By finishing the regular season with a league-best 60 wins last term, the Milwaukee Bucks had arguably the best season in franchise history (for the modern era, at least). This was no fluke as well, with Milwaukee establishing themselves as the best team in the league from start to finish.
Unfortunately for them, they faced Kawhi Leonard and his Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bucks were outmatched by the eventual champions, and despite a record-setting campaign, the season still ultimately ended in disappointment for Milwaukee.
More of the same is expected of the Bucks this coming season, and as early as now, the bookmakers have identified them as one of the favorites to win it all this year. It’s definitely not going to be a walk in the park for Milwaukee, considering how a lot of teams have used the offseason to beef up their lineups for the 2019-20 campaign. Nonetheless, the Bucks still have a legitimate shot at winning the championship this term. Below are a few reasons why.
The Beasts of the East
With the aforementioned Kawhi Leonard heading out West to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Eastern Conference opened up a bit more for the Bucks. The Philadelphia 76ers, who added All-Star big man Al Horford in the summer, will definitely have a thing or two to say about this, but at this point, its hard to see how the Sixers will be able to defeat Milwaukee in a seven-game series. A new-look Boston Celtics side and a revamped Toronto Raptors will also be legitimate contenders, but all in all, we just don’t see them getting past Giannis Antetokounmpo and company.
This leaves the Bucks with a relatively clear path to the Finals, and unlike the wild West where it will pretty much be a free for all next season, the East is going to be somewhat more predictable. Simply put, Milwaukee will be very disappointed if they are unable to, at the very least, go a step further this season and reach Finals — their first since 1974.
Another thing the Bucks have going for them is continuity. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Houston Rockets — all of which are considered to be top contenders for the title — will be entering the new season with a revamped lineup, and there will certainly be some growing pains along the way.
The same cannot be said for Milwaukee who will be entering the new campaign with pretty much the same squad, with a bit of an upgrade. Arguably, the only significant loss the Bucks had this offseason was the departure of Maloclm Brogdon, who will now ply his trade with the Indiana Pacers. Make no mistake about it, though, this is indeed a huge loss for the Bucks, and they will definitely miss the services of the former Rookie of the Year.
However, it is worth noting that by allowing Brogdon to move on, the Bucks were able to retain the services of George Hill, Khris Middleton, and Brook Lopez, while also adding Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews in free agency. All things considered, this was still definitely a net win for the Bucks front office.
At the end of the day, Milwaukee’s title odds will fall in the hands of one man — Giannis Antetokoumpo. The 24-year-old reigning MVP had a tremendous 2018-19 campaign, proving that he has now become the most dominant player in the league. More of the same will be expected of Giannis this term, and with a perpetual target on his back, he will need to find a way to further elevate his game this coming season.
A reliable jumpshot would be a good place to start for the Greek Freak, as this appears to be the only glaring weakness in his game at this point. He has been absolutely dominant without it, so just imagine how much better he will be once he starts knocking down some jumpers. Better yet, if Giannis is able to improve on his career 0.5 three-pointers made per ballgame, then surely, he’s going to get as close to unstoppable as any one man can.
The Bucks are going to be playing under a microscope this coming season, with the expectations so high on this extremely talented side. They have proven in the past that they can perform under pressure, so this is not going to be new territory for the team.
At this point, the bookmakers still have the L.A. teams ahead of the Bucks in the title race, but once the season gets going and the Bucks begin to flex their muscles, it would not be surprising if they propel themselves as the title favorites even before the mid-point of the coming campaign.