Milwaukee Bucks: Should they still be favorites to win the Eastern Conference?

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 30: Daniel Theis #27 and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics guard Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks during a free throw in the first quarter of a game at TD Garden on October 30, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 30: Daniel Theis #27 and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics guard Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks during a free throw in the first quarter of a game at TD Garden on October 30, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /
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After a rocky start to their 2019-20 NBA campaign, should the Milwaukee Bucks still be deemed as the favorites to win the Eastern Conference?

Even with many experts tipping the Philadelphia 76ers, the Milwaukee Bucks entered the season as the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. But five games into the season, does that still stand?

The Bucks stand at 3-2 so far this season with wins over the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Orlando Magic, and losses to Eastern Conference rivals such as the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.

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In particular, the loss to the Celtics was a standout one. The Celtics were perceived to have taken a step back this season after losing All-Star Kyrie Irving and glue guy Al Horford in free agency to the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, respectively.

However, the Celtics seem to have found their groove in a less flashy Big 3 of sorts, consisting of Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, and Gordon Hayward. Their season has been far from perfect to start, but even without Jaylen Brown against the Bucks, there was clear evidence of that trio clicking together, as each of them had at least 20 points.

On an average night for the Bucks, the best player on the court is undoubtedly Giannis Antetokounmpo. The names you check off after Giannis can often even play for the other team. This is a conversation that’s been had many times before. Outside of Giannis, there’s no top-tier star alongside him on Milwaukee’s roster, with Khris Middleton, who made the All-Star team last year, arguably coming closest to that.

The loss of Malcolm Brogdon has definitely been overlooked by many in the media, but Bucks fans know they are missing a big piece; a piece that was just the eighth player in history to make the 50-40-90 club last year. Brogdon was replaced by Wesley Matthews, who is a decent NBA player, but in spite of a number of positive contributions is shooting a woeful 31 percent from 3 to start this season.

Past seasons dictate that his shooting woes will improve, but at 33 years old compared to Brogdon who is 26, how many good years can the Bucks get out of Matthews on both ends of the court? Whether they’ll even get one year that’s good enough is a crucial question for how the team fares this season.

The Raptors without Kawhi are still a force to be reckoned with (at least in the East) with Pascal Siakam playing at an MVP level early on, averaging 28.0 points and 9.2 rebounds while leading the Raptors to 4-1 on the season. The Bucks will get a first chance to measure themselves against the defending champs on Saturday night.

The 76ers are the team that many have making it out of the East. They are the only team left with a perfect record in the Eastern Conference and will be an elite defensive team for the entirety of the season.

The 76ers could make a legitimate case for fielding the most talented starting 5 in the NBA and boast a bench of shooting and defense consisting of Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, James Ennis III and Mike Scott.

I have every faith in the Bucks improving to be the first or second seed in the East by the end of the regular season, Friday’s win over Orlando was encouraging on that front, but we all know the franchise is now on the clock. It’s no secret that Giannis Antetokounmpo is eligible for a super-max extension next summer, and it will take winning at a high level to ensure he re-signs.

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Therefore, the question must be, can the Milwaukee Bucks win a championship in the next couple of years? Can they make it out of the East this year? If an inconsistent start to the season means the answer to both or either of those questions is now a no, the Bucks risk losing the best player the franchise has had since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.