The Bucks overachieved early in the season, but are now playing as they "should" without Khris Middleton
"R-E-L-A-X. Relax." This was a quote from Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in 2014 after the team started the season 1-2. They went on to go 12-4, making it to the NFC Championship Game. That team wasn't living up to expectations. After those 5 letters were uttered, the team went on an 11-2 run and came close to the Super Bowl.
What does this have to do with the Bucks? Well, the reaction from Bucks fans warrants another relax quote. We were very spoiled watching this team early on in the season. They were looking like a lock for the playoffs crushing the Bulls and Pacers in important divisional games. They played close to the Warriors and Spurs. It seemed that "Bucks Fever" was contagious among non-Bucks fans and Bucks fans. This is all coming from a team that lost their leading scorer from last season.
Now, the Bucks have struggled. In their last 10 games, they are 2-8 and have fallen out of the playoff picture for now. The record sits at 21-26 after a tough OT loss to the Boston Celtics. There almost seems to be a panic among fans that includes the question "What's wrong with our Bucks?"
The answer is nothing major. Many will point to Jason Kidd and say he needs to be fired. Let's not forget it was Jason Kidd who caused the rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo. He also chose to have Monroe come off the bench, which is a great role for him. Sure, the Bucks have had inbounding issues this season. They have also failed to make adjustments at halftime. However, if you watch some of the games, it can be seen that Kidd doesn't draw up every single play. He isn't always responsible for adjustments throughout the game. He shouldn't be given a free pass, but he is certainly not the issue with Milwaukee.
The issue is Khris Middleton is injured. He hasn't played all year and most likely won't play until after the All-Star Break. The Bucks miss his efficient 3 point shooting, which can distract defenders, leading to open shots for others. With Middleton, the Bucks are probably a lock for the playoffs as a 5, 6, or 7 seed. Without, they should be playing like they are now. They are currently the 9th seed because without Khris they can't win close games. Relying on Mirza Teletovic, Tony Snell, and others to make 3 point shots for the win is a hopeful but ultimately losing strategy.
The Bucks also don't have a center. Miles Plumlee makes some neat plays but that's it. Monroe is coming off the bench because he can actually put up reliable point production for the bench. John Henson is really only still a Buck because he is liked by the city of Milwaukee. Thon Maker is a rookie and needs to eat a few steaks and get some more experience before he can really serve a purpose on the team.
Instead of asking what's wrong with the Bucks, we should be asking about how they can improve. Freaking out over a team that was overachieving early and has now dropped down to the expected level of play won't really do anything. The Bucks have more work to do before they are a solid playoff team. Next year if the team is healthy, then we can expect the playoffs. To expect it now is over-optimistic.