Milwaukee Bucks: Why are the Bucks being underestimated?

MILWAUKEE, WI - MAY 21: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MAY 21: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With discussion swirling around the win total over/unders set by Las Vegas, are the Milwaukee Bucks being underestimated, and if so, why?

Those who are familiar with the Milwaukee Bucks will know that expectations are a very tricky business. As such, it’s not all that uncommon for discussion of lofty goals to often be somewhat tempered among the team’s fans. In other words, why would Bucks fans set themselves up for disappointment?

Still, as the new NBA season gradually draws nearer, there seems to be an increasing sense of surprise among many at Milwaukee’s perception among the wider NBA community.

That debate was put into stark focus on Sunday as Jeff Sherman of the famed Westgate Sports Book in Las Vegas, shared the over/under win total lines for all 30 NBA teams heading into the 2018-19 season.

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With the line set at 46.5 wins for the Bucks, an improvement on last year’s 44 wins is clearly anticipated, but those gains would have to be incredibly modest for that total to hold up accurately.

For reference, that same line was set at 47.5 wins for Milwaukee prior to the start of the 2017-18 season.

So, the question is should the Bucks be more highly rated prior to this season having swapped Jason Kidd out for Mike Budenholzer, with another year of major improvement under the belt for Giannis Antetokounmpo, with the additions of Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, Pat Connaughton (and Eric Bledsoe), and with LeBron James having left a divisional rival and the Eastern Conference as a whole?

The answer is, obviously, yes. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine any kind of valid argument for why that wouldn’t be the case.

Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe are players with clear talent, but their respective fits with the Bucks proved to be questionable and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that, particularly in Parker’s case, there could be an element of addition by subtraction in play for Milwaukee.

If the opinions of oddsmakers in Vegas reflect the wider range of views on the Bucks and their place in the Eastern Conference, what does it tell us?

First and foremost, it would suggest that there are a lot of people who don’t understand just how bad things were at times under the previous coaching regime. While the outrage of Bucks fans grew night to night while watching Jason Kidd’s defense become progressively less effective since its 2014-15 peak, it’s fair to say the majority of NBA eyes were focused elsewhere.

The Bucks’ profile is certainly on the rise, thanks in large part to the rapid ascension of Giannis Antetokounmpo, but it’s still not unusual for national narratives on the team to seem like they’re just a little bit off the mark.

One such example of this arrived last season when debate stirred up about a supposed lack of talent on Milwaukee’s roster, when those who were better informed both locally and nationally could clearly see the more immediate issue the Bucks had was a failure to even get the most out of the talent they already had.

With the change in coaching staff, the Bucks should be in line to show they’re a much better team than many believe, surpassing somewhat moderate expectations in the process. In itself, that should be enough for the Bucks as an organization and Milwaukee’s fans to overlook any perceived slights.

Being overlooked isn’t new, but what would make for a refreshing change would be a Bucks team that’s capable of proving such views or opinions of the franchise to be a mistake.

Win projections, over/under totals, power rankings, and expert predictions at this time of year can make for fun sources of offseason conversation, but they’re all essentially meaningless. When it comes to Milwaukee, they’re also likely to play further into my long held #NobodyWatchesThe Bucks theory.

The Bucks are being underestimated primarily because they are the Bucks.

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As the wait for the new season continues, the Bucks have provided plenty of reasons for optimism. That doesn’t mean they won’t still be underdogs, though, and considering the franchise’s history with expectations, that may not be the worst thing for now.