Windows are a simple concept in sports. With athetlic primes and contracts, there are a few years where a team seems particularly primed for title contention. For some teams the window appears to be opening, but never truly does. For Milwaukee, this is the year to force that window open. As Woj said the clock is ticking and the Bucks need to show Giannis that they are building a winning team around him. This is the year the Bucks need to win a playoff series and prove they are not just a playoff team, they are a second round playoff team and getting better each season.
The East is vulnerable this year, weaker at the bottom end of the playoff bracket than at any point in recent history. Last years’ 5th seed, 7th seed, and 8th seed all traded their franchise players and started a rebuild. The door is now open for teams like the Hornets, Pistons, 76ers and Heat to fill those vacancies. More importantly for the Bucks to beat one of those teams in the playoffs. They are nice teams, but all inherently flawed and the Bucks would have clearly the best player in three of those matchups (shouts to the oft injured, but incredibly talented Joel Embiid). Needless to say, those teams lack the second player that the Bucks can offer in Khris Middleton. While Philly has the future to get there, their window is not yet ajar.
The Buck’s roster is expensive (they currently sit a touch over the luxury tax) and they have a starting five that projects to have four shooters and five solid defenders. With a bench that will likely be making somewhere over 55 million, they have contributors there as well. They may not have the second man to match up with some of the league’s elite teams, but their starting five is talented on both ends. Not all teams can match that. In matchups with twenty of the league’s teams, the Bucks will have the best player on the court, including 13 of the 14 non-Milwaukee Eastern Conference teams. Giannis can simply take over games on both ends like few players in this games history have been capable of. His defensive impact is difficult to measure, but one particularly telling stat is that he was the only player in the league to average over 1.5 blocks and steals per game. Still, this does not measure all of the times a turnover or missed shot was forced trying to avoid Giannis’s length.
This team on the basis of their starting five should end up being a top 10 defense, the big men duo of Giannis and Thon have the mobility, length, and athleticism to protect the rim and force turnovers at an elite level. Their perimeter guys (Middleton, Snell, and Brogdon) all boast long wingspans and have above average reps as defenders. The length of the Bucks gets talked about a lot, but when you watch the tape you see guys who are good passers make mistakes because they did not anticipate the length correctly. It plays a huge factor in playing defense and teams have to prepare for the Bucks differently than they prepare for other teams as a result of it. Each of the Bucks starting five boasts a wingspan of 7’ or longer, something few if any teams in the league can match, but for the first time in recent history the Bucks will return the majority of their contributors from the season before.
The point guard position that has plagued the Bucks in years past has a solution, and while Brogdon might not be permanent, he gives the Bucks some consistency at the position. Consistency might be the thing that most works in the Bucks’ favor this season. Returning their starting five and the majority of their bench contributors, (Beasley and Terry being the only notable exceptions) the Bucks seem poised to grow as a team. The last team to start two rookies in the playoffs was the Golden State Warriors when Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green got the call. While I’m not sure Brogdon has the upside of either of those guys, he definitely has room to grow. Malcolm’s rookie counterpart, Thon, is in many ways the opposite of Brogdon. His upside is on a similar tier if not higher than that of the Warriors rookie’s. Thon taking a step forward in his sophomore year is crucial for evolving as a team.
This is the year the Bucks need to win to a playoff series. Giannis is in the first year of his new contract and will be the best player in any playoff matchup Milwaukee might find itself in barring a surprise match-up with Cleveland. Certain players are about to get really expensive and if the Bucks are ever going to attract another star they need to show that they have the talent in place to be a threat in the playoff year in and year out. If the Bucks fail to win a playoff series this year or even worse fail to make the playoffs all together, it will reflect very negatively on the Bucks core and their ability to ever build a contender around said core. This season is not a make or break year for Milwaukee, but if none of the aforementioned steps forward take place it will raise questions that the Bucks might not have answers for. Not ending the season with a playoff victory could be a sign this Bucks window might not be opening any time soon.
To keep Giannis in Milwaukee they need to show him that Milwaukee is a place where winning can happen.