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Good Cop–Bad Cop: Will the Bucks Make the NBA Finals This Season?

With Giannis Antetokounmpo putting up MVP numbers and an improved supporting cast, Milwaukee is off to a flying start—but is it too early to crown the Bucks the new beasts of the East?

Giannis Antetokounmpo Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The Milwaukee Bucks have a wonderful new strategy this season: They’ve decided to just not lose any games. They are, at this very moment, the only undefeated team left in the league. Does that mean that they’ve become the best team in the East? Or, more importantly: Will the Bucks make the Finals this year? This is a Good Cop–Bad Cop argument for whether or not they will. Good Cop is arguing that they will. Bad Cop is arguing that they won’t.

Good Cop: The Bucks are going to make it to the Finals this year. That’s an easy thing for me to say because they’re the best team in the East, and that’s how such things are decided.

Bad Cop: No. The Bucks are not going to make it to the Finals this year. Saying that they are is an easy thing for you to say only because you’re a liar.

Good Cop: Please explain to me how the only undefeated team in the league isn’t even the best team in a conference that no longer includes LeBron James.

Bad Cop: No. You explain to me how a team that hasn’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs in nearly two decades is all of a sudden the favorite to win its conference. Because that makes no sense.

Good Cop: What makes no sense is you thinking that the players who were on the Bucks in 2003 or whatever have any sort of relevance in this conversation. Like, you know that Desmond Mason doesn’t play for the Bucks anymore, right? You know that Michael Redd retired, right?

Bad Cop: First of all, I don’t like your anti–Michael Redd tone right now. That man was a ballplayer.

Good Cop: We’ve been arguing for 10 seconds, and you’re already all spun around. Just answer me this: How does what a team was doing 16 or 17 years ago have anything to do with what a team is doing now? You understand how dumb of a thing that is to say, right? You know Giannis wasn’t around back then, don’t you?

Bad Cop: I’m just trying to point out that, historically, the Bucks aren’t winners. I won’t be ready to declare them the favorites to reach the Finals until they’ve won four games in the conference finals. And correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Giannis in the league last year, when the Bucks lost in the first round to the Celtics? Or the year before that, when they lost in the first round to the Raptors? Or the year before that, when they missed the playoffs entirely? Or the year before that, when they lost in the first round to the Bulls? Or the year before that, when they lost 67 games? Hold on, hold on. Let me check real quick … [opens laptop; goes to; searches “Giannis”; clicks on his name; reads through his season by season stats] … yep, there he is. He was on those teams.

Good Cop: That’s not fair. He was a totally different player back then.


Good Cop: The team is just better this year.

Bad Cop: How? Why?

Good Cop: They’re better in basically every way. They’re scoring more points than they did last year an—

Bad Cop: Everyone is!

Good Cop: Not the Rockets.

Bad Cop: LOL. Good one.

Good Cop: But what I was saying is they’re better in every way. Their offense ranked 15th in points per game last season. This season, they’re in the top four. Last season, they shot about 25 3s per game. This season, they’re somehow shooting more than 40 per game, which puts them second, behind only Houston. They’re holding opponents to 104 points per game, and that’s great, but they’re also the only team in the entire NBA who is holding opponents to shooting less than 40 percent from the field. So they’re at the top right now in that stat, and last season they were in the bottom third. It’s all just better. They’re big, and strong, and athletic, and chucking it up from all over the court. Brook Lopez had a game earlier this season where he shot fucking eight 3s. EIGHT! John Henson had a game where he hit three out of four 3s! JOHN HENSON IS SHOOTING 3s!

Bad Cop: Listen, if you’re going to pin your hope of the Bucks making it to the Finals this year on John Henson’s perimeter game … I really don’t even know what to say about that.

Good Cop: You’re misrepresenting what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that this new Bucks team is a real problem, in ways we’ve not seen from them before. And we haven’t even talked about Giannis yet, who started this season out the same way that Benicio Del Toro ended Sicario: by fucking killing everyone. Here’s a good Giannis stat: Giannis had 78 rebounds through his first five games this season. That’s 15.6 rebounds per game, more than double his career average. That’s how you know he’s not here for the bullshit. And if you feel like digging into the numbers a little deeper, he became the first player in more than half a century to start out a season by putting together four straight games of at least 25 points and 15 rebounds.

