This season has seen the Milwaukee Bucks receiving exponentially more local attention than any year in recent history. Of course, the majority of that attention is funneled into the heated and deeply divisive debates of where in the city to put the team’s forthcoming arena, whether a portion of it should be publicly funded, and if a market Milwaukee’s size really even needs a professional basketball team. Instead of wasting column bandwidth to answer those questions (Okay, real quick: downtown; sure; and oh god, yes), Milwaukee Record wanted to take some time to acknowledge the unexpectedly great things Milwaukee Bucks players have done on the court amid all the arena hubbub that’s currently surrounding the franchise.
With a 30-23 record, the Bucks would make the playoffs if the season ended today. Prior to the All-Star break, the team won eight of its last nine games. With a new coach, a wave of injuries to meaningful players, and an otherwise unproven young nucleus, the team’s winning ways have recently captured attention from fans and pundits from around the league. Yet in the Bucks’ own backyard, wide acceptance is a a bit harder to come by. Sure, the team’s local fanbase is growing on a game-by-game basis, but more people could and should take notice of the exciting elements of this year’s crew. As the team prepares to return from the All-Star break this weekend, here are six reasons you should care about the Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the season.
1. The team is literally twice as good as the 2013-14 team was
Last season was indisputably the worst season in Milwaukee Bucks history. The rudderless and unabashedly rebuilding squad managed an abysmal 15-67 record, which was the worst record in the NBA and in the longstanding franchise’s existence. Last Wednesday’s win over the Sacramento Kings in the pre-All-Star break finale gave Milwaukee its 30th win of the 2014-15 campaign, which marked the first time the team racked up that many wins before the All-Star Game since 1991. Additionally, that win made NBA history, as the Bucks became the first team to ever double the previous season’s win total before the break. Even if they lose the remaining 29 games, the team will technically be twice as good as last season’s squad.
2. The postseason is pretty much a certainty
Of course, a collapse of that magnitude is wholly unlikely. In fact, even if the young and unproven team scuffles down the stretch, it’s incredibly unlikely that they’d miss the postseason. Presently at 30-23, the Bucks would hold the sixth seed in the perennially crappy and top-heavy Eastern Conference. The seventh seeded Charlotte Hornets and eighth seeded Miami Heat each carry a 22-30 record at the moment. Of the 29 remaining Bucks contests, 16 of them are against teams that went into the All Star break with losing records (and 11 of those are against teams with 20 or fewer wins). Milwaukee’s opponents currently have a combined record of 750-793. Knock on wood if you’d like, but with a sizable cushion between the six and seven seeds, along with an array of terrible teams on the docket, it’d take a bed-shitting of 2014 Milwaukee Brewers proportions from Friday through mid-April to keep the Bucks out of the playoffs.
He is a good guy at doing basketball.
4. This is arguably the most likeable Bucks team in recent memory
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this Bucks team is that they have no business playing as well as they have. Even when fully operational, the Bucks weren’t built to contend. Expectations fell even lower when second overall pick Jabari Parker and point guard Kendall Marshall each sustained season-ending ACL injuries. Moreover, Ersan Ilyasova has missed 23 games this season and Larry Sanders has only played 27 disappointing games (with no clear timetable when…or whether he’ll return to the court), as he’s missed time with a mixture of health issues, personal matters, and a suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy.
Despite the injuries and absences, Brandon Knight (and his team high 923 points) and Antetokounmpo (whose 638 points are a distant second on the team leaderboard) have excelled alongside a makeshift group of unproven youngsters and veteran castoffs. Role players O.J. Mayo and Khris Middleton have both played much better in their second Bucks seasons. Jared Dudley has been excellent, especially of late, with his 44.2 three-point percentage (4th best in the NBA). Perhaps most astounding, the team is somehow winning while being forced to plug Zaza Pachulia, John Henson, and the 37-year-old ghost of longtime Jason Kidd teammate Kenyon Martin in at center, despite Henson and Martin not being true centers.
5. Jason Kidd
After essentially staging a failed coup to take over the Brooklyn Nets over the offseason (following a decent 44-38 record in his first and only season as coach), Jason Kidd was traded to the Bucks last July to usurp the coaching job that belonged to coach Larry Drew. As shady as the events that led to Kidd’s arrival were (not to mention his sordid personal life), even the biggest opponent of the future Hall Of Fame point guard’s new coaching job can’t argue with his results with Milwaukee. Should he manage to lead this rag-tag, injury-riddled Bucks team to the playoffs and advance beyond the first round, NBA Coach Of The Year honors wouldn’t be an unrealistic thought for the second-year coach.
6. There’s still plenty of room on the bandwagon
With an exciting and likeable young team over-performing, it’s hard not to get behind the Milwaukee Bucks right now. There’s plenty of time to debate the location and financial aspects of the new Bucks arena. In the meantime, check out what’s happening in the current facility and get a head start following a franchise that seems on its way to being competitive for years to come…regardless of where their home court might be.