The Milwaukee Bucks are off to a hot start this season, sitting at 8-2 with six wins coming by double digits. Giannis Antetokounmpo is his usual world-beating self, and the offensive and defensive systems installed by new head coach Mike Budenholzer have unleashed the rest of the Bucks to compete at a new level.
Milwaukee faces its toughest test of the year on Thursday night when they take on the Golden State Warriors in Oracle Arena. Ahead of that matchup, Steph Curry was asked if he thinks the Bucks deserve to be considered a contender. His answer was illuminating.
The Warriors were a playoff team in the Mark Jackson era, winning one series over two years, but they never inspired fear, similar to the Milwaukee teams of the past three seasons. There was low-hanging fruit that could be cleaned up, most notably the fact that a team featuring Curry and Klay Thompson was not a top-10 offense. They clearly benefited from the “boost of energy” and “shift in focus” that Curry spoke of, winning a title in their first season under Steve Kerr, and two more in the next three years.
Similarly, the Bucks have had oodles of athleticism and length surrounding Giannis, but hadn’t managed to harness that into a great defense, or even an above-average one, until this season.
While acknowledging that Milwaukee has taken care of business and gotten off to a strong start after experiencing a change at the top (the Warriors started 5-2 in Kerr’s first year before reeling of 16 straight wins), Curry won’t yet call the Bucks a contender. After all, they still have Golden State to deal with.