“Playoffs?! Don’t talk about playoffs. You kidding me?! Playoffs?!”
Yes, I want to talk about the Milwaukee Bucks not only making the playoffs, but also winning their first playoff series since 2001 this season. Now, I am aware that it is only the month of November. I am aware that some fans want to see Coach Kidd fired. I am aware the Bucks currently hold only the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. And I am aware that the team still has some lingering flaws. However, this Milwaukee Bucks team is only going to get better this season. They have given the city hope with their surprising playoff run last year and the talk of “Owning the Future” these past few seasons, and if the team, and fans, can remain patient, I believe we will see the Bucks make it through the first round of the playoffs breaking the longest streak without a playoff series win in the NBA.
The Bucks have a few things going for them that will help them in this quest. For starters, the Eastern Conference this season is weak. Maybe not as weak as some people thought before the season, but give it time and teams will start to show their real identities. Of course, Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, and Washington remain the Bucks’ toughest competition when battling for playoff position, but the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, and Detroit Pistons have been playing surprisingly well to begin the year and may give the Bucks some extra unexpected competition. However, over the course of the season, a more experienced Bucks team should end up being superior to those teams. Philly looks like they will be very good someday, but they are just too young right now to make any noise in the playoffs. Same goes for the Knicks. Detroit is currently sitting with an 11-5 record, but I have a hard time seeing them keep that pace up all season long. Call it a fluke, if you will. This would mean the Bucks are looking at a top 4 or 5 seed in the East, or better, depending on if they can make the leap over teams like Washington and Toronto, which I think the Bucks are capable of. A higher seed would mean a better matchup in the playoffs, and that is just what the Bucks need if they are going to advance.
Other than vulnerable competition, the Bucks team itself has flat-out more experience and better talent than in the past. They have made the playoffs two out of the last three seasons, and are ready to make the next jump Bucks fans have been waiting for. We saw them give Toronto everything they could handle in the first-round last year, which was promising to see from a young team. Last year’s draft picks, Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon, gained crucial playoff experience as rookies, and although Maker hasn’t lived up to the hype in his second year, Brogdon has shown he can be a legitimate second or third scoring option behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. The addition of Eric Bledsoe has also given the Bucks something they have been missing. A quick point guard who can create his own shot and facilitate the offense creating more opportunities for Antetokounmpo. Having Bledsoe on the team gives much-needed depth to the guard position and allows Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova to come off the bench, which relieves some of the pressure on the second unit.
Speaking of Giannis, his clear ability to take over a basketball game this season is another reason why the Bucks are poised to win a playoff series this year. The most Most Improved Player from last year can carry this team. Playing in his first season since the passing of his father, Giannis has shot out of the gates looking like an early MVP candidate. Early on he was winning games for the Bucks by himself, resembling what Aaron Rodgers does for the Packers. The Greek Freak is averaging 30.1 points a game in addition to playing stellar defense. He is officially a superstar. Something Milwaukee has not had in a long time, and if you want to win in the NBA you need a superstar (or two).
Let it not be forgotten that Jabari Parker is still a member of this team. His return to the Bucks around the all-star break is what will put the team over the edge. We have still not seen what Giannis, Middleton, and Parker can do together on the court because of untimely injuries. Parker is the last piece that the Bucks need to be one of the top teams in the East. He is another explosive athletic scorer who’s return will push Tony Snell back to the bench bolstering that group even more, and then watch out! The Bucks will be a force to be reckoned with. The pieces are in place for this team to succeed in the postseason. Fans just need to remain patient.