In the 2013-14 season the Bucks won a total of 15 games. They had an offense that was ugly enough to require the strength of all the Milwaukee breweries to make it look good and they had a slew of square pegs like Ekpe Udoh, Luke Ridnour and Caron Butler filling up quality minutes. They had the worst defense, the 26th-ranked offense, the worst attendance, and were about to be sold to a new owner who could possibly uproot them.
But then something magical happened.
After a weird offseason, the Bucks leveled off, dumped a bunch of old contracts, went very young and are now on the brink of a playoff appearance. But we realize it’s Milwaukee, and not many outside of Green Bay are paying attention. Thus we give you seven Reasons to watch the last third of Milwaukee Bucks’ season.
01. Head Coach Jason Kidd
His Milwaukee career started in strange fashion: Kidd forced a trade from his first coaching gig with the Brooklyn Nets after one year following a failed power grab. Kidd had a friend in Bucks GM John Hammond, but Milwaukee had a coach at the time and Kidd was still an un-proven coach. Still, the Bucks pulled the trigger; firing then-coach Larry Drew and trading a second-round pick to the Nets in exchange for Kidd’s services.
After the dust settled (and the initial yuck factor of that move dissipated), Kidd has proven to be a vital part of this team. Dragging them our of the defensive basement, the Bucks now have the third strongest defense in the league. Meanwhile, their offense bumped up from from 26th to 20th. A testament to Kidd’s coaching and a great sign of things to come.
02. Giannis Antetokounmpo
— GiannisAntetokounmpo (@G_ante34) September 28, 2014
The Greek Freak has swooned the basketball Illuminati over Twitter with his ridiculous size, ball handling and speed. He is also, at the age of 20, just a really nice guy that has won over fans with his sweet demeanor. His scoring can be inconsistent, but just before the All-Star break he pulled off his first week-long stretch of scoring in double figures every night, including two 20+ point performances against the Lakers and Rockets, which earned him Player of The Week. More importantly, his social media is on point.
03. They’re making the playoffs this year
Lodged solidly in the sixth spot in the East, they have a comfortable six game lead over the Charlotte Hornets and are only five games behind the current third, fourth and fifth seeds, all tied at 32 games. So if you need a bandwagon to jump on, or a dark horse to play spoiler to a friends NBA fandom, this is the team to ride.
Brandon Knight Michael Carter-Williams
Until last Thursday afternoon, the Bucks starting PG was Brandon Knight. A bit of a redemption story, Knight was averaging 17.8 points, 5.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. But now he’s off to Philadelphia and in his place is the reigning Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams. MCW is averaging 15 points, 7.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds, but on a terrible team in Philly. Kidd will be expected to coach Williams up to be a dominant pass-first guard. The Bucks also grabbed rookie point guard Tyler Ennis and second-year center Miles Plumlee, thus solidifying their roster with a young core for this year and beyond.
05. Khris Middleton
Another slow starter that is taking off in Milwaukee, Middleton was a decent shooter his first two season, but stalled at 44% from the field last year. So far in the 2014/15 season he’s bumped that up to 47.5%, including 42.8% from three and adding an additional rebound each night.
Middleton is a low-tier answer on offense, but with
Brandon Knight Michael Carter-Williams, Antetokounmpo and Jared Dudley drawing most defenders, Middleton is starting to creep into that top percentage of offensive threats. There’s almost no one of the wings and guards that doesn’t have the ability to make their own shot, so the spacing on the Bucks half court becomes a real problem to defend. Once they start clicking to get those points rolling in, the threat is real.
06. The team is this good and still missing two of its best players
Jabari Parker, the second-round draft pick of the Bucks last year, was averaging 12.3 ppg and 5.5 rebounds before breaking his leg in a game against the Phoenix Suns. Even in his rookie season, he was a perfect match with Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Larry Sanders in the Bucks frontcourt. The injury required surgery and we were deprived of seeing him mesh further with his new squad.
Larry Sanders is having a Long Dark Night of the Soul in his fourth season in the league. The 6’11” 240lb defender sat out most of last season due to a thumb injury he got in a bar fight, but the Bucks still granted him a hefty extension of four years/$44 million. He was all over the place this season before a rumor swirled that he had told close friends he wanted to quit basketball. One week after that report came out, Sanders tested positive for a banned substance for the fourth time and was first suspended for 10 games, which was later upped to “suspended indefinitely.”
It’s a sad state, and Sanders should take the time to get his head together, but if he is healthy and able to join the squad as they enter the playoffs, no one is getting buckets against the Bucks.
07. Bango the Mascot