Fans of the Milwaukee Bucks have long called for the team to move to a new building, but the team didn’t seem to be taking the calls seriously. They sat back and waited for years, hoping that the city would have a new taxpayer-funded arena ready. But as the years wore on, the Bucks’ patience wore thin, and they had to bite the bullet and start building their own new arena.
The NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks are proving to be the most exciting team in the league this year. Every night it seems like at least one of their players is making a game-changing play, and they’ve shown the same kind of grit that led them to our list of the 10 best defensive units in the NBA. Read their story, and see why they’re one of the most exciting teams in the league this year.
The Milwaukee Bucks have stumbled through the better part of a decade. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since their first season in the league in 1968. In the last 11 years, the Bucks have made the playoffs three times, and even made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2002. What happened?. Read more about paid off and let us know what you think.
Since Giannis Antetokounmpo developed into the superstar he is today, the Milwaukee Bucks have been a regular NBA Finals challenger. The Bucks were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference the previous two seasons, but they were unable to reach the championship series with the core they constructed around their MVP.
As a result, Milwaukee took the daring choice to sell starting point guard Eric Bledsoe to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for veteran Jrue Holiday, and the club went even farther by extending Holiday’s deal to $134 million earlier this year. To say the least, it was a risky and costly decision, but it might pay off with an NBA title in the first year.
Jrue Holiday was a $134 million risk for the Bucks.
Once Antetokounmpo reached MVP status, Bucks general manager Jon Horst realized he had a championship candidate on his hands. And if you’re fortunate enough to get a player of Antetokounmpo’s level in the draft, you can’t afford to squander his prime by putting him in a bad situation.
The “Big 3” of Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe, and Khris Middleton were good enough to lead Milwaukee to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in each of the previous two seasons, but they had nothing to show for it. Horst recognized the PG position as the team’s weak spot last summer. For three seasons as a starter, Bledsoe was OK, but he wasn’t driving the Bucks over the top, and he didn’t mesh well with Antetokounmpo on the floor.
Bledsoe scored only 11.7 points per game on 38.8 percent shooting and an awful 25.0 percent from three-point range during last year’s playoff run on the brink. In the playoffs, he also had 2.6 turnovers per game. In today’s NBA, it isn’t going to cut it.
So, in the summer, the Bucks set out to provide Antetokounmpo with the assistance he needed to push the club over the hump. In a four-team deal in November, Milwaukee received Bledsoe, George Hill, three future first-round selections, and two more pick swaps in exchange for Holiday and Sam Merrill.
Holiday inked a four-year, $134 million deal extension with the Bucks a few months later. If Holiday meets a number of incentives, the contract could be worth almost $160 million. That’s a lot of money for a player that has had numbers comparable to Bledsoe for the most of his career.
The Bucks’ bold gamble is paying off much better than they could have imagined.
During Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks guards Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Following the risky deal and contract extension, the Bucks were immediately put under a lot of pressure to lead Antetokounmpo and Holiday to the NBA Finals.
That’s precisely what they’ve done, and they’re currently one victory away from winning their first title since 1971.
Holiday, in addition to Antetokounmpo, may be the most important reason. During his debut playoffs with the Bucks, he averaged 17.6 points, 8.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game, and he made perhaps the most significant play in club history at the conclusion of Game 5 in the Finals.
Holiday snatched the ball from Devin Booker’s grip down the stretch, dribbled it up the court, and threw a perfect alley-oop pass to Antetokounmpo to all but seal the victory. He had 27 points on 60 percent shooting, 13 assists, and three steals in the game.
Without Holiday’s heroics on Saturday, the Bucks may not be returning to Milwaukee for Game 6 with a chance to win the series.
The Bucks are one victory away from spending $134 million for the first time in their history.
Many fans were suspicious of Milwaukee’s move to trade Bledsoe for Holiday and then pay the point guard $134 million in the summer. After all, Holiday is just a one-time All-Star, and those kind of players seldom tilt the scales in championship races.
But, throughout this Finals series, his calm decision-making and lockdown defense on Booker and Chris Paul have been critical for the Bucks, who have won three consecutive games to take a 3-2 lead over the Phoenix Suns.
Milwaukee is one victory away from winning its first NBA championship in 50 years.
They’re one victory away from certifying that the $134 million they spent was the greatest they’ve ever spent.
Basketball-Reference.com provided all stats.
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