Bucks Lead

Comparing the 2019 Bucks to the 2001 Bucks

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For the first time in almost two decades, the Milwaukee Bucks are 20 games over .500. Specifically, the last time the Bucks were 20 games over .500 was in the 2000-01 season. That 2001 Bucks team took Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was quite the ride.

Current Bucks’ record: 32-12… Take that in for a moment….

Now for fun, let’s match-up the 2001 Bucks vs. this 2019 squad and try to see if it’s possible to settle who the better team is.

Coach

2001: George Karl

2019: Mike Budenholzer

This one is unable to be called due to the fact that Coach Budenholzer has been with the Bucks less than a year. Too small of a sample size. Though I’m pretty sure he’ll never make a trade that makes me more upset than the Ray Allen for Gary Payton deal. By default, due to that reason only, Budenholzer gets my vote. But I’ll put emotions aside and just call this one a draw. Both have had some very high “highs” and some low “lows” with multiple NBA teams.

Edge: Neutral (No points awarded to either team)

Key Bench Players

2001: Scott Williams, Darvin Ham, Joel Przybila

2019: Everyone

Our current bench is so deep that Christian Wood — averaging 27.4 points per game for the G-League Wisconsin Herd — hasn’t even been given a second look for any NBA minutes. DJ, Ersan, Thon, Sterling, Snell, George Hill, et. al… all stand in his way for playing time. The 2001 Bucks team had some smart veterans, but talent-wise, this one is clear.

Edge: 2019 Bucks (2019 Leads 1-0)

Writer’s Note: At this point, to simplify, we’re using current starters. If we were to go through every starting 5 scenario,  this article could be 20 pages.

Point Guard

2001: Sam Cassell

2019: Eric Bledsoe

Both PG’s have their own knack for being above-average defensive players for their position. Cassell’s most underrated asset was his trash-talking. Eric Bledsoe recently gave the entire league a blueprint on how to guard James Harden. When Bledsoe decides to drive to the rack, his finishing skills are second-to-none. Sam Cassell was the definition of “savvy veteran”- working the refs, taking charges, and getting defenders to jump as he’d lean into them to draw a cheap foul. Both players at times make you want to pull your hair out, but both were/are capable of taking over games if needed. Overall, Cassell was more important to his team than Bledsoe is.

Edge: 2001 Bucks (Series Tied 1-1)

Shooting Guard

2001: Ray Allen

2019: Malcolm Brogdon

I love Malcolm Brogdon, probably more than you do… but obviously this deserves no thought.

Edge: 2001 Bucks (2001 leads 2-1)

Center

2001: Mark Pope/Ervin Johnson/Jason Caffey

2019: Brook Lopez

Brook Lopez has been a gift. A solid defensive center, who also has range?! Perfect in the Budenholzer offense. The 2001 group of centers played their roles adequately but “Splash Mountain” has been a game-changer and takes this category for his versatility.

Edge: 2019 Bucks (Series Tied 2-2)

Small Forward

2001: Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson

2019: Khris Middleton

Glenn Robinson was a great shooter. One of the best I’ve seen in regards to hitting that corner jumper. Khris Middleton shows flashes of being an all-star. When he’s “on”, it’s a beautiful thing to witness. But the same can be said about Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson. The difference is that Big Dog was seemingly always “on”! If I were a casual basketball fan, one would assume Robinson would take this one easily. But it’s closer than you may think, given Middleton has developed into a serviceable defender. Robinson will always be remembered for what could have been… A wide open bunny from the baseline that would have sealed a victory for the Bucks in the pivotal game 5 of the aforementioned Eastern Conference Finals. It just wasn’t meant to be. But all that aside, he gets the nod here.

Edge: 2001 Bucks (2001 leads 3-2)

… but here’s the kicker:

Power Forward- Giannis is King

2001: Tim Thomas

2019: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis is a generational player. Every team in the league knows he still hasn’t fully developed his jump shot — but it doesn’t matter. At 24 years of age, he just cannot be stopped. Giannis is the reason this scorecard comparison could be thrown out. As for Tim Thomas… well… he played basketball in the NBA for awhile.

Edge: 2019 Bucks (Series tied 3-3)

Conclusion

The 2001 Bucks team was great. They were one step away from the Finals. But within the next couple years, Giannis and Co. have a legitimate chance to take us a step or two further. Yes, that not only means a trip to the Finals, but winning an NBA Championship. It’s a tall order because of the parody currently playing out in the East. At least five teams could represent the conference in the Finals without surprise. One could make a case for the Bucks, Raptors, Sixers, Pacers or Celtics– and your arguments for why would all be valid. But unlike the 2001 Bucks team, this current group should have a larger window of time to capitalize on their potential.

Nobody can really say which Bucks team is better, so let’s just enjoy the 2019 version– they’re a special squad.

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About Dan Parker

Born and raised in the greater Milwaukee area. Graduated from UW-Parkside with a B.S. in Sports and Fitness Management. Avid Wisconsin sports fan, currently residing just outside of Detroit.

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