For a fan base so desperate for any form of post season success, last week’s series loss to the Toronto Raptors after the Bucks cruised out to a 2-1 lead, was absolutely crushing. The hope that was inspired into the fan base over the course of the season, at the end of the day, was false hope… for this season.
There is absolutely no reason this team should have even logically been in the playoffs, let alone push one of the perennial Eastern Conference contenders to the edge of a first round exit. Yet, that is exactly what this Milwaukee team did. And while they were at it, the Bucks greatly improved as a cohesive unit as compared to the previous season that saw them outside of the playoffs.
The 2015-16 Milwaukee Bucks were 26th in the league based on offensive rating, and were 23rd in the league in defensive rating. This year, the team ascended to 13th and 19th, respectively. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker were hovering in the mid-teens in ppg during the 2015-16 season, but ended the 2016-17 season both above 20 ppg. (Granted, Parker lost the last part of season due to the ACL tear)
The best part about the 2016-17 Milwaukee Bucks is that there are so many areas where they can improve even more.
They are still 26th in the league at pace of play, which should only improve with the athleticism and spurts of purely amazing fast break offense this team flashed. For an all length team, the young Bucks also struggled on the boards, which was apparent during their cold streaks. They were in the bottom third of the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding numbers over the course of the season. Again, though, do not hit the panic button.
First-year player Thon Maker flashed excellence during the playoffs that he lacked in the regular season. With a summer bulking program for the seven-foot plus rookie, he could become a force on the block. Getting Khris Middleton, the real heart and soul of the defense, really back into the swing of things will only pay dividends on that side of the ball as well.
Oh, and one can’t forget about a possible Khris Middleton in the making, Tony Snell.
Currently in this state, you often hear questions of “Will this core be enough?” or “Are Giannis and Khris Middleton going to be enough for this team?”
The people asking these questions, are simply asking the wrong questions. On the current roster, if everything stays the same with no major roster moves in the offseason, the Milwaukee Bucks will be ripe for success and sustained improvement.
Two quintessential 3 and D players in Snell and Middleton. A total freak of nature in Maker who has the whole world waiting to see what he does, as no one truly knows if he even has a ceiling. A young point guard who can seemingly do it all in Malcolm Brogdon (HE DUNKED ON LEBRON AND KYRIE). Parker coming back with an improved three point shot. A bench primed for continued scoring barrages with Mirza Teletovic and Michael Beasley at the helm, as well as Greg Monroe transitioning even more into the sixth man role.
Oh, and *whispers* Giannis has not even come close to becoming the player he will be.
It was a crushing series loss. That is just a fact. But, Bucks fans can revel in the fact that there is a next season with this team.