The Milwaukee Bucks have won three straight and own the league’s best record (25-10, win percentage of 0.714), the league’s best net rating (+8.7, over two points ahead of the second place Indiana Pacers), and are the only team in the NBA with a top-5 ranking in both offensive rating (113.5, 3rd place) and defensive rating (104.8, 3rd place).
Furthermore, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a bona fide MVP candidate, despite his status as a non-shooter during the Golden Age of Shooting. Giannis appears in the top-20 leaderboards in the following categories: total points, total field goals attempted and made, total free throws attempted and made, total defensive (and overall) rebounds, total blocks, field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage, player efficiency rating, defensive rating, win shares (offensive, defensive, total, and per-48 minutes), box plus-minus (both offensive and defensive) and value over replacement player. His play defies description; mere words fail to capture his impact on the court, and even video footage struggles to encapsulate just how damn good he’s been.
And thankfully for the Bucks, he is not going it alone. Under head coach Mike Budenholzer and his modernized (but adjustable!) schemes, it appears that the entire Milwaukee Bucks roster, newcomers and mainstays alike, is revitalized. Khris Middleton, slump and all, is a high-end offensive contributor with the ability to hang with most guys on the other end. Eric Bledsoe has fully embraced his role as a point guard defender while slicing to the hoop as effectively as ever. Malcolm Brogdon continues to subtly but solidly excel as an off-guard. Brook Lopez is basically a taller Steph Curry, except he also single-handedly turned the team from a bad rebounding squad into an elite one.. All of the Bucks reserve wings (Tony Snell and Sterling Brown, with newcomers George Hill, Pat Connaughton, and Donte DiVincenzo) have made the backcourt rotation a puzzle with few bad solutions. And in the front court, the team has scarcely missed Ersan Ilyasova’s veteran presence due to the steady contributions of Thon Maker and D.J. Wilson (!!!). Jason Smith gets to do Jason Smith things, and Christian Wood (when he isn’t pining for NBA playing time) is tearing it up in the G-League.
This team is not good. They’re not really good. They’re one of the best teams in the league.
So why can’t we let things ride?
All across social media, the Bucks blogosphere, and even our very own Brew Hoop comments sections, Bucks fans are looking for moves to make. “We need to get off of Snell’s money!” or “We can trade George Hill again at the deadline!” or “Why risk paying Khris a max deal when you could trade him now?” If you don’t believe me, here’s what the FanPosts section looks like right now:
To be fair, there are a handful of very real topics that merit discussion. Chief among the list is the Bucks pending free agency decision tree, driven by the expiration of deals for Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and Brook Lopez, alongside the highly likely opt-out of Khris Middleton.
Snapshot of Bucks' cap situation heading into next summer. Note that re-signing Lopez will presumably require using the mid-level exception given his low salary and lack of Bird rights. pic.twitter.com/2xVkD7GSdC— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) December 15, 2018
At the same time, it was Jon Horst who already laid the groundwork to address this bottleneck a few weeks ago; by trading away Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson, the Bucks’ cap sheet (see above) is far cleaner than it was before, and the path to keeping the current core together is viable.
Of course, it can be argued good teams get good because they never stop iterating on their processes. Striving for greatness means consistently striving, and that persistence sometimes goes on behind the scenes. After all, who wouldn’t want to trade out an A for chance at an A-plus?
But as that conversation continues, it adds to the talking-head-fueled noise. By constantly looking for tweaks to make, we deny ourselves the ability to fully enjoy this basketball team that is streaking towards self-actualization. This is dwarfed by the simple observation that, with a team that leads the league in the most important stat, further disruption to the team’s chemistry could be a high-risk/low-reward move. If it ain’t broke, why obsess over fixing it? Kyle was right; the Hype Train is rolling along, and we’d do well to enjoy the ride.