towns might be different players. But both represent where the NBA big man is going.
Antetokounmpo plays the point-forward position for the Bucks while Towns is more of a traditional big man in terms of his play in the post. But both can stretch the floor, score off the dribble and find their teammates. Towns had his first triple-double in Denver. Antetokounmpo has two triple doubles this season.
“I’m playing catch-up,’’ joked Towns.
Said Thibodeau: “I think you’re seeing that’s the way of the league, versatility. It’s hard to, or harder to, put a particular player in a particular box.’’
Now, the point-forward isn’t exactly new. Thibodeau threw out old-school names like Paul Pressey, the former Bucks player, as an example, and Oscar Robertson.
“It’s happened before,” Thibodeau said. “But I think what you’re seeing is the skill set of the bigs, with the utilization of the three. You’re seeing guys stretch it out a little more.’’