A lot of the experts around the NBA are picking against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference this season. Does that mean the Bucks might be a bit underrated?
The 2019-20 Milwaukee Bucks season is finally underway.
With the Bucks starting their season off with a hard-fought win in Houston on Thursday night, it’s worth revisiting where the team stands as they set out to win their first NBA title since 1971.
A few months ago, after Kawhi Leonard departed the Eastern Conference for the comforts of Los Angeles, Milwaukee was considered by most to be the favorite to come out of the East. With the league MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo on their team, most of the core line-up around him retained, and a few exciting additions made around the margins, it wasn’t difficult to imagine the team taking that next step up given how close they were to making it to the NBA Finals last May.
However, as we’ve gotten closer to the start of the season, many experts have changed their tune. With the Philadelphia 76ers quirky, but potentially challenging roster being an obstacle for them, several analysts, reporters, and others around the League have decided to hitch their wagon to the 76ers instead of the Bucks to make it out of the Conference.
SB Nation’s panel unanimously picked Philly to win the Eastern Conference in their season predictions. Jordan Greer of Sporting News chose the Sixers as well. Bill Simmons and Ryen Russillo on the Ryen Russillo Podcast both thought that the Embiid-led team would make it when discussing the East. Zach Lowe of ESPN had Philly losing in seven to the Clippers in The Finals.
Not everyone around the League is necessarily as bearish on the Bucks as those we’ve just discussed. After all, 11 of ESPN’s 20 experts who were asked to predict the season chose Milwaukee to make it out of the East. However, those predictions do speak to how the perception of the team’s strength relative to others has changed since those hot summer days after Leonard moved out west.
The deer don’t appear to be as feared as some would have anticipated. That’s a mistake.
Though the team saw one of their key players depart this summer in Malcolm Brogdon, the Bucks should still be the favorites to win the East.
They have the player who may be the best in the NBA right now in the defending league MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The team’s failures from this past spring will provide him with even more motivation (as if he needs any) to dominate the league.
The Lopez twins are capable of holding their own against Philly’s front court, or any other team’s for that matter.
Khris Middleton, after having a season to acclimate to an entirely new system, should be much better this season.
The Bucks also have the advantage of having most of their team from last season returning for this one. The chemistry and understanding they’ve developed with each other should give them a distinct advantage over the other legitimate contenders, all of whom have experienced some significant changes on their rosters over the summer.
That’s not to say that this team doesn’t have flaws. They do. However, the Bucks have a roster that is more than capable of winning it all.
Being under the radar will only further fuel their desire to prove everyone wrong this season. We’ll see if they can do just that in the weeks and months to come.