MILWAUKEE — Through twists and turns, injuries and recovery, hard-hitting battles and seamless victories, the Milwaukee Bucks stand alone atop the Eastern Conference with a league-leading 58-24 record. While there is a clear MVP candidate leading the charge, this Bucks core is among the strongest in franchise history, giving the team a high probability of bringing home some NBA Awards this season.
Let’s first get this out of the way — Giannis Antetokounmpo deserves MVP consideration regardless of who else is playing at an elite level. The 28-year-old, who has already won two MVP awards, posted a career-high at 31.1 points per game, becoming the only player in league history to average at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on 55%+ from the field. If that doesn’t make for an MVP candidate, what does?
Similarly planted within his own awards race is center Brook Lopez, who had a career renaissance by committing to defense for the 2022-23 regular season. Lopez led the league in total blocks (193, career-high 2.5 per game) and contested shots (1362, 445 more than No. 2 ranked Nic Claxton, for 17.5 per game).
Milwaukee finished with the fourth-ranked defense in the NBA and was 11 points per 100 possessions better with Lopez on the floor this season. With Lopez drawing national acclaim for his resurgent 2022-23 regular season, the Defensive Player of the Year Award is within grasp.
For Milwaukee Bucks fan favorite Bobby Portis, the same can be said of the Sixth Man of the Year Award. In his third season with the team, Portis averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game as one of the premier bench scorers and leaders around the NBA.
Meanwhile, the Bucks have contenders for the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams between Antetokounmpo, Lopez and All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, who could find himself on both teams for his performance this season. Holiday is also a contender for the NBA’s new Clutch Player of the Year Award.
Holiday appeared in 30 clutch scenarios (5-point game with less than five minutes remaining) this season and his impact was apparent. The hounding defender transformed the Bucks’ late-game outlook by guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer and finding opportunities to give his team an edge time and time again. In turn, the Milwaukee Bucks were 8.2 points per 100 possessions better with Holiday on the floor in the clutch.
By virtue of withstanding countless injuries, a rotating cast of available players and new introductions from years past, head coach Mike Budenholzer is also firmly in the Coach of the Year conversation.
However, the remaining awards are where Milwaukee’s case for a candidate in each race dwindles. Rookie of the Year all but belongs to the 2022 No. 1 overall pick. Paolo Banchero of the Orlando Magic. Bucks rookie MarJon Beauchamp, while impressive between spot minutes for Milwaukee and his time in the G League, did not have enough of a role to truly contend for an All-Rookie team either.
Furthermore, cracking into the Most Improved Player race is a long shot for the Milwaukee Bucks. Their top candidate would be Lopez, who certainly improved from the year prior, but also couldn’t reach the offensive heights of his 2013 All-Star season, which effectively removed him from the running.
The truth of the matter is that it’s rare a team has this many candidates for the NBA Awards, but the Bucks’ intentions have been clear from the jump — the team is far more interested in winning another title than obtaining individual accolades. Their first Playoff game will be on April 16 as they host the winner of the No. 8 seed through the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament.
RECENT MILWAUKEE BUCKS COVERAGE FROM THE WTMJ NEWS STAFF:
- Extra Points: The pressure is mounting in Milwaukee
- DPOY candidate ‘Splash Mountain’ is taking his game to new heights
- Giannis bests Embiid in clash of MVP candidates as Bucks defeat Sixers by 13
- Who do the Bucks need to lose? + An interview between Gale Klappa and Jae Crowder
- Through injuries & MVP buzz, Giannis Antetokounmpo is locked in on winning another title
WTMJ PROGRAMMING: Bucks moving to 94.5 ESPN Milwaukee for 3 games at end of regular season