The Overwhelming Importance of this Postseason for the Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis could be all but gone if the Bucks don’t make the NBA Finals
Rewind to May 25th of 2019. The Milwaukee Bucks had just been eliminated from the NBA Playoffs by the Toronto Raptors. The league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo had failed to make the NBA Finals. The problem wasn’t necessarily being eliminated by a Toronto team led by eventual NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, it was how the Bucks were eliminated. Giannis had to witness his best teammate and fellow all-star Khris Middleton only score 14 points in a must win closeout game. That lackluster game six for Middleton was the culmination of a disastrous series altogether. Middleton finished the Eastern Conference Finals averaging 13.7 points on 41% shooting.
Fast-forward to present day. The Bucks have the best record in the NBA (53–9), and are making a push to become only the third team in league history to reach 70 wins. Giannis is the leading MVP candidate once again, averaging 29.6 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. Khris Middleton was voted an all-star again this season, and is averaging a career high 20.9 points per game. But for this Milwaukee team, all that matters is the postseason.
Giannis Antetokounmpo will be entering the final year of his contract next season. Obviously the Bucks are going to offer their MVP a supermax extension during the offseason, but Giannis may not be so quick to sign that extension if problems arise yet again during the playoffs. That is why these upcoming playoffs are so important to Milwaukee. In my opinion the Bucks need to make the NBA Finals at the very least to keep Giannis interested. With Kawhi out of the eastern conference, and Kevin Durant sidelined with an injury, the Bucks should have a clear path to the finals. Yes the Miami Heat are good, yes the Boston Celtics are talented, and yes the Raptors are still a competitive team, but the Bucks are, and should be, the clear favorites to come out of the eastern conference.
That is if Khris Middleton plays up to his regular season standards.
Middleton has shown the ability to produce in the regular season. He had 51 points during a game against the Washington Wizards in January. He had 40 points against that same Wizards team in February. The Bucks however, will not be seeing the Wizards (who are currently 22–39) in the playoffs. The competition will be tougher, and the stakes will be higher for Middleton and the rest of the Bucks.
If the Bucks want any chance to resign Antetokounmpo, they need the rest of the team to step up in the playoffs. Superstars like Giannis rarely have bad nights; but when they do, they need their number two player to produce. Lebron has Anthony Davis, Kawhi has Paul George, Russell Westbrook and James Harden have each other. Giannis has to hope Khris Middleton can step up.
Unfortunately for the Bucks’ sake, that wasn’t the case recently. On March 2nd, the Bucks lost a game against the Miami Heat 105–89. Giannis had one of his worst games of the season (13 points on 6–18 shooting), and needed his number two to step up against a possible playoff opponent. Middleton did not deliver. He finished the game with 12 points on 4–16 shooting. If this continues into the playoffs, Antetokounmpo may be all but gone.
May and June will be make or break months for Milwaukee. Maybe Khris Middleton plays at an all-star level during the playoffs. Maybe the Bucks finish the season as NBA champions. Or maybe they are sent home early once again, and Giannis realizes he can’t win a ring with Middleton as the second best player. With a lot of uncertainty possibly coming soon for the Bucks, the only certainty is the 2020 playoffs will redefine Milwaukee’s future.