The calendar has yet to turn to December, but with the season beginning a couple weeks earlier nowadays, the NBA season has reached the quarter mark.
At 15-6, the Milwaukee Bucks have shown they can be a force. Their 7-0 start put them on everyone’s radar. Giannis Antetokounmpo is selling jerseys like no other Bucks player has and posting numbers like no one since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the early 1970s. And he’s not a one-man show. On some nights the Bucks have had four players top the 20-point mark.
Khris Middleton is an excellent second scoring option. Eric Bledsoe shows flashes of being a difference maker on both ends of the floor. Malcolm Brogdon is greatly underappreciated. Brook Lopez appears to have been an excellent addition of just what the Bucks needed.
Ersan Ilyasova, Pat Connaughton, rookie Donte DiVincenzo provide great sparks off the bench. Thon Maker is progressing. Tony Snell and John Henson are good complementary pieces, although Henson will be out for a couple months after wrist surgery.
Greatness seems possible. Maybe even expected, it Bucks Twitter is any indicator.
So who are these Milwaukee Bucks? Are they as good as the team that completely dismantled the Golden State Warriors in Oakland? Are they as good as the team that beat the Portland Trail Blazers by 43?
Maybe they can be that good.
But they’re also the team that lost at home to the Phoenix Suns (4-16) last Friday and needed a last-second 3-pointer to beat the 5-17 Chicago Bulls Wednesday night — again at home.
And not only does their level of play swing from game to game, it also has swung violently within games.
They’re a team that trailed the Bulls by 22 at home 12 days ago. And in that same game they outscored the Bulls by 41 over the last 26 minutes.
They’re the team that fell behind the Memphis Grizzlies by 17 at home, roared back with a 27-4 run, then blew a late lead by allowing a closing 8-0 run.
They lost to the Suns despite posting 11-0 and 14-0 runs in the final 16 minutes.
We’ve seen more of the really good, but there is still just a little too much of the maddening.
If you’re familiar with the Milwaukee Bucks and their history, you know greatness has been elusive for a very, very long time. And the opportunity to achieve great things does not come around often.
The Bucks came within a game of the NBA Finals in 2001. They haven’t won a playoff series since winning those two playoff series. They’ve only won one other playoff series (1989) since Don Nelson left town.
When they went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2001, many expected years of sustained success. Insteadk poor chemistry led to that team missing the playoffs a year later. A couple years after that, Ray Allen was shipped to Seattle in one of the worst trades in franchise history.
As previously mentioned, they haven’t won a playoff series since.
At 15-6, the Bucks own the second-best record in the league, behind the Toronto Raptors. The Eastern Conference is there for the taking this year. And the West hasn’t been that scary, either.
Opportunities for greatness don’t come around often enough. At the quarter-point of this season the Bucks would do well to recognize the opportunity in front of them.