The Sixers are in Milwaukee this afternoon to face the Bucks, who were very impressive in their October matchup with the Sixers, but have since become the best team in the NBA. To learn more about the Bucks, I talked to Bucks Film Room of Brew Hoop for some insight from an expert.
Question #1: The MVP race seems to have come down to two players: James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo. As someone who follows the Bucks, make the case for Giannis.
Harden is difficult to compete with because he’s the best at getting the one stat most people are familiar with: points. He’s averaging 34.8 points per 36 minutes and it will take an outstanding feat to top him for the MVP award. Luckily, Antetokounmpo is on the verge of accomplishing just that. Giannis is putting up unprecedented averages of 29.6 points, 13.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per 36 minutes.
Furthermore, Antetokounmpo is a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate as well. He’s one of the only players in the league who can effectively defend every player on the court. Even if he’s not a traditional lockdown defender, he’s the free safety of the Bucks’ defense and one who roams around causing havoc for everyone else.
The only weakness in his game is his outside shot and that’s begun to come around the last few months. Overall, Antetokounmpo is the best player on the best team this season which should help clinch his spot on top of the MVP race at the end of the season.
Question #2: By all measurements, the Bucks should be the favorites to win the East this year. Their record and point differential are best in the league, and they have the best player in the conference this season. But what is one flaw with this team that would have you concerned going into the playoffs?
The lack of an elite player next to Antetokounmpo. Every other top Eastern Conference team has at least two studs. Toronto has Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. Boston has Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. and Philadelphia has a number of them in Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler.
The Bucks have been so good despite that because of their depth. Instead of one second-best player, they seemingly had four. However, it was just announced on Saturday that Malcolm Brogdon will miss 6-8 weeks, a huge hit. It will be interesting to see how Milwaukee adjusts without their best outside shooter.
Question #3: The Bucks have an important summer in front of them. Khris Middleton, Sixers enemy Malcolm Brogdon, and Brook Lopez will all be free agents, and it’s hard to tell which of those will be back next year. What do you envision next season’s team looking like?
The Bucks will do everything they can to keep their team. The first step was signing Eric Bledsoe to a somewhat team-friendly deal. Now, the Bucks have to figure out if they can retain their other three starters given that Middleton will likely command a max contract. They won’t be able to sign all of them outright and will have to use the mid-level exception on Lopez, but there’s definitely a world where they can do it.
The Bucks’ ownership will be key in all of this as well. Milwaukee will have to go well into the tax in order to keep everyone. The brass has said they are willing to do that if the team can have success in the playoffs. Without that success, the offseason becomes even more unpredictable.
Big thanks to Bucks Film Room for answering our questions!