My name is Alexander Juneau and I have a confession to make, I really liked the 2014-15 Bucks. Not the slow moving train wreck that spiraled downward to finish the season at .500, the Pre All-Star Break Bucks that were the darlings of the NBA.
The Bucks were 30-23 going into the All-Star Break, I’ll turn 21 in a few short months so this was far and away the most wins the Bucks had gotten before the All-Star Break in my life. It was actually their most wins before the All-Star Break since the 1990-91 season. Wins are not everything, but the Bucks were the second youngest team in the NBA and despite a hefty veteran presence it was clear from the start that they would prominently feature a young core of Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Larry Sanders, on opening night all of these young guys were 25 or younger.
At the start of the season I had them pegged to win in between 20 and 23 games. I was super high on drafting a guy like Emmanuel Mudiay or Mario Hezonja, instead they came out fighting and winning. From the first day of the season it was clear it was different, they took a team that was a playoff team the year before in the Charlotte Hornets to overtime on the backs of their two young stars imported from the Detroit: Khris Middleton and Brandon Knight.
Which brings us to Brandon Knight, Knight was a young blossoming star, he was marketable, he was putting up 18 points per game on amazing efficiency. His game had few holes, he was not a stellar passer, but he could score and he gave the Bucks their closest thing to an all star since Bogut had left. He was flanked by young guys who had room to grow as well as the Bucks highest paid player: Larry Sanders a still raw, but improving rim protector.
Even when Jabari tore his ACL, I was still filled with enthusiasm. I should be shattered he was the number two overall pick and billed as the franchise savior. An hour and a half later Khris Middleton hit a buzzer beater to win the game over the Suns, which was one of the most memorable shots in recent Bucks history. They had this promising young core that us Bucks fans had craved for years.
They had a lovable group of veterans to help mentor the young men on the team. There was new acquisition Jared Dudley who would later key the phrase “Fear the Grind” and played a role teaching the young men to play defense. Then there was the ever present Ersan Ilyasova who had another above average season of his typical long range jumpers. Not to mention pop culture icon Zaza Pachulia, the aesthetically displeasing Georgian center. The veterans were all billed as failures at one point in their career whether it be Ersan who was notoriously slow starting, Dudley who the Clippers gave up a first round pick to trade, or the massively overpaid (according to the Media) Zaza Pachulia. They were nonetheless a lovable bunch, everytime Zaza hit his ugly jumper, he lit a torch in Buck’s fans hearts. They embraced Milwaukee, gave back to the community and busted their asses to teach our young guys and instill a work ethic, something Bucks fans as a whole should be eternally thankful for.
They were winning and they had youth they were something that Bucks fans including myself had been craving for years. I had to stop and set myself straight ten games in: fans do not cheer for losses, this team could achieve things better than what you had imagined possible and it was time to adjust my expectations to fit that. Maybe it was the length of time I spent cheering for a Herb Kohl team that I was deathly afraid of the hellish zone that is either just missing out on the playoffs or perhaps worse yet, making the playoffs as an eighth seed only to be a sacrificial lamb to wherever Lebron has established his hunting grounds to be.
The 2014-15 Bucks were different though, they had youth and the oh so treasured upside. Even if they were to get massacred in the playoffs it would be good experience for franchise cornerstones: Brandon Knight, Jabari Parker, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. While the Bucks were embracing the #OwnTheFuture slogan, I was embracing the present, we were competitive night in and night out the Bucks had a 29 game streak going into the All-Star break going 18-11 and never losing by more a double digit margin. Not exactly contender level, but a marked step up from the Bucks teams from years past who would get blown out regularly.
It is totally understandable why they blew that team up, they wanted to look forward and were not comfortable paying Knight what he had earned. The selfish fan in me would like to have seen the season out, and live in the universe where the Buck’s starting point guard can take and make threes. The team seems to have turned it on of late winning 3 straight including road victories over the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets, I am confident the Bucks will be a better team next year than they were at their peak last year, but that Pre-ASB 14-15 team will always hold a special place in my heart.