Milwaukee Bucks: The expectations of embarking on a new frontier

MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 13: Giannis Antetokounmpo
MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 13: Giannis Antetokounmpo /

The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t shying away from a new set of expectations and with tough tests on the way, we’ll get to see what this team’s steel is made of very quickly into the new season.

Yes, we’re only one game into the 2017-18 season, but the Milwaukee Bucks winning their first regular season opener since 2012 is certainly cause for celebration.

Given it came against the Boston Celtics, a team that reloaded in a major way this offseason, made it all the more satisfying, despite them being without their big free agent addition Gordon Hayward. On top of that, it was an excellent palate cleanser after a largely quiet, but troublesome summer that made Bucks fans put their collective guard up more than a few times.

Of course, it’s just the first of a few tests the Bucks have to get through to start the season as they face the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder within their first month of the season (and in some cases, twice).

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But as both key players and officials for the team have talked about through their training camp and now in the season, the Bucks aren’t backing down from what’s being asked of them, even as they’re being held to a higher standard.

Their hard fought first round series against the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs last year provided the team a much needed trial of experience, despite it ending in valiant, but heartbreaking fashion.

Now, talk of chasing 50 wins and trying to capture their first playoff series victory in 17 years have become realistic checkpoints after their resetting season last year (and with the Eastern Conference dissolving right before our very eyes).

Having a player of Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s stature and almost limitless capabilities makes pursuing those elusive feats possible for the Bucks.

Antetokounmpo is also dealing with his fair share of weighty individual expectations as his name has been commonly thrown out there as a possible MVP candidate this season.

That’s clearly a byproduct of seeing so many star-level players join other star-level players this summer, but we saw Giannis practically pick up from where he left off in the playoffs on Wednesday night as he put in a 37-point performance against the Celtics.

Even as the Bucks will go wherever Giannis takes them, getting reliable production from the supporting cast is paramount for them. Being without a key cornerstone in Jabari Parker for the second time in three year dampens things, but the team clearly found their stride not long after getting Khris Middleton back from injury last year.

Add in continued growth from Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker as well as the solid efforts of Greg Monroe and Tony Snell, and the Bucks have built a steady familiarity within their roster as they have often touted over the last few months.

Just one game into the season, we saw the best of what the Bucks could be against one of the top teams in the East (though, Hayward’s injury could throw that in limbo to some degree).

There are going to be nights this year where that isn’t the case, as well as letdowns against teams that are on an opposite trajectory than the Bucks are. Whether those games will come fewer and far between will be the real key in determining if this Bucks squad is different from any we’ve watched since the turn of the century.

For a team that knows who they are at this point, there’s a quiet confidence that’s permeating throughout this Bucks roster with the season now underway. That’s both refreshing and nerve-racking for a fanbase that has been burned many times before.

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As much as getting carried away with overreactions can only lead to dangerous consequences from our vantage point, we’ll soon see whether this Bucks team has the mettle to firmly plant themselves in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.