Why aren’t the Bucks … better?

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 12: Giannis Antetokounmpo
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 12: Giannis Antetokounmpo /

The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t bad. They’re in eighth place, but they’re not close to ninth place. One more win, and they’d be in fifth place. And they’re really right in the mix in a season where only three or four teams have impressive records (Houston, GSW, Toronto, Boston). But honestly, you’d have to say they have, what, the second best player in the Eastern Conference? So as most people who have ever known me have asked at one point or another, why aren’t they better?

Here’s what we know: the Bucks have an impressive collection of talent. Giannis Antetokounmpo, averaging a cool 27-10-5-1.5 while shooting 53 percent from the floor is ridiculous. Khris Middleton, only 26, has blossomed into one of the better all-around players in the league, grabbing five boards and dishing four assists to go along with his 20 points a game, and hitting nearly two 3-pointers a game to boot. Eric Bledsoe has been flying under the radar for a long time now, but, liberated from the Suns, he is a sneaky good player.

You’re not going to find a lot of teams with three guys under 30 scoring 17+ points with good percentages. You’re just not.

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Of course, the biggest problem they have comes after that, where the team more or less falls off a cliff. Maybe some day Jabari Parker will play consistently, and well, and maybe he’ll even do it to the Bucks. Malcolm Brogdon is better than anyone expected. But then? Tony Snell, John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, etc., etc. You get it. There’s even a Plumlee somewhere down there. At least there was. And then there was the bad coaching. You may remember Jason Kidd asking his guys to foul while up four because he knew it was going to be a foul shooting contest or something and wanted to just get it started.

It could even be Giannis, depending on how great you think he is. People say that no comparably great player has a coach that bad, has teammates so limited and so on, and so forth, but 1) they’re often the same people who point out what scrubs LeBron James has taken to the NBA Finals and 2) guys who are really that great probably make their teammates and coaches look better than they are. Or maybe he’s just really really good and not yet one of the absolute best and none of this really matters. Maybe it’s the fact that they don’t get any boards or that they play really slow (24th of 30 in pace).

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Most likely, though, it’s pretty simple: a combination of not having quite the frontline talent of the best teams and having a much less talented bench than most others. By minutes, at least, it was Henson and Dellavedova who were at the front of the bench ‘til Parker came back — and until they signed Brandon Jennings? — and that’s not where you want to be. Maybe next year with everyone a year older and a little more health, they’ll be a totally different team. We’ll just have to wait and see.