facebook-pixel

Andy Larsen: Got a minute for Milwaukee? The Bucks are really good.

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) celebrates with Pat Connaughton (24) and Khris Middleton (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Hey there. I know you’re busy. I’m hoping you have just a moment for an important cause.

It’s probably something you haven’t heard a lot about recently, but like heart disease, it’s a number one killer. Worse, it’s on the rise. And it lurks in the shadows and out of the spotlight, avoiding the national news media.

Do you have a minute to talk about the Milwaukee Bucks?

They’re 41-7. They’re currently on pace for 70 wins, in other words, just a couple of wins away from the very best team of Michael Jordan’s — and the best team of the 20th century — 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. They’re also just an additional win away from tying the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors, who set the record for the most wins in NBA history after putting up a 73-9 record before famously blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Remember that? That was fun.

Sure, so they’re on pace for the third-best season in NBA history, and if they were able to pull it off, it’d be just the third time a team had 70 wins in a season. That seems notable enough. But they’re also beating teams by more than any team in NBA history. They’ve beaten teams by an average of 12.8 points per game, ranking ahead of the 1970-71 Los Angeles Lakers’ 12.3 point differential as the best of all time.

They’re second in the league in offense, and are currently on a remarkable streak in which they’ve played 71 consecutive games, dating back to February of last season, where they scored over 100 points. The key is league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who actually has improved significantly this year: He’s now averaging 30 points per game, up from 27, and he added the 3-point shot to his game. Now, if you drop too far off of Antetokounmpo in order to try to get him to shoot, he’s liable to just take and make it.

And when he drives, he’s a sensation, taking such big steps that he’s impossible to stop unless you put bodies in front of him. But if you do that, he’s going to kick it out to some terrific 3-point shooters: Fellow All-Star Khris Middleton shoots 43% from deep, and Kyle Korver does too. Former Jazzman George Hill is leading the NBA and making 51%(!) of his 3-point shots — he’s the first player of this century to shoot over 50% from the field and beyond the arc.

They’re first in the NBA in defense, too. Here, it’s Brook “Splash Mountain” Lopez who deserves most of the credit, doing a terrific job of playing rim protection defense. That allows Giannis to play free safety, accumulating blocks and steals as he makes it even harder to score inside. With all that defensive pressure inside, the Bucks allow a huge number of 3s — one reason the Jazz have given them one of those seven losses — but their defense is No. 1 by a significant margin for the second consecutive season.

But it’s hard to find conversation about the Bucks on any of the league’s media partner networks. The Warriors and Knicks — two of the three worst teams in the league — have had significantly more mentions from league media accounts, per research done by Twitter user Scottie PIPM. Carmelo Anthony, a player who didn’t start the season on an NBA roster and starts for the West’s 10th seeded Portland Trail Blazers, has the same number of mentions as Giannis. Middleton, an All-Star and Milwaukee’s second best player, has five mentions all season: two due to his injury status, three due to off-court charity work, and zero due to his on-court play.

I sort of understand why. The Bucks didn’t win last year in the playoffs. They lost to the Raptors. They had last year’s best regular season record then, too. “Last year’s best regular season team gets even better" isn’t a sexy story. “League MVP gets even better” probably should be, but that it isn’t might be aided by Giannis playing only 30 minutes per game on average because the Bucks keep blowing out every team they play. And there’s no drama here — Giannis is one of the nicest guys in the league, he’s surrounded by likable and goofy professionals like Korver, the Lopez brothers, Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, and more. They’re just good.

This isn’t a James Harden situation, either. The Bucks, with their shooting and dunks and length, are legitimately fun to watch. They rely a lot on Giannis, sure, but they move the ball and find clever ways to accomplish their goals. They play at the highest pace in the league, too: Bucks games are track matches. There’s a joy about their play that’s hard to ignore — except that they play in a smallish market, so the league media manages to ignore them anyway.

At a certain point, it behooves us to appreciate greatness while it’s happening. The Bucks haven’t won the title yet, but if you’re waiting on that to happen, you’ll miss out on the ride beforehand. They need your help now.

Get in on the ground floor. Donate to the Bucks Awareness Fund™ today.




Return to Story