It’s nearly the regular season folks, which means it’s time to start contrived “countdown to tipoff” pieces. Our series will be called the Calculated Countdown, where we take a particular statistic from last season that corresponds to the number of days left till tipoff and analyze it in the context of this upcoming year. Today we’re looking at something simple: wins.
9 days to tipoff: Milwaukee had 9 more wins last year than the year prior
Wins and losses are the original statistic. A tally mark on the left or right side of the ledger. They’re all most athletes care about. Giannis seems pathologically obsessed with winning, a trait most superstars possess. When it came to winning, Milwaukee did more than they lost last year, a feat that’s been relatively sparse for this franchise in recent years. Since 2000, they’ve had three winning seasons.
Looking over the entirety of that period, their lone 50-win season was the oft-remembered 2000-2001 season that ended in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. In order to reach that lofty plateau, it would represent a 17-win jump over the last two seasons. Throwing out the one-year 26-win hike they made back in 2014-15, over the last 20 years they’ve only accomplished that sort of leap twice. Once, with a 20-win improvement from 2007-2010 with Fear the Deer team and the other was the 1998-2001 squads with their burgeoning big three of Allen, Cassell and Robinson.
Milwaukee’s been a team of two steps back, one step forward for some time. They’ve never improved their win total three years in a row since the franchise’s inception. That’s a little disingenuous to the Kareem and mid-80’s teams that reached plateaus of 66, 60 and 59 before incrementally decreasing a bit. However, that also speaks to the trend of a team to suddenly make the leap rather than gradually reaching the summit. Perhaps this is the year Milwaukee suddenly makes a massive jump rather than just noted marked improvement. I’m dubious, but when you have a superstar whose improvement has done anything but plateau, there’s always a chance.
What could make the difference this year for Milwaukee is the weakened Eastern Conference. While the East’s been generally worse overall than their Western counterparts since the fading days of Jordan, Milwaukee’s rarely had the chance to chow down on lower competition like they do here. With 52 games against the chum on this half of the country as opposed to 30 against the Western teams, there are ample opportunities for Milwaukee to beat up on some weaklings. Within their own division, they’ll have to face Cleveland four times which isn’t ideal, but a bereft of talent Bulls team and putrid Pacers squad should be easy pickings (fingers crossed).
The leap to 50 is generally considered the toughest for a team to take. It’ll require improvements from several of Milwaukee’s players, not to mention more potent home court performances. They went just 23-18 in the Bradley Center last year, with a much improved 19-22 road record. The Wizards, for example, went 30-11 at home with an identical road record to Milwaukee and they got to just 49 wins. Milwaukee should be aiming for something along those lines if they hope to make their leap given the best road record for an Eastern team last year was Boston and Toronto at just 23-18. If they do, Milwaukee should hopefully, finally, see their wins reach a total that satiates Giannis...for the time being.