Can the Milwaukee Bucks make the NBA playoffs this season?
Days before the season started, the Milwaukee Bucks got some horrible news. Their star player, Khris Middleton, the one who signed a max contract, got injured. Middleton needed to undergo surgery, and he was lost for six months. Chances are he won’t play this season. Maybe sometimes in April, or in May, if Milwaukee plays in the post-season. So, can the Bucks make the playoffs? Two months into the season and Milwaukee looks like, despite everything, they will be playing in the postseason. There are two reasons for that. The first one is Milwaukee’s good play, and the second is the competition has not shown up. That being said, let’s examine can the Bucks make the NBA playoffs, and what can stop them from getting there.
The improved offense
Bucks vs Pacers Highlights | Can the Bucks make the NBA playoffs this season?
In the first two years, Jason Kidd put so much emphasis on the defense. And the Bucks were among the leaders in the league in defensive efficiency. But they had troubles scoring points. Fun fact: in the 2015-2016 season, the Bucks had six players scoring in double digits, led by Khris Middleton with 18 per game. And they had the 26th worst offensive rating in the league, scoring 104 points per 100 possessions.
This year, they have only two players scoring in double digits, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker. But the Greek Freak is averaging 23 points per game, while Parker averages 20 points per game. And that is the reason why the Bucks are ranked in the top 15 in offensive rating, averaging 108 points per game. The defense is still there. Which is why the question can the Bucks make the playoffs has a definite answer. Milwaukee finally has the tools to hang with teams scoring lots of points.
They still have a top 10 defense, only this year, they have a way of scoring points as well. The big reason for that is coach Jason Kidd, who decided to give Giannis complete freedom. The Greek Freak runs the offense at times, shoots, dribbles, posts up and does everything in between. He is a prime candidate for most improved player of the year award. Jabari has also improved as well. He missed a lot of time in his first year due to injury. Last year, there was a logjam with Greg Monroe getting close to 30 minutes per game, and Middleton sometimes playing power forward in small lineups.
This year, the Bucks have identified their star players, which are Jabari and Giannis. Monroe’s minutes are down to less than 20 per game. That doesn’t mean that Middleton might be traded once he is back from injury. Monroe, and John Henson, on the other hand, are not as safe.
Bucks vs Wizards Highlights | Can the Bucks make the NBA playoffs this season?
The Bucks made two significant changes this year to the roster. The first one, they got Matthew Dellavedova. And the Australian point guard brought championship experience, toughness, and stability at the point guard position. The Bucks averaged close to 16 turnovers per game last year and were ranked 25th in that category. This year, they are in the top 10 in turnovers per game. They are taking care of the ball, and it all goes back to Delly and Giannis playing the point at times.
The second significant change to the roster is Mirza Teletovic. One thing that the Bucks missed last year was 3-pt shooting. Khris Middleton was their best shooter, but he didn’t shoot as much. This year, Teletovic averages five three-point attempts per game. Jabari has the freedom to shoot 3s as well. And Dellavedova can hit one from time to time. Rookie Malcolm Brogdon has proven to be a valuable player from the get go. He gets 20 minutes per game and averages three 3-pt attempts per game. He connects on 44% attempts from behind the arc. Overall, the Bucks are much better at shooting and creating shots.
Bucks vs Cavaliers Highlights | Can the Bucks make the NBA playoffs this season?
The Bucks are among the contenders for the last four spot in the East. Truth be told, after the first two teams, Cleveland and Toronto, everything is open. However, with a 50% record, the Bucks cannot hope for the third spot in the East.
Among their competitors for the last four spots in the East are the Atlanta Hawks, the New York Knicks, the Indiana Pacers, the Chicago Bulls, and the Washington Wizards.
The Hawks are one of the teams that were expected to be higher at this point in the season. After essentially replacing Al Horford with Dwight Howard, the Hawks were supposed to be a 50 – 55 win team and compete for the third or fourth spot in the East. But that hasn’t been the case so far, as the Hawks are playing just 50% ball.
The Knicks are playing much better than they were last season. And one can say they are playing just as expected. Derrick Rose stated that they were a super team before the season started, but that was overrating his team. The Knicks will be a first-round team in the playoffs. And depending on how they fare in the regular season, they might be higher or lower in the ratings than the Bucks.
The Indiana Pacers are a team that can get in front of the Bucks. The Pacers were also among the contenders for a top 4 spot in the East. But things are not going their way. The Pacers are similarly built as the Bucks, with one real star and few other good players. And while Paul George is better than Giannis, the Pacers’ supporting cast hasn’t shown up so far.
Chicago started the season strong, but Wade, Rondo, and Butler are now having some troubles. The biggest problem for the Bulls is winning on the road. The Bucks have the similar problem, but they are much better at home.
Last, but not least, are the Washington Wizards, a team that is finally starting to play up to their potential. If Wall and Beal catch a break and start playing like max contract players, Washington is a dangerous team. Their two-star players are on the same level, or even better than the Bucks one-two punch of Giannis and Jabari.
Can the Milwaukee Bucks make the NBA playoffs this season?
Bucks vs Bulls Highlights | Can the Bucks make the NBA playoffs this season?
Let’s put it this way. The Bucks might end up with the third-best record in the East, or with the 10th best record in the East. The difference between the third spot and the 10th spot is four wins. Remember, last year; teams 3-6 were separated by one game. This year, the race in the East is shaping to be just as tight. That means the question is not can the Bucks make the playoffs. They certainly can. The question is can they make a surge, one or two winning streaks and climb higher in the ranks? That will provide them with home court advantage, something the Bucks haven’t had in a while.
Check out our NBA Ticket price guide to see if Milwaukee Bucks ticket prices are trending up or downward.