Bad Cop: Oh, well, I guess let’s give him the At Least 25 Points And 15 Rebounds In The First Four Games Of A Season championship.

Good Cop: God, I hate you.

Bad Cop: Listen, I get that the Bucks are good this season. That’s fine. But you’re walking around with your chest all puffed out like they’re really the best team in the East. They’re not. They’ve played all of seven games. Relax.

Good Cop: They literally have the best record in the East. How are they not the best?

Bad Cop: Again, it’s been only seven games. But even if it stretches out this way for several months, think on it like this: They also have the best record in the league, don’t they?

Good Cop: Yes.

Bad Cop: But I don’t hear anybody saying that they’re the best team in the league.

Good Cop: I … well, that’s different.

Bad Cop: But it’s not. Once again: The Bucks are good, yes. Of course. Duh. But you can’t put them above the Celtics, and you can’t put them above the Sixers, and you surely can’t put them above the Raptors.

Good Cop: They already beat the Sixers. And they just beat the Raptors. And when they play the Celtics on Thursday night, they’re going to beat them too.

Bad Cop: Kawhi was out when the Bucks beat the Raptors.

Good Cop: So was Giannis.

Bad Cop: [Stares.]

Good Cop: [Stares.]

Bad Cop: Look, if you line the Bucks up across from the Celtics, the Celtics just have more players who are better. Kyrie is better than Eric Bledsoe. Al Horford is better than John Henson. Gordon Hayward is better than Khris Middleton.


Bad Cop: And Jayson Tatum and Giannis are a wash.


Bad Cop: I mean, actually probably not with the Tatum and Giannis thing, but you get the point.

Good Cop: Yes, the point is you’re just making things up now.

Bad Cop: No, the point is that, on average, the Celtics roster is better at the top end than the Bucks roster, and that’s to say nothing of how much deeper it is.

Good Cop: I feel personally offended for Khris Middleton right now. You don’t get to pretend like he doesn’t exist just because they don’t show Bucks games on ESPN. And frankly, we’re, like, six weeks away from the wheels falling off in Boston. We can all see it coming.

Bad Cop: Things look a tiny bit shaky in Boston right now, I’ll admit that, sure. And it’s going to be interesting to see what ends up happening with all the Celtics’ very good players who want to make sure that everyone knows they’re very good. But they’re still 5-2, and also they’ve got 75 games left to get whatever little issues they have right now ironed out. And also, this isn’t a Wizards-type problem we’re talking about. The main issue with the Celtics is they have too many good players. That’s it. It’s the best problem any NBA team can have. And after they make this trade for Anthony Davis, it’s lights out for everyone. And even if they don’t, the Celtics are still going to be fine. You’re not talking me into believing that the Bucks are the Finals favorite over the Celtics after seven games. You’re just not.

Good Cop: I’m really still just sitting here in shock after you said that Tatum and Giannis were a wash.

Bad Cop: I got caught up in the argument.

Good Cop: Here’s the problem with the argument that since the Celtics have a better overall roster than the Bucks that means the Celtics are the Finals favorites and not the Bucks: The Bucks have Giannis. What happened last year when the Celtics played the Cavs in the playoffs? The Celtics had a way better roster than the Cavs, but the Cavs had LeBron. Every time those two teams were on the floor together, the Cavs had the best player. That’s all they needed. It’s the same thing with Giannis. He’s the best player on either of those teams. When May comes and that playoff water gets too deep for most everyone else, Giannis is going to be fine. Giannis can swing a playoff series all by himself.

Bad Cop: You mean like he did last year in the playoffs?

Good Cop: SMH.

Bad Cop: OK, let me throw your same logic back at you then: Giannis is the best player if we’re talking about the Bucks and the Celtics, but he’s not the best player if we’re talking about the Bucks and the Raptors. Because the Raptors have Kawhi now. So if you’re going to say that the Celtics can’t be the Finals favorite over the Bucks because the Bucks have the best player, then that means, by the rules set forth in your own argument, the Raptors have to be the Finals favorite because they have the single best player of everyone in the conference.

Good Cop: Well, see, here’s the thing about that: I just don’t care. Kawhi can be better than Giannis. I’m still going to say that the Bucks are better.

Bad Cop: What the fuck.

Good Cop: The Bucks are the best team in the East. They’re going to the Finals this year.

Bad Cop: No, they’re not.