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Milwaukee Bucks Betting Outlook
Eastern Conference Odds: +275
Preseason NBA Championship Odds: +525
This was possibly going to be a turbulent season for the Bucks, with Giannis Antetokounmpo contemplating opting out next offseason and leaving the team, but Milwaukee’s moves helped convince the two-time MVP to sign a supermax five-year extension that will keep him with the team for the foreseeable future.
Milwaukee enters the 2020-21 season with a lot of expectations, but it has added some pieces, most notably guard Jrue Holiday, to try to push to greater playoff success. The Bucks still have their All-Star duo in Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, while adding more shooters around them.
The Bucks are the odds-on favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference in the postseason again, and they’re right up among the Lakers and Clippers as far as title odds go.
Bucks 2021 Predictions
Regular-Season Record: 57-15
Conference Standing: First
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There’s no doubt that the Bucks are Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team, on the floor and off. The 26-year-old is just hitting his potential peak years, and Milwaukee management consults with him on most moves, especially this past offseason. On the floor, Antetokounmpo is the go-to guy, but he’s also good about keeping the ball moving, and he’s a leader on both ends of the floor.
Lost a little bit in Antetokounmpo’s shadow is Khris Middleton, a two-time All-Star who has averaged at least 18.3 points per game in each of the last three seasons. Middleton is the quiet assassin, shooting from the perimeter but also tough on his drives to the hoop. When Antetokounmpo went down in the postseason with an ankle injury, Middleton willed the Bucks to their lone victory against the Heat.
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Milwaukee Bucks Team History
The Milwaukee Bucks came into existence as an expansion NBA team for the 1968-69 season, and though they struggled in their first season, their fortunes soon turned. The Bucks won a coin flip for the top pick in the 1969 NBA Draft, which gave them the right to draft UCLA’s Lew Alcindor, who immediately made the team a contender.
In Alcindor’s first season, Milwaukee improved by a then-NBA-record 29 wins, reaching the conference finals, where it lost to the New York Knicks. Alcindor won the Rookie of the Year Award and was joined the next season by guard Oscar Robertson, who the Bucks traded for in the offseason.
The potent duo led Milwaukee to 66 regular-season wins, at the time the second-most in league history and still the franchise record.The Bucks streaked through the playoffs, finishing with a 12-2 mark and sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals for the franchise’s first title. Milwaukee was the fastest true expansion team in the history of North American sports to win a league title.
The Bucks continued to be a title contender, losing in the Western Conference finals the next season, then advancing to the Finals in 1974, only to lose to the Boston Celtics in seven games. It was during this stretch that Alcindor converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Robertson retired after the 1973-74 campaign.
The 1974-75 season was a struggle with injuries, including a hand injury for Abdul-Jabbar, and at the end of the non-playoff campaign, Abdul-Jabbar let management know he wanted to be moved to a large-market team like New York or Los Angeles. Unable to convince him to want to stay, the Bucks sent Abdul-Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers, getting four players in return.
The Bucks started to build themselves up again, starting with the hiring of Don Nelson as head coach during the 1976-77 season. Milwaukee also had three first-round picks in the 1977 draft, taking Marques Johnson, Ernie Grunfeld and Kent Benson. The team made the postseason in both 1977-78 and 1979-80, then were moved over to the league’s Eastern Conference for the 1980-81 season.
During that time, the team drafted guard Sidney Moncrief and traded Benson for center Bob Lanier, two players who would make major impacts on the franchise. Milwaukee was a contender for much of the 1980s but couldn’t break through and get back to the NBA Finals, falling in the Eastern Conference finals in three of four seasons from 1982-83 to 1985-86.
Nelson resigned after the 1986-87 season, but the Bucks continued to be a perennial playoff team, going to the postseason four more straight years under coach Del Harris and behind the play of Ricky Pierce, Jack Sikma and Alvin Robertson. But that ended in 1991-92, the first of seven straight non-playoff seasons for the team.
