With roughly two weeks remaining in the 2021-22 NBA regular season, the race for the championship seems more wide open than it did at the start of the campaign.
Many feel that the Phoenix Suns are the favorites to win it all, and it’s hard to argue with that prognostication.
But let’s not forget about the squad that won the world championship last year: the Milwaukee Bucks.
Much like they did in 2021, they’ve been flying under the radar for much of this year, but they’re in position to make a strong run at another title.
Why are the Bucks primed to capture another Larry O’Brien Trophy?
3. They Have Arguably The Best Player In The Game
With apologies to Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo has a great chance of walking away with his third regular season MVP award.
For this week’s #SamsSpotlight, I make the case for Giannis Antetokounmpo to win the NBA MVP award. pic.twitter.com/czRCH8T1e4
— Sam Ali (@SamAliSports) March 26, 2022
He is averaging a career-high in points with 29.7 per game, as well as 11.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.4 blocked shots a game.
After starting this season off somewhat slowly, he has ramped it up of late, averaging over 31 points per game since January 1 while increasing his shooting efficiency.
The Greek Freak also doesn’t seem to be the kind of athlete who is satiated with one championship.
He silenced his critics last spring and summer by averaging 30.2 points and 12.8 rebounds a game during Milwaukee’s run to the ring, including a classic performance of 50 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks in the clinching game of the NBA Finals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo did it all for the Bucks in Game 6 of the 2021 #NBA Finals ;
50 PTS • 14 RBD • 5 BLK 🔥
An all-time performance to secure his first ring pic.twitter.com/uYDa2sxAT0
— 🏀 (@L0veThisGame) August 26, 2021
2. Milwaukee May End Up With The Top Seed
After holding a middle seed in the Eastern Conference for much of the schedule, the Bucks are now just one game behind the first-place Miami Heat.
They are also tied with the Philadelphia 76ers, but they will play the Sixers on Tuesday, which will give them a huge opportunity to solidify their run to the top of the standings.
The conventional wisdom is that a team like Milwaukee that has already won it all doesn’t need home court advantage in the playoffs, but the truth is that home court always makes things much easier when a team is looking to win the NBA title.
A Game 7 in Wisconsin during the Eastern Conference playoffs rather than in Miami, Philly or Boston would be a big help to the Bucks’ efforts to repeat as world champs.
1. The Other Contenders In The East Have Question Marks
The Bucks are a proven commodity, while the other teams in the top tier of the Eastern Conference are flawed.
Miami currently has the top seed and a strong, balanced team, but it may not have enough firepower to consistently get off to good starts in playoff games against prominent opponents, and it plays at one of the slowest paces in the NBA.
The Sixers have the game’s most dominant big man, but co-star James Harden has a terrible track record in elimination games and high-leverage situations in the postseason.
The Celtics have been playing very well of late, but the injury to big man Robert Williams is a big blow to their championship hopes.
Other than that, some feel that Durant’s Brooklyn Nets have a shot at reaching the Finals, but with Kyrie Irving only now being allowed to play home games, and with new addition Ben Simmons yet to play, there are chemistry concerns, as Irving and Durant still haven’t shared the court much.
Milwaukee could very well fall to the Suns in a championship series rematch, but then again, Chris Paul has suffered many heartbreaking playoff defeats, and it casts something of a shadow over his chances of finally getting a ring at age 37 (he will turn 37 early in May).
At least for now, the Bucks seem like a safe choice to win the NBA championship once again.