Fear the Deer is a popular slogan in Milwaukee, but it should start gaining more exposure this year in the NBA as a whole. The Bucks are on the rise and will be one of the best teams in an improved Eastern Conference.
Last season, Milwaukee took the mighty Chicago Bulls to six games despite minimal playoff experience.
Jason Kidd is one of the best young coaches in the league and is continuing to get better. If it wasn’t for the Atlanta Hawks blossoming out of nowhere with Mike Budenholzer and the Golden State Warriors exceeding tons of expectations under first-year head coach Steve Kerr, the Coach of the Year award would have easily gone to Kidd.
What Kidd did to the Brooklyn Nets was conniving, and what the Bucks did to Larry Drew might have been even worse. Nonetheless, both parties should and have moved on in a positive direction.
Kidd was questioned all year in Brooklyn with his silly antics on the court and his lack of experience. The Nets were expected to be much, much better in his first stint as a head coach and they did nothing but disappoint.
Last season, Kidd was able to lead the Bucks to a 41-41 record, despite phenom Jabari Parker missing most of the season due to an ACL tear.
This year, Parker will be back and healthy. Andrew Wiggins gained all the attention from the 2014 Draft Class, but Parker can be just as good or potentially even better. Look for the young stud to gain the eye of even the casual fan this year.
Khris Middleton is becoming one of the feel good stories of the NBA. A former D-League player, Middleton secured a max-contract this offseason that was well deserved if you compare it to other contracts in the league these days. He excelled as their go-to guy during the season when Parker went down.
Middleton is a two-way player that can be relied on when the game is on the line as we witnessed last season, nailing two remarkable buzzer beater game-winners.
Although it was questioned, the move to trade Brandon Knight and land Michael Carter-Williams was a good one. MCW doesn’t get the most praise out of point guards in the league and has become somewhat underrated. He is an excellent passer, has tremendous length, which allows him to guard either guard position, and is very young. Having Kidd as his coach for a full season will do wonders.
There are questions about his turnover rate and lack of jumper, but that is common among point guards when they are in their first few years in the league. The Bucks are in good hands with their floor general.
Giannis Antetokounmpo not only has the coolest name in the game, but is also one of the most versatile players in the league. He averaged 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and a block per game while shooting 49 percent from the field last season. I expect those numbers to be much higher this year.
The addition of Greg Monroe secures the Bucks a legitimate center for years to come. Monroe is one of the best young big men in the league. He was battling with Andre Drummond in Detroit with the Pistons, but now will have more room than ever in the paint as Antetokounmpo can spread the floor and let the big man go to work down low.
The bench is solid with Jerryd Bayless, John Henson, Chris Copeland and others.
The Eastern Conference still has ways to go to reach the caliber of the West, but it’s improving with nice, young talent. However, they still lack a team that can give LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers a legitimate challenge. The Chicago Bulls will continue to falter under pressure, the Atlanta Hawks lost DeMarre Carroll, the Washington Wizards are still a piece away, and the Toronto Raptors just aren’t there.
Maybe the Miami Heat stand a chance, but the odds of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Luol Deng staying healthy and Hassan Whiteside keeping his cool all seem slim until proven otherwise.
This Milwaukee team won 15 games two seasons ago and now the Bucks will be the dark horse of the Eastern Conference. No, they won’t make the NBA Finals this year but don’t be surprised if teams start to fear the deer as we witness them in the Eastern Conference Finals.