For all the noise that NBA teams have been making this season thus far, barely any of it has come from the Milwaukee Bucks.
It hasn’t really mattered to them, though, as they currently have the best record in the league.
After winning their first nine games, the Bucks have settled at 22-8 following their 128-119 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.
A 42-point, 10-rebound effort from Giannis Antetokounmpo is great yet not surprising, but it’s not often you’d see Brook Lopez go for 30 points. That they beat the Pelicans at home, where they were previously 12-3, is another achievement in itself considering Milwaukee was 7-5 prior to the win.
Yet things have been conventional with the Bucks for quite some time.
Milwaukee has built around Antetokounmpo and rightly so, and given his ability to do a little bit of everything, it gave the Bucks front office some flexibility with the rest of the roster. For his career, Lopez has never averaged more than 8.6 rebounds per game and his ability to step out and shoot 3-pointers while providing rim protection on the other end complements Antetokounmpo, who can protect the rim as well and could use the extra space in the paint to wreak havoc.
However, it doesn’t mean they can’t have success together inside, as they are crafty enough to clean up after each other and receive each other’s passes.
Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are talents that can and have adjusted well to Antetokounmpo while being able to showcase their abilities, but it’s the rest of the backcourt that merits attention. The likes of Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton, and MarJon Beauchamp can shoot when needed, but they too can finish in the paint via the dunker’s spot, which is located along the baseline and close to the hoop. It in part, led to the Bucks’ success during their 2021 NBA championship run and while teams have learned to use and defend it, Milwaukee’s personnel continue to utilize it when they can catch opposing teams off guard.
Much of the Bucks’ success this season also comes as Middleton has only played in seven of the Bucks’ 30 games following surgery on his left wrist. They’ve obviously played with no excuses and the basketball gods have rewarded them for continuing to fight through adversity. Moreover, times like these are a test to their depth, as Milwaukee’s roster has gone through some changes but nonetheless retains the ability to step up when needed.
Even without Middleton, the Bucks’ defense remains one of the league’s best, as they lead the NBA in defensive rebounding (36.8 per game), are second in least fouls committed (18.6 per game), and have the second best defensive rating in the league as of this writing (107.8). Their offensive numbers generally have them in the middle of the pack, but Milwaukee can put the clamps on opponents and punish them in the paint to swing things in their favor.
Knowing Milwaukee, they will likely be able to sustain this effort, but factors beyond their control will likely pose a threat. Injuries have at times threatened to derail their previous campaigns but they’ve managed to adjust and play through health scares even during their run to the title. Their current standing allows them to reintegrate Middleton, who this time has been dealing with a knee injury. Allowing him to recuperate and find his rhythm back in time could pay off by the time April comes along.
The quiet and unconventional path the Milwaukee Bucks have taken so far this season has them at the top of the NBA and they’re not even at full strength. Other teams can make some noise during the regular season, but as one of the wiser teams in the league, the Bucks understand that at the end of the day, history only remembers the one that emerges victorious.