With the hotly-anticipated release of the NBA schedule yesterday afternoon, Bucks fans everywhere looked to see what they could circle on their calendars. One of the early highlights was the eighteen (previously reported sixteen) nationally broadcast contests, including the Bucks’ home opener on October 20th against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For the hardest of hardcore fans, the (slightly reduced) preseason schedule was also published and includes a visit to Dallas before the traditional Central Division matchups against Indiana, Chicago, and Detroit.
Here's the Bucks' preseason schedule: pic.twitter.com/dHkPjd2nQn— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) August 14, 2017
Now that the initial giddiness has subsided, I decided to break down the schedule from a more neutral perspective, looking for interesting matchups, logistical quirks, and some premature predictions. The Bucks should be aiming for fifty wins this season, given that they’re the beneficiary of a super-duper-star capable of winning games by himself. There’s more than enough working against them to assume that the goal is eminently reachable, so the real question becomes about whether or not Giannis’ teammates will elevate themselves around him. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Weeks 1-3: 9 games
Date range: October 18th — November 3rd
Home/Away split: 5-4
Notes: The Bucks kick off their season with a trip to play the Boston Celtics and the aforementioned Cleveland national game, which is a tough way to begin the campaign. Milwaukee will also host Boston and Oklahoma City towards the end of October, sandwiched between games against the improved Charlotte Hornets, and they’ll also face off against Portland and Detroit (who are not pushovers). The only “easy” game in this group is a matchup against Atlanta, meaning the first few weeks could be rough ones for Bucks fans.
Predicted record: 5-4
The Early Goings
Weeks 4-7: 12 games
Date range: November 7th — December 2nd
Home/Away split: 5-7
Notes: The hits keep coming in this second segment, starting with tough away games in Cleveland and San Antonio, and ending with a 4-game Western Conference road trip against winnable opponents (Phoenix, the Gordon Hayward-less Utah Jazz, Sacramento, and Portland). In between is the Bucks’ first matchup against the Washington Wizards, as well as a stretch of “sucks to lose” contests against the Lakers, Pistons, Grizzlies, and Mavericks.
Predicted record: 8-4 (13-8 overall)
Weeks 8-12: 17 games
Date range: December 4th — January 6th
Home/Away split: 10-7
Notes: The “most wonderful time of the year” (according to the songs, at least) begins with yet another Eastern Conference matchup (this time against the Celtics), then gives way to a long stretch of games worth being optimistic about. This stretch also includes five straight weeks of back-to-backs (four Friday-Saturday and one Thursday-Friday), but each back-to-back starts with a home game and is bookended by at least one day of rest. Other interesting opponents include Toronto (twice), Houston, Cleveland, Minnesota, and Washington.
Predicted record: 11-6 (24-14 overall)
Weeks 12-16: 13 games
Date range: January 8th — February 2nd
Home/Away split: 7-6
Notes: Once the holidays end, the Bucks will be hard-pressed to maintain any momentum they developed previously. This stretch includes a relatively friendly lineup of home games against Orlando, Phoenix, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and New York, but also a visit from Golden State and Miami, another trip to Washington D.C, and a visit to Minnesota. If the Bucks are serious about chasing 50 wins (which we all can agree would be a good thing), they’ll need to take care of business against struggling teams like Indiana, Chicago, and possibly Philly (depending on the health of one Joel Embiid).
Predicted record: 7-6 (31-20 overall)
All Star Break
Weeks 17-20: 11 games
Date range: February 4th — March 2nd
Home/Away split: 5-6
Notes: With the All-Star Break presumably blocking off the schedule of Giannis Antetokounmpo (and possibly Khris Middleton?) from 02/16 to 02/22, this segment kicks off with an East Coast trip hitting Brooklyn, New York, Miami, and Orlando, all winnable games. Home games against Atlanta and Denver lead the Bucks into the break, and a trip to Toronto waits for them on the other side. Closing out this segment are matchups against New Orleans, Washington, Detroit, and Indiana, making this stretch one of the most encouraging on the Bucks’ schedule.
Predicted record: 7-4 (38-24 overall)
The Final Stretch
Weeks 21-26: 20 games
Date range: March 4th — April 11th
Home/Away split: 9-11
Notes: Should my wildly optimistic projection of the Bucks’ first sixty-two games actually come to pass, fans will be ecstatic and Bucks Twitter will be a happy place once again. Milwaukee would be right on pace for a 50-win season, and would not have to wildly overperform to hit that benchmark over the final quarter of the season.
Highlights from this segment include another 4-game Western Conference road trip, visits from the Spurs, Clippers, and Rockets, a pair of Philly games, and only two back-to-backs. There are also three separate stretches of four-games-in-seven-days, meaning Milwaukee will have to lean on their youthful energy to play out the season. Finally, Jabari Parker could make his triumphant return to action during this stretch, meaning Jason Kidd will have to figure out how to appropriately reintegrate him into the rotation as the Bucks move towards the playoffs.
Predicted record: 10-10 (48-34 overall)
With at least six weeks before the Bucks will ever take the floor and actually play together, there’s more than enough time to hash out why a 48-win prediction is flawed. However, given the recent exodus of stars from the Eastern Conference, the Bucks’ relatively straightforward schedule (seriously, only fifteen back-to-backs is not bad at all), and the uncertainty surrounding Cleveland, Milwaukee is uniquely positioned to step into the second tier of the East, with the focus going into 2018-19 to break through into the top level.
What do you think? The schedule might look rosy to some, but others could see its thorns. Where did we get it right? Where did we get it wrong? And what is your entirely premature win prediction for the season? Let us know on Twitter and in the comments!