Milwaukee Bucks: Setting lofty goals, inviting added pressure

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 4: The Milwaukee Bucks celebrate with Giannis Antetokounmpo
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 4: The Milwaukee Bucks celebrate with Giannis Antetokounmpo /

As the team’s players speak boldly about their hopes for the coming year, the Milwaukee Bucks as a franchise will face ta kind of pressure they haven’t encountered for a long time.

Things are going to be very different for the Milwaukee Bucks next season.

Returning almost the exact same roster — with the exception of their draft picks — might seem to contradict that statement, but the Bucks are gearing up for a year that’s unlike anything the franchise has seen for over a decade.

Coming off the back of a spirited first round playoff series loss to the Toronto Raptors, being led by one of the league’s genuine superstars in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and standing out as one of the few teams on the rise in a weakened East; the Bucks are an obvious candidate for major improvements.

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While that doesn’t seem like an insurmountable task by any means, the expectations and goals of the team’s players are adding an extra layer to the scrutiny that will likely be on the Bucks to become an Eastern Conference contender.

In the past week, Antetokounmpo and Malcolm Brogdon, two of Milwaukee’s most important players have both made statements that will only serve to pile the pressure on when the season gets underway in mid-October.

That doesn’t have to be a negative, and in-fact, a confident young team is certainly a positive, but it will create an environment very different to the one the team has found itself in of late.

Speaking to Jim Paschke in an interview for, Giannis explained how he could win Most Improved Player again this season if he was to elevate his game to also earn MVP honors.

"“I might be the MVP this year. OK, but if I win the MVP, I can be the most improved!”"

While, in more of a team focus, Brogdon spoke of the team’s ambitions in very plain terms in a recent interview with Slam.

"“We want to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. I think the sky is the limit for us—we’re young, athletic and we love playing together. I think we have the recipe for success.”"

Neither of those things are impossible by any means, but they are certainly on the very top end of what the Bucks could achieve over the next 12 months.

Particularly with Antetokounmpo on the roster, the Bucks have to think big and avoid any inclination to settle in the coming years as a talent of his nature doesn’t arrive in Milwaukee very often.

While comments like those from Brogdon and Antetokounmpo certainly illustrate that Milwaukee’s players have goals to strive for and motivate them, they likely don’t yet understand what speaking so candidly will do.

With the team’s natural trajectory, expectation and media scrutiny were always going to build organically. If you want to be one of the league’s best teams, pressure is unavoidable. Yet the Bucks are setting themselves them up for their first true taste of it in 2017-18, and will have to deal with all of the complications that come with it.

At this point in the team’s development, a season that fails to meet expectations will have major repercussions. Tensions would ratchet up in the locker room, Jason Kidd would certainly be fighting to hang on to his job, and it could spell significant roster change and a reassessment of what the current group could do.

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Up until now, these are burdens that Milwaukee’s young core haven’t had to carry, but now they are welcoming that next stage. As the players invite pressure with their own sky-high personal and collective goals, the coming year could be something of a trial by fire. Let’s hope they’re up to the task.