Winning 50 games is no small feat in the NBA, last season just four teams crossed the 50 win plateau. That mark is generally regarded as the stepping stone from good to great. The Bucks have not crossed the 50 win mark since the 00-01 season, nearly two decades ago. This season will be different, the Bucks are on the precipice of being a much better team, than any year in recent memory. There are some obvious factors that will be causes for improvement, but also some subtle reasons that many fans might not notice at first glance. So what are the biggest driving factors for the Bucks winning fifty this year?
1.) Mike Budenholzer isn’t Jason Kidd
This might seem incredibly obvious, but it seems to be missing in a lot of over/under analysis just how bad Jason Kidd was as an NBA coach. Simply put he really didn’t get it, he seemed to fail in nearly every facet you’d grade a coach for. Budenholzer isn’t perfect, but the Bucks don’t need him to be. He is a proven high level NBA coach superior to Jason Kidd in almost every way. His player development could pay dividends for a Bucks roster that desperately needs one of their recent draft picks to pan out. Expect his schemes to bring the Bucks to the 21st century, and elevate them on both ends of the court.
2.) Giannis is a Bonafide MVP Candidate
Depending on how much national basketball coverage you follow in the offseason this may come as a surprise, but many analysts are picking Giannis to win MVP this season. His 27/10r/5a is already close to an MVP statline, but the Bucks not being an elite team held him back from being truly in the conversation. This year any slight improvements to that line, or his game as a whole will likely put him at the forefront of the conversation. Giannis has taken a huge leap every year of his career, even if this year he only takes a small one, we are looking at a top five player in the league. Averaging 30 points isn’t out of the question. Winning defensive player of the year isn’t out of the question. Giannis can assert his dominance on both ends of the floor and is positioned to lead.
3.) Contract Year Bump
The Bucks projected starting lineup (Bledsoe/Brogdon/Middleton/Antetokounmpo/Lopez) features four guys who could be hitting free agency next summer. It is no secret in sports that players often elevate their games in the final season of their current deal. If the four Bucks do that, it might create some problems going forward, but for this year the Bucks could be scary. Bledsoe is coming off a playoff series where he caught a lot of flak, he needs a good year to shake that stink off him, and make a team comfortable committing big money to him. Brogdon is going to hit free agency for the first time in his career, a breakout season where he establishes himself as a clear cut starter in the NBA would be huge for his wallet. Middleton could be in line to make his first all star game, coming off a season where he averaged 20 point per game, and really seemed to take the next step in his career. Lopez had a good season last year, but a downtick in minutes left his market pretty barren in the summer, perhaps doing the same stuff for a playoff team could lead to a bigger paycheck this summer.
4.) The Bucks are Deep
The Bucks return basically all of last year’s rotation except Jason Terry and Jabari parker, both of whom were ineffective for large chunks of their minutes last season. They added Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez, and Pat Connaughton three guys who played very well last season and have NBA experience. The Bucks second string likely looks something like Delly-Snell-Brown-Ilyasova-Henson. That is without mentioning Maker and Connaughton who both could wind up playing big roles for this team. Donte DiVincenzo is another guy who could get some run if he plays well. The Bucks still have an ongoing competition for the 15th roster spot, and D.J. Wilson still has the potential to be something! The bottom line here is: the Bucks have 12 guys I feel could give a playoff team rotation minutes and that matters over the course of 82 games.