5 Things to Watch for During the Milwaukee Bucks' Final Games
The 2013-14 season couldn't come to an end sooner for the Milwaukee Bucks, but that doesn't mean fans should completely ignore the team down the stretch. In fact, there are a handful of things to watch out for which will be important to the future.
Whether it's watching rookie sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo continue to mold into a legit player or seeing if O.J. Mayo can finish strong, there are several things to pay attention to.
And while they won't influence anything in regards to the current season, they'll be important come the offseason.
Key decisions will need to be made as soon as the last game is played, and the stretch run will be looked at carefully when making them.
This list was determined by looking at key storylines from this season, as well as looking ahead to 2014-15.
* All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference (unless otherwise noted) and current through April 1. *
The Play of O.J. Mayo Down the Stretch
O.J. Mayo has missed the last several games due to a sprained ankle, but it's his play down the stretch fans will want to pay attention to.
After averaging 15.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 40.7 percent shooting from the field and a sizzling 44.9 percent from three-point range in November, Mayo seemed to hit a wall.
In the 25 games he played in from December through January, he managed to average a paltry 10.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists on 38.2 percent shooting, including a horrendous 31.8 percent from behind the three-point line.
Mayo has played only 11 games since Feb. 20, and has rebounded a bit—specifically his shooting percentages—but the Bucks need him to do more.
He was brought on to be a scorer and that's something he hasn't been able to consistently do this year.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo improving and the team potentially headed for the No. 1 overall pick in this summer's draft, Mayo needs to finish strong in order to prove his value.
If he can't, the Bucks may shop him this summer.
The Continued Emergence of Brandon Knight
The biggest bright spot for the Bucks this season has been the play of point guard Brandon Knight.
In this his third year, Knight is emerging as a legitimate option to become the franchise point guard by demonstrating improvements in virtually every statistical category.
His averages of 17.6 points, 4.9 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals are all career highs. Additionally, he's shooting 41.8 percent from the field, which still isn't great, but it's an improvement over previous years.
What's more important is that Knight is converting 45.7 percent of his two-point attempts and is attempting more than three more shots inside of the arc, which shows he's more aggressive.
While he still needs to curtail his three-point shooting, 296—or 30.3 percent—of his 976 field-goal attempts thus far have come at the rim.
With ample quickness and a strong frame that can absorb contact, if he continues to attack and cut down on his jump shots, his numbers will continue to improve.
Watch for Knight to continue his stellar play down the stretch and continue to make Bucks fans forget about the other Brandon.
The Freak's Finish
No player on the team has been more exciting to watch in 2013-14 than Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The rookie from Greece was expected to be a major project when drafted 15th overall in the 2013 draft, but has surprised many with the level he has played at throughout the season.
He's clearly still very raw, but the potential is endless for The Greek Freak.
Averaging 7.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks in 24.4 minutes of play, he's showing he can impact a game in a wide variety of ways.
In order for him to get better, though, he'll need to work on his jump shot among other things.
From zero to three feet, Antetokounmpo is converting a very solid 58.2 percent of his attempts. However, when he steps out into his mid-range game, this begin to take a turn for the worse in drastic fashion.
On shots from three to 10 feet, he's converting just 18.9 percent of them. When he steps out to between 10 and 16 feet, that number drops to an even worse 12.5 percent. And from two-point attempts of a distance greater than 16 feet, he's hitting 23.5 percent of them.
He has the athletic ability to get to the rim more often than not, but every player needs a mid-range game and developing that down the stretch and over the summer will be vital.
A strong finish will allow the rookie to head into 2014-15 with momentum.
How Hot Will Larry Drew's Seat Get?
Prior to the season, Bucks owner Herb Kohl told Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee State Journal the following:
"They're all here for a reason, to play basketball and win games," Kohl said.
Asked if he thinks some teams will not try to contend, Kohl said, "I don't know. Every team genuinely makes their own decisions and I don't quarrel with it."
"We are not playing for the lottery. We want to be a good team."
Unless Kohl was blatantly lying, he can't be happy with the results the team has logged into the record books this season.
And Larry Drew, the man responsible for keeping the team on track, is on the hot seat.
It's not fair to place all of the blame on Drew because he clearly doesn't have a ton to work with. However, the way he has managed what he does have is of some concern.
With no clear direction and inconsistent rotations throughout the year, it has seemingly been hard for Drew to capture the attention of his players.
While it's unlikely the Bucks will opt to fire him after one season—after all, he has clearly helped Knight improve—his seat grows hotter by the minute.
The only question is how hot will it get by season's end?
Can They Finish with the League's Worst Record?
Having the league's worst record doesn't guarantee a team the top pick in any given draft, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
As the Bucks come down the home stretch, they'll have to fend off the Philadelphia 76ers in what has become an epic battle of two teams tanking.
At 14-60, Milwaukee currently has a two-game advantage, but thanks to a remarkable 26-game losing streak, the Sixers have shown they want the No. 1 overall pick in June's draft just as badly as the Bucks.
The last time the Bucks had top choice was in 2005 when they went with big man Andrew Bogut. In hindsight, that probably wasn't the right decision considering the careers both Chris Paul and Deron Williams have put together.
Nine years later, they'll want to redeem themselves by making the correct decision in what's likely to be a deep draft.
Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker are the three freshman phenoms that have garnered most of the attention through the college season, but right now only Wiggins has declared.
All three are potential franchise-changing players, so all eyes will be on whoever obtains the top pick this summer.