The Eastern Conference is shaping up to be competitive as ever next season, but where do the Milwaukee Bucks stand in all of it?
Long gone are the days where it was a foregone conclusion that a LeBron James led team was going represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals every year. After departing to the stacked Western Conference two seasons ago, many believed Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks would take the mantle as the next Eastern Conference powerhouse.
However, that has clearly not been the case. Despite earning the best regular-season record in two consecutive seasons, Milwaukee has failed to make the NBA Finals in both trips to the postseason. Their regular-season stature has not carried over into the playoffs, as both teams to come out of the conference have defeated the Bucks and their title hopes.
In 2018-19, the Bucks were undoubtedly the favorites to make it to the NBA Finals but went through an abysmal collapse in the Eastern Conference Finals. With a 2-0 lead on Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors, the Bucks crumbled and lost the next four straight.
The 2019-20 season was more irregular, as the Bucks were historically great until the stoppage of play in March. When the NBA resumed five months later, they never regained their footing and lost in five games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
Despite the consecutive early postseason exits, Giannis Antetokounmpo shared confidence in his team’s ability to turn things around, stating:
“Hopefully, we can build a culture in Milwaukee that for many years we can come out and compete every single year for a championship.”
As long as the Bucks have the reigning two-time MVP on their roster, they will be in championship contention. His presence alone is enough to lift them into that upper tier, even if it cannot solely get them over the hump.
With their title hopes crushed in consecutive seasons now, the only thing that matters is how the team performs in the postseason heading into 2021.
Led by head coach Mike Budenholzer, the Milwaukee Bucks are a well-oiled machine in the regular season, looking like an unbeatable force most nights. They could very well earn the best record in the conference for a third straight year, but as history shows, it will not matter if that play cannot translate onto the biggest stage.
A seismic change in the Eastern Conference could give the Milwaukee Bucks their toughest foe yet.
Although it is still not as fierce as the Western Conference just yet, the East is shaping up to be a dogfight next season. The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are ascending, the Philadelphia 76ers will be healthy, the Miami Heat are currently in the NBA Finals, and of course, the Milwaukee Bucks will be back.
The biggest fish of them all, however, is the Brooklyn Nets. Bringing in a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two of the top players at their position, the Nets are the presumptive Eastern Conference favorites for many already looking ahead to next season. A team with that kind of star-power could put the rest of the conference on notice, but it will come down to the health of their two stars as they come off significant injuries.
The Brooklyn Nets give the Milwaukee Bucks another herculean hurdle to get around, as the 2021 season could be their most challenging yet in pursuit of a title.
As for where the Bucks stand in the status of this soon to be top-heavy Eastern Conference, they are still in the upper echelon. Milwaukee undoubtedly has some soul searching to do this offseason, but to say they are not among the top title contenders in the league, let alone the conference, would be foolish.
The current status of the Milwaukee Bucks is hard to assess in its entirety, however, as this roster could go through a significant shakeup this offseason. As the team looks to bring in some star-power, perhaps a trade swinging for Chris Paul or Jrue Holiday could bolster Milwaukee’s title chances heading into next season.