Amid all the hoopla that came with the trade deadline deals in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks somehow got lost in the title discussion. For former player Kenyon Martin, it’s wrong to count the defending champions out just yet. After all, they are champions for a reason.
Martin picks the Bucks to win the East
Philadelphia got two players who can deliver MVP numbers every night, and, on paper at least, Brooklyn also got better. However, Martin thinks Milwaukee will still win the East no matter where they are in the standings.
Speaking with Basketball News’ Etan Thomas, the former Denver Nuggets forward explained why it will take time for the Nets and the Sixers to get things going with all of the new guys on their teams.
"I feel like Milwaukee is still the favorite to come out the East. Brooklyn has the potential too if a lot of things come together very quickly. But that takes time. And the East is stacked. Can’t count out Miami can’t count out Chicago. But if I’m picking someone right now, I would say Milwaukee."
Kenyon Martin, Baskebtall News
"They have proven what they can do, and they have just improved since winning it," Kenyon said. "Giannis is a better version of the Giannis we saw last year who dominated throughout the playoffs and won a championship. And they just added Serge Ibaka. They defend, they execute, they’re flowing. Brooklyn, you have to get everyone acclimated to the system; Ben, Seth, Drummond, KD are still out. They have a lot that has to come together."
The 15-year veteran added that the Kyrie Irving situation in Brooklyn will undoubtedly affect their postseason chances. So that makes picking the Bucks an easy choice for him. "But if you ask me today, as we stand right before the All-Star break, I would have to say Milwaukee," he said. "No matter what their seed or where they are in the standings, they are the champions, and they’re the team to beat."
Bucks are flying under the radar
The Bucks are currently 4th in the East, and odds have them behind the Sixers and the Nets to come out of their conference. Antetokounmpo is among the MVP candidates, with Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic as the frontrunners. That being said, the fact they’re the defending champions is the biggest reason why no one should count them out.
Khris Middleton is still doing Khris Middleton things. The group has jelled together and gained valuable playoff experience. The Nets and the Sixers are still trying to find their identity; the Bucks got that figured out.
The team will go as far as The Greek Freak takes them -- Giannis improved his points output, rebounds, blocks, free-throw percentage, and free-throw attempts this season. Antetokounmpo knows what to do when push comes to shove and has done it last season. Getting Serge Ibaka also helps in the long run. He’s not a game-changer anymore, but as long as he rebounds, stretches the floor with his 3-point shooting, and provides an intimidating presence inside, the Bucks will be scary come playoffs time.
It’s hard to imagine how the Bucks have become sleepers in the East. Above all, that might be a testament to how deep the forever weaker conference has become. They might not be as exciting as some other teams. They also haven't made changes as significant as their conference rivals. But the defending champs are still dangerous, and writing them off before the playoffs even start might be a wrong move.