This offseason would have looked so different for the Bucks if Kevin Durant kept his massive feet behind the three-point line at the end of Game 7 in their second round series. Instead, the Bucks beat an injured Nets team, whooped the Hawks, and bounced back from an 0-2 series hole to win four straight games against the Phoenix Suns and hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. Giannis Antetokounmpo has two MVP awards and keeps getting better, while Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday each just proved themselves on the biggest stage possible. We are smack in the center of the Bucks’ championship window, and already having one ring should take away the extra pressure that once loomed over them.
In a word: repeat. The Milwaukee Bucks won their first title in 50 years last season, and they plan to run it back by running it back with (most of) last season’s championship roster. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a perennial MVP contender, the players around him fit his game like a glove, and the hard-won grit developed in the forge of the 2021 NBA Finals carries over. Forget a superteam, they’re a super team.
Fatigue undermines the Bucks’ title defense before they can actually defend it. With the NBA returning to an 82-game schedule, the Bucks are both coming off a deep postseason run and at the tail end of a shortened offseason. Giannis is already dealing with knee soreness (enough to keep him out of practice), and Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday both lost recovery time in their gold medal effort in Japan this summer. Losing to Brooklyn would be a disappointment, but what if they aren’t healthy enough to even get to Brooklyn in the postseason?
Milwaukee will tread lightly at the beginning of the season, knowing that it’s a marathon and not a sprint to get where they want to go. Pundits and casuals alike will see an underperforming Bucks team and proclaim that their ring was fake, and Milwaukee will take it all and smile. In due time, the team’s excellent strength & conditioning team will get the players into playoff shape, and the reigning champions will somehow enter the postseason as an underdog. Again.
Giannis forcing his way back into the MVP conversation. Remember, everyone wrote him off because he couldn’t win in the playoffs. Well, he won in the playoffs, and he already finished 4th in the voting last season. With a ring on his finger and a chip on his shoulder, the Greek Freak is less interested in accolades than dominating his opponents. Funny how his pursuit of the latter will result in the former.