BOSTON – When one thinks of the Milwaukee Bucks’ slogan, “Own the Future,” some of the first names that come to mind are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton and Thon Maker. One player who is often overlooked among Milwaukee’s youthful talent, however, is rookie point guard Malcolm Brogdon.
Brogdon, whose Milwaukee Bucks will face off tonight against the Boston Celtics in the regular season finale, has quietly put together one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in the league.
The 24-year-old – yes, you read that correctly; he’s a 24-year-old rookie – has averaged 10.2 points and 4.2 assists per game while starting on a playoff-bound team. It’s safe to say that he has far exceeded expectations after being drafted 36th overall during last summer’s draft.
Brogdon’s poise and willingness to step up with a game on the line is what allows him to stand out above many other rookies. The Celtics learned that the hard way two weeks ago when he delivered a crushing, two-point jumper over Avery Bradley with three seconds remaining that propelled the Bucks to a 103-100 win at TD Garden.
“That game was huge, especially for my confidence and for my team’s confidence,” Brogdon said this morning following his team’s shootaround. “To come in here and play well and get a win was huge for us going forward. It was one of the games that really helped us get to the Playoffs.”
Milwaukee has since locked up the sixth seed in the East, and Brogdon’s confidence has played a huge role.
“You look at his maturity, his calmness when he’s on the floor – nothing rattles him,” said Bucks coach Jason Kidd, a former All-Star point guard. “He’s always under control, he understands the situation, and as a point guard that’s important.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has long been aware of Brogdon’s capabilities. He recruited Brogdon more than half a dozen years ago when he was coaching at Butler University, though the guard ultimately chose to play at the University of Virginia.
Stevens kept track of Brogdon’s four-year college career, and was not the least bit surprised by the poise he showed during his last meeting against the Celtics.
“He is not a rookie. He’s not a rookie,” Stevens firmly declared following the March 29 matchup. “And I say that with complete respect to him. That guy, he knows how to play. He’s known how to play for a long time. He was a tremendous college player who was an ultimate winner, and he’s just picked right up where he left off.”
Kidd has been beyond impressed with Brogdon’s poise all season long and senses a bright future for his young point guard.
“I think confidence in this league is [how] the majority of the stars shine,” said Kidd. “Everybody’s physical talents will shine, but if you’re mentally strong and understand your basketball IQ is high, good things will happen. And when you’re a winner like Malcolm – good things have happened for him all season, and we need that to continue.”
The Bucks will look to lean on Brogdon again tonight. They plan to rest four of their top rotation players – Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Matthew Dellavedova and Tony Snell – since they already have their playoff seeding set in stone.
The Celtics, meanwhile, are still fighting for the No. 1 seed in the East. If they beat Milwaukee, they will clinch the top spot; but if they lose and Cleveland wins tonight against Toronto, the Cavs will snag the No. 1 seed.
Even though the Bucks no longer have anything to fight for during the regular season finale, they don’t plan to change their approach against the C’s.
“Regardless of what the stakes are, our attitude and our mindset doesn’t change,” said Brogdon. “We’ve been playing good basketball and we intend to come in here and get a win tonight.”
Despite the fact that Boston will be facing a depleted Bucks squad, it cannot overlook Milwaukee’s talented youth, headlined by its level-headed and determined rookie point guard.