As the playoffs get underway, it’s difficult not to compare this year’s Bucks squad to the 41-41 Milwaukee team that last made the postseason as a 6th seed in 2015.  Although it seems like another 6th seed for the Bucks is almost certain, after a 3 game losing skid, in part due to Rookie of the Year candidate Malcom Brogdon being sidelined because back tightness during all three of those losses, this year’s Bucks playoff bound team has a lot more people excited than the 2014-2015 team.

Early on in the season it wasn’t looking good for Milwaukee as they saw themselves as the 11th seed before the All-Star break and Jabari suffered yet another ACL tear.   Despite the 22-29 record when Jabari suffered the injury, with help from Giannis Antetokounmpo, key role players Tony Snell, and Greg Monroe, and unexpected excellent play by Khris Middleton, who was sidelined 6 months from a torn hamstring he suffered before the season started, have finished 20-13, and clinched a winning record for the first time since 2010.  In the past two seasons the Bucks have improved on offense although falling a bit on defense, mostly because of the time Khris was out, and him being arguably their best defensive player.

At the end of the 2014-2015 season, the bucks were 26th in the league in ORtg (102.7) and 4th in DRtg (102.2).  After this season however, Milwaukee was in the top half of the league in ORtg (109.1), yet they fell 15 spots in DRtg (109.3) from 2 seasons ago, which can be linked to a majority of the Bucks’ losses this seasons where they were leading early, then took their foot off the gas and allowed big run by opposing teams.  During the 2014 season it was clear that in the first half of the season, Brandon Knight was the main contributor, leading in points (17.8), assists (5.4), and steals (1.6) per game.  However, after he was traded to the Phoenix Suns after 52 games played, it was hard to pinpoint who was going to put the team on their shoulders, and in the second half of the season, no one was showing signs of doing that, which was probably the reason for the short lived playoff run, in which the Bucks lost to the Chicago Bulls in 6 games.  Giannis played a solid role on the team for a second year player and was showing signs of the player that he is today.  Playing in all but one game that season, he averaged 12.4 points per game which was second on the team, not including Knight, who was traded away, and Michael Carter-Williams who was traded to the team and only played 25 games.  Giannis also shot exceptionally well from the field in 2014 shooting .491% and grabbed nearly 7 rebounds a game.   This season was very different in terms of who was a major contributor.  Giannis has been the obvious leader for this team and that would definitely not get any arguments for anyone.

Giannis in the NBA Playoffs 2014-15

 

Becoming the first player in NBA history to finish the season Top 20 in the 5 major statistical categories (points- 22.9, rebounds- 8.7, assists- 5.4, steals- 1.6, and blocks- 1.9), that alone should tell you that he makes plays for the Bucks, along with the fact that he led his team in all five of those categories that were just mentioned.  Giannis noticeably improving his play from 2 seasons ago, still only 22, has made a name for himself as one of the leagues’ best, which no one could’ve possibly seen, and along with a healthy Khris Middleton this Bucks team is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the near future if they aren’t already.

Despite being sidelined for the first half of the season; Khris Middleton has played a major role in helping Milwaukee make the playoffs this season along with the ’14-’15 season where he only missed 3 games.  2014-2015 was a decent year for the then 23-year-old.  Scoring 13.4 points per game and shooting an impressive 46% from the field and almost 86% from the free throw line.  Being the Bucks’ best two-way player his presence on the floor during the first half of the season was truly missed and was the main reason for their poor record before the All-Star break.

When Khris returned from his hamstring injury he brought the offense and defense that the Bucks were missing and helped them to a 17-12 record post All-Star break and a healthy Khris is definitely needed going into the playoffs this year.  The veteran presence is a lot more effective in terms of productivity as well, with Jason Terry (39), still producing at a level that isn’t seen that much at that age.   Compared to the 2014 season where the only real veteran presence that was there was Kenyon Martin, but he only played 11 games of the season, so the productivity was not basically non-existent.  All in all, this Bucks team is very different and much improved from the last time they made the playoffs in 2014-2015 and Toronto has every right to be afraid of this young Bucks squad who’s looking to make it past the first round for the first time since 2000.

 

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