The Milwaukee Bucks will win 43 games this season

Last Wednesday people were wondering whether or not the Milwaukee Bucks could win a playoff series this year. That was a question I was asked on the radio. That was a question my friends were starting to press me on with more frequency. Was it realistic to start getting hopes up about second round playoff basketball in Milwaukee? Expectations were beginning to build.

Then last Thursday happened.

By 5 PM Thursday evening people were wondering why Milwaukee would trade the guy that appeared to be its best player. Two of my most vocal Bucks following friends had an exchange with me that went like this, Friend one: “I think I liked Brandon Knight, but I can’t be sure. And I don’t think I like Michael Carter-Williams, but I can’t be sure.” Friend two: “I’m sure of both.” To them, the second round of the playoffs seemed very far away.

While they typically have a propensity for #HOTTAKES, they are probably right. The expectations you may have had about the rest of this season two weeks ago are no longer relevant. Your dreams no longer matter, but don’t get too down. A franchise that thinks long term is a good thing. And it doesn’t mean this season is totally lost either. The season ceiling dropping from possibly five playoff wins to maybe two playoff wins isn’t that big of a deal.

We’ve gone pretty deep on how last week’s trade made sense for the longer term future of the Milwaukee Bucks, but we didn’t look much into how it would impact this season, aside from assuming the Bucks were probably going to be a little bit worse. Through three games, we’ve seen a team that looks a fairly significant amount worse on offense, though the Bucks we’ve seen haven’t featured the centerpiece of the trade, MCW.

He’s expected to return Wednesday, but even with his addition, it’s fair to assume the Bucks will still be at least somewhat worse than they were over their incredible first 53 games. Worse doesn’t mean much though. A worse team playing a friendly schedule can outperform a better team playing a difficult schedule.

These slightly worse Bucks? They have a pretty friendly remaining schedule.

chart

Look at all of the games against those I’ve dubbed members of the Bad East! The Bad East is Miami, Brooklyn, Detroit, Charlotte, Indiana, Orlando, Philly, New York and Boston. Against these teams this season, Milwaukee is 16-5. Of those five losses, two came to Charlotte and one came to the Pistons. Neither of those teams remain on Milwaukee’s schedule. Orlando and Indiana are the only Bad East teams that play the Bucks again and have taken a game this year from Milwaukee. It feels safe to assume the Bucks can take 75% of these games. Mark them down for eight wins right there.

Against the West this season, the Bucks are somehow 11-10, which is incredible, given that the Bucks have not had a winning record against the Western Conference since … since a long time ago. I was looking this up on ESPN.com and their conference records only go back to 2002-03, so just know it’s been a while and assume maybe it was that glorious year of 2001-02. The Bad West games left are against the Lakers, Jazz, Nuggets and Pelicans twice. Two wins seems fair. We’re up to 10, and we’re probably still awaiting a winning season against the West.

Against likely good playoff teams this season (playoff teams that are not Miami or Brooklyn), Milwaukee is 7-18, good for a 28% winning percentage. Let’s drop them down to 25% for the sake of ease and a penalty for the Knight trade and assume they’ll win two of those nine games against playoff teams the rest of the way. That’s 12 wins.

12 wins would bring Milwaukee to a 43-39 finish, which feels very Milwaukee Bucks, but is actually a record the Milwaukee Bucks have never had. Getting to 43 wins largely without Jabari Parker, heavily on the back of Giannis Antetokounmpo is probably a successful season in terms of results, but feels a bit incomplete in terms of development. We miss Jabari.

As far as the second round of the playoffs goes? Given Milwaukee’s record against playoff teams, recent performances against the Hawks and Bulls and my own personal suspicions about how effectively a Michael Carter-Williams led offense can operate, I’d say Milwaukeeans are probably free to start scheduling vacations as soon as the first round of the playoffs are over. Maybe the Bucks could have gotten a little bit better as the season went on and started proving themselves as a viable threat against playoff teams. Milwaukee had been playing its best basketball of the season over the past two months and Knight had even turned into a net positive from a plus/minus perspective lately.

But the Bucks sacrificed the possible small incremental growths of this season in favor of the hope of potential huge, obvious growth down the road. It’s the sort of move many have pleaded for, but it’s the sort of move that makes this season mean a little bit less. Enjoy the record over .500 and keep thinking about tomorrow.

Categories: This Is Apparently Where Things Are Going Now?

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16 Comments

  1. Thanks, Jeremy
    This seems completely right, and helpful to hear right now. Let’s recall that at the beginning of the season we were not only happy to focus on development & long-term, but we would have greeted 43 wins as crazy unbelievable good! Our goal is not getting to 2nd round, but actually getting beyond that. I’m gonna enjoy our above-500 record and the 3 playoff games I’m going to. (But please please don’t make it against the Bulls; I don’t mind watching losses but I HATE having the Bulls fans sitting next to me gloating!)

    • Agreed. It’s interesting how much the team will blow away preseason expectations and possibly fall short of mid-season excitement, but so long as the long term is in mind, it’s all good. You’re right: The second round is not the goal.

    • Bologne, Bucks were the most dangerous team and had momentum. Why not see how far they could have gone? Sometimes deal with what u have today than chasing what you don’t. We had a chance to take division! The Bucks will be fortunate if they even make playoffs or lucky to win 5 more games. What a blowfart the GM is. I do wish MCW the best though as his motor is nonstop.