Although the team wasn’t making the playoffs, it was adding some key players, drafting Glenn Robinson with the No. 1 overall pick in 1984, and making a draft-day trade with Minnesota in 1986 for the rights to guard Ray Allen. A 1997 three-team trade sent All-Star forward Vin Baker to Seattle and brought guard Terrell Brandon and forward Tyrone Hill to the Bucks.
For the 1998-99 season, the team hired George Karl as head coach and made the playoffs for the first time in eight years. The Bucks acquired guard Sam Cassell and forward Tim Thomas and became a solid playoff fixture again, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001 before falling to the Philadelphia 76ers.
That would be the last season the team would win a playoff series in over a decade, as, despite playoff appearances in eight of the next 17 seasons, the Bucks would be eliminated in the first round each time.
The team’s latest resurgence started quietly, with the drafting of Giannis Antetokounmpo with the No. 15 pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. The Greek player wasn’t known and didn’t create much of a stir to start, but he quickly adapted to the NBA and became a transcendent player.
Despite making the playoffs in two of his first three seasons as head coach, former All-Star guard Jason Kidd was fired 45 games into the 2017-18 season, setting the stage for the team to hire Mike Budenholzer to take over for the 2018-19 campaign.
Things clicked with Budenholzer’s arrival, with the Bucks winning a league-best 60 games and Antetokounmpo being named the NBA’s MVP, the first time a Milwaukee player had won the award since Abdul-Jabbar in 1973-74. Milwaukee won a playoff series for the first time since 2000-01 but lost in the conference finals to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors.
Thirteen different players who have worn the Bucks uniform are enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, including Abdul-Jabbar, Moncrief, Lanier, Oscar Robertson and Allen, as well as former coach Nelson.
The Bucks were determined to make up for their playoff loss of the previous season heading into the 2019-20 campaign, and they started fast, jumping out to a 24-3 record after an 18-game winning streak from mid-November to mid-December. Antetokounmpo continued to play like an MVP, and Milwaukee was rolling to another Central Division title.
The Bucks were 41-6 near the end of January, and there was talk of trying to top the Golden State Warriors’ record 73 wins. At 48-8, Milwaukee clinched a playoff spot, the quickest by a team since the playoff format had changed in 1984.
The Bucks were 53-12 following a three-game losing streak when the league had to suspend the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Milwaukee struggled in the final eight regular-season games in the Orlando bubble, going just 3-5, but it was still the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
After dropping the series opener, the Bucks eliminated the Orlando Magic in five games, but they ran into a buzzsaw in the second round. With Antetokounmpo struggling with an ankle injury, Milwaukee fell to the red-hot Miami Heat in five games, another disappointing result for the Bucks.
Antetokounmpo did win a second straight MVP award as well as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
Mike Budenholzer enters his third season in Milwaukee with a lot to live up to, having coached the Bucks to the best record in the Eastern Conference in each of his first two seasons with the club. The 51-year-old has known a lot of success in his coaching career, which began as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs in 1996-97 after he’d spent two years with the team as the video coordinator.
While with San Antonio, Budenholzer was a part of four NBA championship teams, but after 17 seasons, he moved on to become a head coach for the first time with the Atlanta Hawks. The team made the playoffs in his first season, then jumped to 60 wins in his second year, earning him Coach of the Year honors.
In five seasons with the Hawks, Budenholzer led the team to the postseason four times, but the fifth season was when he didn’t, and it led to his departure from the team. Milwaukee immediately hired him prior to the 2018-19 season. In seven seasons as an NBA head coach, Budenholzer has a 329-236 regular-season record and a 32-32 record in the playoffs.
Bryn Forbes, guard, San Antonio Spurs
Jrue Holiday, guard, New Orleans Pelicans
Bobby Portis, forward, New York Knicks
DJ Augustin, guard, Orlando Magic
Torrey Craig, forward, Denver Nuggets
Eric Bledsoe, guard, New Orleans Pelicans
George Hill, guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
Wesley Matthews, guard, Los Angeles Lakers
Sterling Brown, guard, Houston Rockets
Mamadi Diakite, forward, Virginia
Jordan Nwora, forward, Louisville
Justin Patton, center, Creighton
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