Overview of their 2021-2022 season
It's fair to say the Bucks came into last season as one of the least-hyped defending champions ever. There was more excitement for teams in the East like the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets.
But the Bucks still managed to plug away. Despite not having Brook Lopez the entire season and all three of their All-Stars missing time, Milwaukee still clobbered teams, finishing the regular season third in the East with a 51-31 record. Their defense took a step back, but they still throttled teams with their dynamic offense that finished third in the league in offensive rating.
They stamped their class on the short-handed Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. Then in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Jrue Holiday gave the Boston Celtics and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart zero breaks. Holiday powered the Bucks into stealing a classic Game 5 in Boston to go up 3-2 in the series.
Unfortunately, the Bucks just couldn’t get over the absence of Khris Middleton. The Celtics keyed in on Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo and took the last two games of the series.
Compared to other defending champs who got bounced early in the playoffs, the Bucks didn’t take a lot of bad press. There might be some benefits to being a small market team, after all.
What’s new this season?
There was a lot of drama in the offseason and the Bucks were in zero percent of them.
They mostly took a run-it-back approach to roster-building in that they retained most of their guys from last season and even signed Bobby Portis (more on him later) to a four-year extension. They drafted MarJon Beauchamp 24th overall in the 2022 Draft, adding another Buck to the NBA Names Spelling Bee next to Connaughton and Antetokounmpo. But other than him, the Bucks didn't sign any new guys or were even in the news as candidates to sign some sought-after free agents.
Giannis Antetokounmpo flew under the radar last season, but he had another MVP-worthy run. He averaged 29.9 ppg on 55.3 percent shooting with 11.6 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.1 spg, and 1.4 bpg. He even remedied his one weakness, shooting 72.2 percent from the free throw line. The Greek Freak did not take his foot off the gas pedal, but barely got any MVP buzz solely because he had just cemented his legacy with a legendary run to the 2021 title.
You could sense some catharsis in some of Giannis’ preseason interviews. He talked about wanting to become anonymous like Tim Duncan when he retires. There was a video of him genuinely enjoying being ignored in a crowd of people while he was walking around in Switzerland. For a 28-year old in the peak of his powers athletically, that’s the kind of talk that either springs from a lack of or too much perspective.
Which is all to say we should appreciate Giannis while he’s here. The biggest story this season might be the French alien not even playing in the league yet. Let’s not forget about the Greek Freak we already have.
Sneaky fun guy
Bobby Portis aka Crazy Eyes aka Punch Bob adds some spice to a relatively tame group of guys in Milwaukee. When you have upstanding pros in the team like Giannis, Holiday, and Middleton, it’s a nice change of pace having someone with the temperament of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
And he’s not just a funny dude, Portis can seriously hoop. Last season was his best in the NBA, filling in at starting center for Brook Lopez and putting up 14.6 ppg while shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from deep, with 9.1 rebounds and solid defense.
With the way the Brewers’ season went and how the current Packers’ season is going, the Bucks are going to be the only good pro sports team in Wisconsin for a while.
The East is in a wobbly state with the teams like Brooklyn and Boston likely to face turbulence, Miami looking to answer a lot of roster questions, and middling teams looking to break out.
The Bucks, on the other hand, are chilling. They just needed to get into the season healthy and they should still be one of the best teams in the East, maybe even the league if they avoid some injuries.
Depth at the wing positions is sort of questionable, but a team with a versatile superstar like Giannis doesn’t really lose sleep over missing a bench piece or two.
There’s a good chance you’ll only start hearing about Milwaukee when the standings start getting spicy later in the season, but it’s never a bad decision to catch a Bucks game.