      • Thank God you’re not the GM of the Milwaukee Bucks!

        It’s this type of short-sightedness and thirst for instant gratification that creates and maintains the perennial lottery team.

        It takes patience to build a team that can compete sustainably, and sometimes you have to take a bit of pain along the way for the greater good.

        I’d take the potential of being able to compete with the best for 3, 5, or even 10 years or more, over the potential of an extended playoff run for just one season, every time!

        Bigger picture, people!

        Look at the bigger picture…

  2. I think what was so disappointing and disconcerting about the last couple of games was the utter lack of ball movement and all the turnovers. If the Bucks — with the help of MCW and maybe Tyler Ennis, allowing them a little slack for getting acclimated to a new team — get back to their recent volume passing game, and continue to hustle on defense (as they seem to have done against both the Hawks and Bulls), then I think that this will still be a very enjoyable and highly satisfying season, with an ample number of wins.

    My major concern is that the Bucks don’t panic in the sense of relying too much on our veterans for minutes and shots. These older guys have been very good for us, and can continue to play a significant role for the rest of this season (and perhaps beyond), but, please, let’s focus primarily on our younger guys, including, yes, John Henson.

    To keep things in perspective, even with Brandon Knight, we were still a sixth seed in a weak Eastern Conference — so this wasn’t the season to put our main emphasis on, anyway. What this season is about is deveoping team chemistry mainly with the guys who will probably be here for a few years. The three key words for a successful finish: passing, defense, competitiveness.

    If the Bucks keep their collective cool and focus on the right process, good things will happen in good time. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the team regroups and adusts and comes together for a nice surge at the end of this season — and maybe, just maybe, pulls off a big upset by winning a playoff series.

    Finally, this time of uncertainty with the Bucks is an opportunity for fans to go on record with strong statements and bold predictions about the near and distant future of the team. Weigh in here at Bucksketball with your thoughts about the trade and the prospects for the current team. Be bold. Risk being wrong. Dare to be right.

  3. Not sure if writing off a playoff series win is warranted or not. The last two games haven’t been pretty, but the bulls game was a classic third game in 4 days and the hawks game was still within two at the start of the 4th. Do we have a scoring problem, yes. Will MCW be our go to scorer, no, guy cant shoot like knight. But, MCW should bring more transition points bc of his defense and get more good looks for the team judging by his remarkable 40 plus assist percentage in Philly. No matter who the bucks play they will be a tough out if only bc of their depth and defense which should both translate well in the playoffs. Not getting my hopes up, but btwn having yet to see the impact of MCW, the rose injury, and the wide open nature of the Eastern Conference as long as we can avoid Bron and friends a round one series win is still in the cards in this Bucks fan’s mind.

  4. I believe we can get out the first round too especially if we dont play Lebron and co. ..again i hope MCW IS HEALTHY…i think we can win over 43 games if things come together with ball movement like everyone has been saying..this team is definitely a 50 or more win team next season with Jabari on the court…..WE OWN THE FUTURE…GO BUCKS!

  5. I don’t think the last two games should give us any cause for concern beyond what we already know. Whether the Bucks are starting Knight, MCW, or neither, they’re clear underdogs to both the Bulls and the Hawks, and they’ll be clear underdogs to any of the East’s top teams in the playoffs. The Bucks are not good at handling elite frontcourt players, and whoever starts at PG is not a factor for that.

    So it’s good that the Bucks are being future-oriented. MCW looks like he may be a better fit with our young forwards than Knight, so the trade seems like a risk worth taking.

    • I saw that and I disagree with them, because I think they’re factoring in Plumlee/MCW too much.

  6. Only 2 wins in 5 games against the Jazz, Lakers, Nuggets and Pellies twice? Very pessimistic. I think 45 to 48 is more probable. As far as a playoff series is concerned the Raptors and Wizards are both very beatable. I we get one of those two teams I think we have a better chance to win than lose, seeing as Washington is in free fall and every game we have played against the Raptors has yielded incrementally better results. Why so blue?

    • Don’t forget that Rose just went down most likely for the year and Pau Gasols health can always be iffy. Bulls aren’t looking as good today and they were yesterday. I think they have a chance vs. anyone outside of Cleveland and Atlanta, so long as the New Bucks figure out how to mesh with the rest of the team.

  7. Personally I still question the trade but if you had a chance to get the reigning R.O.Y. and he plays up to potential and gets the Bucks to elite contender status I am all for it. I feel like a lot of my fellow Bucks fans are not looking at the big picture here. Many were thinking this team wouldn’t win 30 games the whole year let alone by all star break. No one thought we would be this good after Jabari went down, or injuries to numerous other players and Larry Sanders suffering from his troubles as well. Don’t get me wrong I am happy the Bucks are playing so well but the bigger goal here is not this season it’s to be a legit title contender in a few years.

  8. The Bucks are building a winning basketball culture. I remember Giannis in Summer League just happy that he won a game because it did not happen in a long while for him. Having a positive season and winning games with young guys, veteran leaders, and a new coach is only going to build for the next couple years. First it’s winning games, then it’s a playoff game, then series, it only builds from there.

    I would say ease up on MCW give the kid some time. We know his shortcomings and underestimate his strengths, but having a pass first point guard with Middleton, Giannis, Jabari, and Henson will only make this team better. I’m taking the Bucks to get a win in the playoff series and Giannis to euro step from the 3 point line, here’s to the future.