The Eastern Conference is known to be the weaker of the two. However, the Milwaukee Bucks are atop the East, leading the NBA with this season’s best record so far. The Bucks are 39-13; only five wins away from last season’s win total. It is worth noting they have 30 more games to play in the regular season. We take a look at their progress and more in this mid-season report.
Milwaukee Bucks Mid-Season Report
The Bucks acted quickly in the summer as they hired Mike Budenholzer to lead the team from the sidelines. They went ahead and added Brook Lopez for a slim $3.3 million contract, which appears to be a bargain. Lopez has expanded his game and is shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc while draining two and a half threes per game. In December, the Bucks traded away Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson, and picks to acquire George Hill. Hill has provided great veteran leadership coming off the bench behind Eric Bledsoe. Finally, they added, even more, shooting with Ersan Ilyasova on their bench.
New Face in Town
The Bucks acquired Stanley Johnson from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Thon Maker. It was known for a while that Maker was unhappy with his role with the team after he requested a trade. Johnson adds more defensive size and intensity for the Bucks. He’s a streaky shooter but can contribute a lot when he’s on his game.
Everything Is Alright
One of the top MVP candidates for this season, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is leading the Bucks through the season. Antetokounmpo has constantly received criticism about his lack of shooting, yet it has not deterred him from playing his game. He is averaging close to 19 points in the paint per game, which is the most anyone has reached since Shaquille O’Neal in the 1990s. Coach Budenholzer has surrounded Giannis with plenty of shooting talent. Due to the shooting spreading out the floor, Antetokounmpo can be at his best which is attacking the basket. He is averaging almost 27 points per game, 13 rebounds per game, and six assists per game.
Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, and Lopez have provided plenty of support as all four players are averaging double-digit points per game. They are combining for an average of seven three-pointers per game, which is the exact game Budenholzer is aiming for.
While the Bucks are fifth in the league in offensive rating, it is most notable that they are getting it done on the defensive end. Milwaukee’s defense ranks first in the league, which is one of the Coach Budenholzer system staples. This team’s size, length, and defensive effort are resulting in them being the best team in the league 52 games in.
Milwaukee has not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2001 when they lost in the conference finals. It is safe to say that this season’s expectations for the Bucks would be to at least make the conference finals. They have a realistic shot at achieving that, as they have been the most consistent force in the Eastern Conference. Looking ahead, the Bucks have the fifth easiest schedule in the league. If they maintain this level of performance, then the expectation would be to make the finals or even win it all.
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