Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks are struggling in the playoffs and are on the brink of elimination against the Miami Heat. There were high expectations for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks heading into the playoffs, but every star needs a great team around them to win championships. Just ask LeBron James. He and the Cavaliers dominated during his first stint in Cleveland, but they struggled in the playoffs. James’ Cavs teams certainly lacked some talent, but are Antetokounmpo’s Bucks teams proving to be worse?
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are on the brink of elimination — again
The Milwaukee Bucks were the best team in the NBA record-wise last season, and Antetokounmpo was the best player.
While Milwaukee went 60-22 overall, Antetokounmpo was unstoppable. He averaged 27.7 points per game, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists, which led to him winning his first MVP award.
In the playoffs that year, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks played well through the first two rounds. They swept the Detroit Pistons, and then defeated the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals 4-1.
However, they lost to the Toronto Raptors in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Antetokounmpo struggled. He averaged 22.7 points per game and 13.5 rebounds, but shot 44.8% from the field. That’s compared to his season average of 57.8%.
This season, it looked like Antetokounmpo and the Bucks wanted to avenge their loss to the Raptors as they dominated in the regular season again. Milwaukee had the best record in the NBA again at 56-17, and Antetokounmpo is the front-runner for another MVP. He averaged 29.5 points per game, 13.6 rebounds, and 5.6 assists in the regular season.
The Bucks then beat the Orland Magic in five games in the first round of the playoffs, and Antetokounmpo averaged 30.6 points per game, 16 rebounds, and six assists. However, the Miami Heat have shocked them so far in the Eastern Conference Semifinals as the Heat lead 3-0 in the series. Antetokounmpo is averaging 22.7 points per game and 13.3 rebounds so far and is only shooting 45.1% from the field. That’s compared to his season average of 55.3%.
LeBron James struggled to win during his first stint in Cleveland
James was also dominant in his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. After taking the Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA Finals, James had some incredible seasons and ultimately won back-to-back MVPs in 2008-09 and 2009-10.
In 2008-09, James averaged 28.4 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.2 assists. Then in 2009-10, he averaged 29.7 points per game, 7.3 rebounds, and 8.6 assists. The Cavaliers were excellent in both seasons, too, as they had the best record in the NBA each year.
However, despite the high expectations, they, like the Bucks, struggled in the playoffs. The Cavaliers went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008-09, but lost to the Orlando Magic in six games. Then in 2009-10, the Cavaliers met the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals but lost again in six games.
The Cavaliers received a lot of criticism those years for not having enough talent around James, but are the Milwaukee Bucks proving to be worse?
Are Antetokounmpo’s Bucks teams worse than James’ Cavaliers teams?
The Cavs got a lot of flak during James’ first stint for not surrounding him with enough talent. However, not only did they have enough talent to have the best record in the NBA for two consecutive seasons, but the Cavaliers went to the NBA Finals in 2007.
Cleveland certainly had its struggles in the playoffs during the years they had the best record. In their loss to the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, James averaged 38.5 points per game, and they still lost in six games. In the Cavs’ loss to the Boston Celtics the next year, no one other than James scored 14 points per game or more in that series.
The Celtics were a legendary team, though, that had Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo. The Bucks haven’t had to face a team full of champions like that yet.
Additionally, the Cavaliers never got swept or fell behind 3-0 in a series during those years. The Bucks are behind 3-0 to an underdog team that no one expected to reach the Eastern Conference Finals this year, let alone the NBA Finals.
Do the Bucks have more talent than the Cavaliers did? Sure. Khris Middleton is much better than Mo Williams. However, that is what makes this Bucks team even more of a disappointment so far. They should be competing for championships, but they just aren’t.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t live up to expectations in the playoffs during those seasons, but they competed with NBA legends and never let their opponents completely dominate them in a series. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks are also not living up to expectations. However, they are getting flat-out embarrassed in the process too.
Unless they immediately turn things around, the Bucks are proving to be worse than James’ first-stint Cavaliers teams. Will this ultimately result in Antetokounmpo leaving the Bucks just like James left the Cavs?
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference