Chances are, you like the Green Bay Packers. If you’re a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks and you live in Wisconsin, which a good many of you do, you’re probably a fan of the Packers.
They literally could not have made you feel worse last night. Had the Packers refused to play because they couldn’t wear their own gold shoes or protested because Alice In Chains is a ridiculous choice for a half time music act, those would have been much preferable outcomes to last night’s actual result.
The Bucks would never do that to you. At least not so dramatically. Last night’s game was a sudden heart attack in sports form. The Bucks would never be the sudden heart attack. They’d be the heart attack after years of overeating and never working out. They disappoint and crush spirits slowly, over time. There’s never a big dramatic moment where you feel like it all went wrong. You just look back at the end of another 38-44 season and wonder if it was really worth it.
But maybe not this year. This year might be one of the good ones.
For many of you, Bucks season didn’t really start until the Packers so dramatically failed last night. Welcome to the season. The first half has been surprising and better than almost anyone would have expected. Jabari Parker is hurt, so if you’re tuning in expecting to see him, you’ll be disappointed. But Giannis Antetokounmpo is way better than when you last saw him and Jason Kidd has the team playing hard and unselfish basketball. Larry Sanders is going to be out for a while, but the Bucks were in London and it was fun! Keep tuning in.
Here’s what to expect going forward.
How many wins will the Bucks end up with?
Jeremy Schmidt: 44. The tough part of the season is over. Milwaukee got an extra week long break thanks to the London trip. There are so many home games left. Almost everything is lined up perfectly for the Bucks to go on quite a run over the next 42 games. 23 more wins feels almost conservative.
KL Chouinard: I’m going with the number 44. The schedule will soften up a bit and Bucks are their own tier of mediocrity in the East, but keep in mind that it’s a pleasant, process-driven mediocrity.
Nick Whalen: 41. Surviving that brutal December schedule was enough to convince me the Bucks can keep playing around .500 basketball for the rest of the season. Even after losing a key piece in Jabari Parker and dealing with the extended absences of Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders, Milwaukee hasn’t missed a beat — a testament to this team’s depth and the next-man-up mentality they’ve embraced. Yes, they’re probably overachieved at times, but they’ve also failed to close out at least two or three games they should have won (blowing a 24-point second half lead on opening night, for instance).
Ian Segovia: 45 wins. I watch a lot of games with the feeling that the Bucks really have no choice but to win the game because [East Team X] is a flaming tire fire. The London game against the Knicks is a perfect example of this.16 of the Bucks wins are against teams below 500 and 12 of those are double-digit wins. They’ve got 26 games against teams from the East; that’s good enough to hit 45.
Mitch Vomhof: 38. .500 seems like an optimistic pace for a team that’s played well above its talent level this season; I suspect we’ll see a bit of a dip, but also a good amount of competitive basketball to close out the season.
Will the Bucks win a playoff game? A series?
JS: They will win a playoff series. It will feel great.
KL: My guess is that LeBron all by himself is enough to push Cleveland past the Bucks in the second half of the season. Brooklyn, Miami, and all the other dreck of the Eastern Conference are not worth discussing. That pegs Milwaukee as a #6 and a likely match against Toronto/Washington/Chicago.
NW: Yes and maybe. If the season ended today, the Bucks and Bulls would meet in the first round. Very recent history proved once again that this is not a favorable matchup for Milwaukee. The good news is Chicago will probably ascend to the second or third seed by the time April rolls around, though Milwaukee could just as easily slip to sixth or seventh, especially if the Cavs figure things out. Either way, a first round meeting with Chicago would probably result in a short series, but I think the Bucks are capable of taking at least one game from whichever team they face.
IS: Win some games, but not a series. The Bucks don’t really match up well against any of the top four East teams and they’re 5-13 against teams above 500. And Johnny O’Bryant isn’t grabbing a key rebound to swing a game.
MV: I’m still not entirely convinced that this team makes the playoffs, let alone retains the sixth seed. And winning a playoff series seems entirely too optimistic. But given four shots to beat any playoff team in the (L)eastern conference, I’m confident that they’d win at least once.
Will you be calling this season a success or a failure when it’s finished?
JS: Failure. I can feel the win now move coming. I can feel a draft pick being traded away for a player who can help this team win a playoff series this season. The win will feel great. We’ll all celebrate … but it changes the course and overall direction of the franchise. Suddenly expectations are raised for next season and this upcoming off season isn’t viewed as another developmental step to be cautiously explored, but an opportunity to take this team to another level. That’s how Drew Gooden happens. I don’t look forward to four years and $30 million going to Rodney Stuckey because he’s the missing piece and the cap is exploding anyway so who cares right!?
I hope I’m wrong about everything.
KL: I think it’s a success because of the effect that Kidd and Pachulia have had on the team. The anecdote about Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia from Zach Lowe’s column on Horford is about the Hawks, but really sounds like a description of the Bucks this season too. The Bucks have a core, a soul, and a mission statement — three things they didn’t have 12 months ago.
NW: A success. Barring an injury to you know who or a catastrophic second half collapse, I’m not sure how this season can’t be viewed as a success. The Bucks have already topped their win total from last season, they’re right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, they’re getting along and, most importantly, they’re fun to watch. While the Kohl years demonstrated the dangers of toeing the line between contending and building for the future, this team seems to have figured out a way to do both simultaneously.
IS: Success. The Bucks have far exceeded expectations. Any thought of this season being a failure is just for insane people that think the Bucks need to tank for a lottery pick. After seeing teams like the Hawks and Raptors succeed this season, the idea that a team needs to tank for an eternity should be dead.
MV: I feel like we can already call this season a success. The Bucks have seen improvement out of critical young players (Antetokounmpo, Henson, Middleton), established that Jabari Parker can be the franchise-changing player that they need him to be, and surprised everyone by playing .500 ball for the first half of the season. There will always be nits to pick, but the combination of Jason Kidd and a teachable group of players has definitely exceeded expectations.