In the next few days, we will have reached two things: A new year and the second half of the Milwaukee Bucks’ season. As is always the case, people from all over the world will begin their “New Year, New Me” goals. Why should a sports team be any different?
The Milwaukee Bucks are currently the first overall seed in the Eastern Conference with a 24-10 record. On the surface, that looks pretty amazing. And then you look again and find out that it’s the best record in the entire NBA. Now THAT is amazing. This is the best team the Bucks have had since the 2000-01 team that went 7 games against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals Championship.
Aspirations are at an all time high.
So, how do the Bucks continue this pace and try to obtain the ultimate goal (an NBA championship) in 2019? Read on, as I list my New Year’s Resolutions for the Milwaukee Bucks.
1.Beat The Teams You’re Supposed To. At their current pace, the Bucks are playing at a near 70% win percentage. Maybe it’s not sustainable, but out in the East, it is obtainable. Ever since LeBron James took his talents to Hollywood, the Eastern Conference has been wide open. Save for a few already elite teams (see: Raptors, Sixers, Celtics), the conference is there for the taking.
In order to maintain their level of play, they just need to keep the status quo: Keep beating up on inferior teams, with the occasional upset (see: Warriors, Raptors). Long has been the case in Milwaukee of beating an elite team one night, and then losing two straight to lottery picking teams. That cannot happen if you want to be taken serious in today’s NBA. The Bucks have done a masterful job in succeeding this year, by beating the teams they are supposed to, and pulling out tremendous road wins against the elite teams in the league.
2. Keep Firing Away. The Bucks have finally learned how to play in today’s NBA due to a new coach and following what everyone already knows: Use your length, athleticism and shoot the three until the Wisconsin cow comes home. This Milwaukee squad has adapted almost perfectly to such a scheme, implemented by new coach, Mike Budenholzer. He has been a Coach of the Year candidate, by basically being the exact opposite of previous head coach, Jason Kidd.
The Milwaukee Bucks lead the NBA in PPG at 116.6. That is not a typo. In fact, it is actually better than any Golden State Warriors team in the Splash Brothers era. As amazing as the Warriors have been at scoring the basketball in the last decade, this current Bucks team has outscored them. Incredible. Keep firing away, young bucks.
3. Health. “For richer or poorer, through sickness and in health.” That’s the motto, and promise, the Bucks need to adhere to. As healthy as the team has been this year (John Henson notwithstanding), it needs to continue. Of course, the team goes as its MVP candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo goes, but the role players as well. The team needs every player to be on the court, playing their part.
The Milwaukee Bucks need the natural scoring, three point shooting of Khris Middleton. The Milwaukee Bucks need the attacking, playmaking ability of Eric Bledsoe. The Milwaukee Bucks need the leadership and calmness of Malcolm Brogdon. The Milwaukee Bucks need the floor spacing big in Brook Lopez. The Milwaukee Bucks need the bench mob of George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova, Tony Snell, Thon Maker, Pat Connaughton and the recently red hot (healthy) DJ Wilson.
Their health matters. The Bucks aren’t built around max players and all-stars. They are built around Giannis and everyone else playing their part. But they need to be on the court in order to do so.
Health has been a crutch for so many great teams in the past, as talent can only take you so far. In fact, let’s revisit a very recent past. Imagine a healthy Chris Paul in the Western Conference Finals last year. Imagine a healthy Kawhi Leonard in the Western Conference Finals two years ago. Imagine a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in the NBA Finals four years ago. Talent matters, but health matters even more so.
I am expecting a trade or two to also happen, as the Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the more active teams at the deadline in recent years. I am also expecting the Celtics and Sixers to hit their groove, so the Bucks need to keep playing at a high level. Home court advantage is so important come playoff time. What I am not expecting is a letdown. This team has proven so far, during a very tough first half schedule, that it can hang with the best of the best in the league.
May the new year of 2019 bring not only the Milwaukee Bucks a joyous second half of the season, but to all of you as well. Hopefully, you’re all Bucks fans, and you get the best of both worlds. New Year, New You, New NBA Champion.