Chaos embodied the worst of the Milwaukee Bucks last season, but positive chaos might be what the doctor ordered looking ahead to the 2018-19 season.
It’s clear, looking back on a topsy-turvy regular season and promising seven-game series against the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, that the team has largely gotten by on talent alone up until now.
Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney put it best:
"“The Bucks have yet to find a lens that suits them. Instead, they play by kaleidoscope. They see vague shapes in brilliant color. They watch a segmented whole fold in on itself. And, through all its contortions, they see a promise of an ordered pattern on the other side.”"
That’s what the Bucks have been for the last two seasons – raw basketball energy, powerful but unfocused. How do you refine that energy without taking away the chaos that made it something to be feared in the first place?
The good thing for Milwaukee is that the answer doesn’t have to be complex – basketball isn’t rocket science after all. For all of Brad Stevens’ whiteboard wizardry in the playoff series, the Bucks proved when they’re on, they’re unstoppable.
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The problem is that all season, and through the playoff run against Boston, it’s only been glimpses of hope. A 10-0 run here and there brought undone by ill-discipline at either end. What kept the Celtics in prime position this series is the fact that they’ve always had an answer – eventually the Bucks cool, and Boston can repair the damage.
Chaos is what makes the Bucks great – on and off the floor. It’s why, after decades of mediocrity, fans indulge in self-flagellation on Twitter after every pathetic late-season loss to Orlando and front up again for the next game.
Mike Budenholzer won’t have to install a complex offense or revolutionary defense for the Bucks to be taken seriously. We know what works for Milwaukee already – surround Antetokounmpo with shooters. Few on the Bucks roster can be considered bad defenders – flawed, certainly, but capable. That’s the vague shape Mahoney refers to – a Greek god in Giannis, and underrated two-way force in Khris Middleton. Untapped, infuriating potential in Eric Bledsoe.
Thon Maker’s re-emergence in the playoffs should be a godsend for Milwaukee – after a season where it wasn’t unfair to think Maker wasn’t an NBA player, he offers a timely reminder that the best version of the Bucks is one with him on the floor. Maker is the embodiment of the Bucks chaos – an odd man out among unicorns. The best and worst of the Bucks, in one, erratic, anxiety-inducing swag of potential.
Unless the front office decides to make a series of blockbuster trades, there’s likely not going to be much change in the roster beyond the end of the bench. That’s a good thing – if the consensus is that the current roster underachieved, it’s probably a smart move to let them run it back next season. (I know they were supposed to do that this season but hey, these things take time and competent coaching.)
The future is still bright and the Bucks still have time to own it.