The Milwaukee Bucks are trending in the right direction, despite their exit in the first round of the NBA playoffs in the 2016-17 season.
The Bucks missed out on a place in the post-season in the previous campaign after winning only 33 of their 82 contests, putting head coach Jason Kidd under pressure to deliver an improvement.
Milwaukee made minimal additions, although one of the most important came through the 2017 Draft selecting Malcolm Brogdon in the second round.
The 24-year-old was not expected to make a huge impact in his first term in the NBA, but would play a significant role on his side’s success, earning the Rookie of the Year award.
Giannis Antetokounmpo took a huge step in his development, becoming one of the most dominant players in the NBA. The 22-year-old was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and the Most Improved Player in the league after averaging 22.9 points per game – the highest mark since he was drafted by the club in 2013.
The Bucks were solid throughout the season, but began to make their intentions for a playoff run known towards the end of the campaign.
The form of Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker was instrumental in their surge in March that secured the sixth seed. Kidd’s men battled well against the Toronto Raptors in the first round – giving DeMar DeRozan and company all they could handle.
However, the Raptors’ experience proved to be vital in the end as they secured a 4-2 series win, despite a fine run of performances from Antetokounmpo.
We’ll now look back at the entirety of the Bucks’ campaign – one which they will hope will be the building block of future success.
The Bucks began their campaign with a defeat at the hands of the Charlotte Hornets on home soil even though Antetokounmpo put up 31 points on the board. Kidd’s men got off the mark for the season with a narrow victory against the Brooklyn Nets, with Rashad Vaughn top-scoring.
A defeat to the Detroit Pistons rounded out the first month of the term, but the Bucks began to hit their stride at the start of November. Antetokounmpo dominated to lead his team past the New Orleans Pelicans and again to deliver wins over the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings.
A run of five defeats in six checked their momentum, including a narrow loss to the Golden State Warriors where Antetokounmpo scored 30 points. However, the Bucks ended the month on the front foot defeating the Orlando Magic twice along with a resounding victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Antetokounmpo scored 34 points to outduel LeBron James in the victory on home soil and the club continued their momentum into the start of December, reeling off back-to-back triumphs over the Nets. Milwaukee went toe-to-toe with another giant of the NBA and displayed their credentials with a strong performance against the San Antonio Spurs, although they lost by a single point.
Parker and Antetokounmpo continued to operate at a high level, but could not prevent a three-game slump. Victories over the Chicago Bulls brought them out of their stupor, although the Cavs lay in wait and avenged their early-season defeat with back-to-back triumphs.
Antetokounmpo responded with one of his best display of the season, scoring 39 points in a win over the Washington Wizards. Two fine outings followed against the Detroit Pistons and Chicago, allowing the Bucks to end 2016 at 16-16.
January proved to be the worst month of Milwaukee’s season, losing 10 of their 15 contests. It began on the right note with Antetokounmpo leading his team to victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New York Knicks with the aid of Brogdon.
Two defeats on the bounce stymied their momentum, but Michael Beasley took centre stage to deliver a match-winning performance to drive Kidd’s men past the Spurs on the road. Another victory would follow over the Miami Heat, but January ended with a run of one win in nine, dropping the Bucks below .500.
Their poor form continued despite good displays from Antetokounmpo and Parker. The 22-year-old notched a 41-pointer against the Los Angeles Lakers, but not even that was enough to deliver a victory. Shoots of recovery came before the All-Star break, with Kidd’s men reeling off three wins on the bounce to stop the slide.
Milwaukee’s season got back on track in March, with the club making their surge towards the playoffs with 14 wins out of 18.
The only side to truly get the better of the Bucks during the month was the Warriors in a heavy defeat for Kidd’s men at Oracle Arena. However, the Bucks remained on course reeling off impressive wins against the Boston Celtics and the Pistons to end the month.
Two wins in April secured their playoff spot and the sixth seed, leaving them on a collision course with the Raptors. Antetokounmpo scored 28 points to win the opener, while Khris Middleton stunned Toronto to hand the Bucks a 2-1 lead in game three.
However, not even two 30-point efforts from the Greek in the final two games of the series was enough to stop the Raptors advancing by winning three matches on the bounce.
The Bucks have kept hold of the majority of their team from last season, meaning that they should be in a strong position to kick on in the 2017-18 campaign.
Antetokounmpo will only improve and with the talent beginning to emerge around him – Kidd’s men should see his point-scoring ability rise even further.
The 22-year-old was also a key defensive cog for his team ranking sixth in the NBA in blocks and in the top 20 in steals and blocks. Should he continue to display that level of form next term then his side could be able to make a deeper surge into the playoffs.
Brogdon was one of the surprise packages of the season, operating at a high level to win the Rookie of the Year award. He became the first player selected outside of the first round to win the honour since 1966, highlighting the quality he displayed in his 78 matches.
The challenge now for the 24-year-old will be to build on his excellent start. He averaged 10.2 points per game last term and should he nudge that towards the 15 mark and improve his assist statistics then the Bucks will be an incredibly tough outfit to contend with in the Eastern Conference.
Parker’s ACL injury has created an opening for first-round draft pick DJ Wilson to make an immediate impact. The 21-year-old fared well in the college game with Michigan, averaging 11 points per game in his final season with the Wolverines. If he could be the surprise package that Brogdon was then the Bucks could be the team to watch next term.
Due to the talent on their roster, backing the Bucks at +2000 to win the Eastern Conference with SkyBet is a good shout and well worth a punt.
For US betters check out this list of bookmakers – https://www.sbo.net/country/us/ – in order to get the best odds for the 2017-18 season.
Milwaukee Bucks To Win Eastern Conference