Milwaukee Bucks: 49 years in 49 days – 1984-85 season

MILWAUKEE, WI - CIRCA 1986: (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - CIRCA 1986: (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Big-time changes saw a very different Milwaukee Bucks squad take the floor in the 1984-85 season, but for the first time in a while the roster moves led to more wins, not less.

The season: 1984-85

The record: 59-23

The postseason: 3-5, lost in second round

The story:

The 1984 Milwaukee Bucks offseason was dominated by huge news, as the team sent Marques Johnson, along with Junior Bridgeman and Harvey Catchings, to Los Angeles in exchange for Terry Cummings, Craig Hodges, and Ricky Pierce.

More from Bucks History

There were a lot of factors leading to the trade, but regardless of its reasoning or outcome the Bucks now had to move forward without a player who anchored their team for a few years. That sort of thing isn’t easy.

Even with Sidney Moncrief coming into his own, it would make sense to anticipate Milwaukee taking a slide without Marques. After all, the Bucks had been losing more and more games each year even with him, culminating in a 50-win season the year before the trade.

Instead Milwaukee came out and won 59 games right after dealing the star forward, thanks in large part to Terry Cummings dominating the Central Division in his first Bucks season. T.C. came in and had a fantastic offensive season, putting up 23.6 points per game on nearly 50 percent field goal shooting.

This was the first season of Paul Pressey coming in and playing point forward in Marques’ absense. Pressey led the team in assists at 6.8 per game, despite Moncrief technically playing at point guard for the season.

Don Nelson was truly innovative in his starting five that season. It wasn’t the first time a point forward had been used in NBA history, but it was one of the finer-tuned units to run that way.

Moncrief and Craig Hodges were the starting guards, with Pressey, Cummings, and Alton Lister manning the forward and center spots, respectively. With both Hodges and Mike Dunleavy around, the Bucks quietly became one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league by both percentage and made threes per game.

It wasn’t Hodges’ shooting, Pressey’s passing or Cummings’ scoring that made that Bucks team stand out, though. Not by themselves, at least. Milwaukee’s defense was still the best the Association had to offer. No team held opponents to less points per game, and the Bucks were also second in defensive rating that year.

That’s an impressive feat for such a young team. At age 27 that season, Sidney Moncrief was the oldest starter on the team. Somehow, the young Bucks were both an upstart team and an established playoff contender at the same time.

More from Behind the Buck Pass

Once the 1985 postseason rolled around, the Bucks first opponent was the Chicago Bulls. Milwaukee handled the Bulls in four games, letting the young Michael Jordan-led Bulls win just once in the five-game series.

MJ was already good, but he couldn’t handle Cummings and Moncrief combining to average 56 points per game in the series. Unfortunately for Milwaukee, an all-too-familiar opponent waited in the second round.

The Philadelphia 76ers were back and better than ever, adding Charles Barkley to their core of Moses Malone and Julius Erving. Dr. J continued to age, but with a young Round Mound of Rebound there to pick up some of the load it didn’t matter. The newly-young Bucks were swept in four games.

Next: 49 years in 49 days: 1983-84 season

Despite Philly putting yet another damper on a strong Milwaukee Bucks season, a 23-year-old Terry Cummings already looking like a perennial All-Star left reason for much optimism in Milwaukee.