Who helped turn the Milwaukee Bucks into NBA title contenders?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 19 (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 19 (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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The Milwaukee Bucks have overgone a Herculean amount of growth over the last decade.

In 2013, the Milwaukee Bucks finished the season with a record of 15-67. The first season of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s career was not filled with the expectations of winning we have today in 2023. There are several people who we have to thank for the fact that the Milwaukee Bucks are not only perennial contenders in the NBA but are also a recent NBA Finals champion.

Honorable Mentions: General Manager Jon Horst and former Head Coach Mike Budenholzer.

In the summer of 2017, John Hammond, the man who drafted Giannis, left Milwaukee for the Orlando Magic. Jon Horst, who had been with the Milwaukee Bucks as the Director of Basketball Operations since 2008, took his place. Following this promotion, the Milwaukee Bucks began a very fast rise from an upstart young team to a contender. Horst won an Executive of the Year award in the 2018-19 season when the Milwaukee Bucks finished with the best record in the NBA, thanks in part to the new head coach Horst brought in: Mike Budenholzer.

As for Mike Budenholzer, the Milwaukee Bucks won 60 games in his first season as head coach. Going from Jason Kidd to Budenholzer opened the Milwaukee Bucks offense in a big way and began the “let it fly” era in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Bucks were first in points per game, second in pace, fourth in offensive rating, and first in net rating. These were all massive improvements from the previous season and took the Bucks from the seventh seed in the 2017-18 season to the number one seed in the Eastern Conference in Budenholzer’s first season.

The Milwaukee Bucks would ultimately lose to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Mike Budenholzer did have his fingerprints all over the Milwaukee Bucks championship two years later, however, putting players in positions to eliminate the Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals despite playing the final two games without Giannis Antetokounmpo due to a hyperextended knee.

Also, in the NBA Finals, the tide turned Milwaukee’s way when Budenholzer adjusted to having Jrue Holiday pick up Chris Paul full court defensively as opposed to picking him up at half court. The adjustment took the Milwaukee Bucks from an 0-2 hole to a gentleman’s sweep in the finals, and the performances from players who will show up later on this list became legendary.