The Milwaukee Bucks have been far better than expected this season. Despite losing No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker for the season with an ACL injury, Milwaukee is still in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. They ended the weekend at 14-14 and improving, but are the Bucks for real, or will they fade as the season continues?
During the 2012-13 NBA season, the Milwaukee Bucks seemed to be stuck in a never-ending cycle mediocrity. They were just good enough to make the playoffs and disqualify themselves from the lottery, and just bad enough to be swept in the first round. For fear of losing the fan base – and potentially the franchise – owner Herb Kohl refused to tank and consistently made offseason moves to show the fans he was trying. An Andrew Bogut/Monta Ellis swap here, a J.J. Reddick rental there, but nothing that was ever going to get them over the hump…or put them under it.
Then the 2013-14 NBA season happened. A number of injuries struck, a new head coach struggled, players were out of shape and that all led to a billboard begging for ping pong balls and one of the worst seasons in franchise history. As hard as Kohl tried to maintain mediocrity, every move he made flopped. Except for one.
Which leads us to the 2014-15 NBA season. There is new ownership, a new coach, a new team and a new identity. Led by two teenagers, the Bucks are trying to contend in a weak Eastern Conference. The conference is so weak, in fact, that the rumblings of realignment grow louder as I write this. Herb Kohl’s parting gift to the Bucks was Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 6’11” shooting guard/small forward/point forward/combo guard that most agree would’ve been the top overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft if they could do it over again. You cannot quantify Antetokounmpo he does via the box score, you have to watch a game to really appreciate his potential.
To match the final move made by old ownership, Marc Lasry and Wes Edens called Kohl’s Greek Freak, and raised them a Blue Devil. Jabari Parker was the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft. Before his injury, Parker was most people’s early season pick for rookie of the year, and he was easily the most polished player coming out of the draft, Jabari led all rookies in points per game before getting injured. And did I mention that both Antetokounmpo and Parker are only 19 years old?
Along with the kids, Brandon Knight is playing extremely well, posting career-highs in field goal percentage, assists rebounds, and steals. He seems to be absorbing Jason Kidd’s point guard knowledge, and looks more natural running the position. O.J. Mayo Looks re-energized, whether its ultimately for Bucks or another team is to be determined. (If I were John Hammonds, I would be on the phone with Charlotte asking about that Lance Stephenson guy) Khris Middleton was another cog in the Jennings/Knight trade that has seemed to work out in favor of the Bucks. Middleton is another young player on a team-friendly deal the Bucks can build with.
All of this young talent is great, assuming these Bucks stay the “Milwuakee” Bucks. They need to get plans for an arena finalized before all of this promise becomes the “Seattle” Bucks.
Are the Milwaukee Bucks for real? Maybe not this season, but putting the plan in motion for the future is the key. Becoming a legitimate franchise is more important than having one legitimate season.