They’ve got the best record in the league. They’ve got (arguably) the best player in the league. They’re the first team to hit 50 wins this season. But do the Milwaukee Bucks have what it takes to reach the Finals and take home the NBA Championship? With just over a month left until the postseason, Vegas still favors the Golden State Warriors and it’s hard to argue with a dynasty like that. But with a balanced team and a great leader in Giannis Antetokounmpo, is it possible that we’ll see this oft-overlooked team from the East win it all? Let’s talk about it.
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Vegas is currently giving the Warriors a 62.3% chance of winning the NBA title, while they’re only giving the Bucks a measly 11.3% shot. However, the oddsmakers do seem to accept that it’ll most likely be Milwaukee who meets Golden State in the Finals. Right now, the Bucks have a 34.13% chance of winning the East and getting to the final series of matches.
Lately, the Warriors have shown that they’re not completely invincible. But let’s not speed ahead too fast. The Bucks still need to overcome the dominant forces that have arisen in the East, which is looking like the better all-around conference this season. The Boston Celtics surging at the moment and they look like they’re going to be some of Milwaukee’s biggest competition. The Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, have been a threat all season, getting even stronger with a few trades in February, and they only lag behind the Bucks by three wins. And don’t sleep on the Sixers. They’re going for it too.
Milwaukee has been the hardest team to score against in the league this season. They’ve also got the third-most efficient offense. That does sound like a deadly combination, right?
Antetokounmpo is the Bucks’ magic wand in this whole equation. Having an MVP candidate on your team never hurts your odds of hanging a banner. If the Greek Freak is enough to take them to the top of the uber-competitive East, could he be enough to take them all the way? Maybe. Giannis is surrounded by complementary players, albeit no superstars quite like him. Compare that to the Warriors lineup of Steph Curry, KD, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins, however, and you might think that the Bucks are going to need a whole team of Giannises to knock off this Golden State dynasty. What Milwaukee has going for it though, is that their roster is constructed perfectly around Giannis, allowing every Bucks player on the court to thrive.
The Bucks are also an elite defensive team. And they’ve shown this season that they can shut down Curry if they need to. All Star Khris Middleton, seven-footer Brook Lopez, and Antetokounmpo are all superb defenders, and the rest of the starting lineup doesn’t suck either. Giannis can guard all five positions, while he himself remains nearly unguardable.
One player who doesn’t receive nearly enough praise, Malcolm Brogdon, is also playing extremely consistently – raining threes and charging in for layups during all four quarters. Brogdon has scored in the double digits in 56 of 63 games this season. The man is a sharpshooter, making 50.7% of his shots, 43% of his three-point attempts, and 92.8% of his free throws (that last one is a league-best). And he can confidently handle the positions of point guard and shooting guard.
The often-criticized Khris Middleton has been in and out of a shooting slump since December, but he just put up 25 points against the New Orleans Pelicans (not that that’s saying very much) so maybe he’s on the up and up. This late in the season would be a good time for Middleton to start feeling it. Some speculate that if he could really get going, the Bucks would be firing on all cylinders and have a chance to power past the Warriors. Because at his best, Middleton is a great shot creator.
Point guard Eric Bledsoe is fast and strong, averaging 15.8 points per game for the Bucks. Once nicknamed “Mini Lebron,” he’s a well-rounded player who wants to make Milwaukee home. Bledsoe just signed a four-year extension with the team and he says, “We’re seeing what it feels like to be in this position, but at the same time, still want to get better. I just want to win, be around a great group of guys, a great fan base and doing the things we’re doing right now.”
The Bucks haven’t been to the Finals since 1974. This year it feels like they could do it. And maybe even win it all…