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Outsider’s Perspective: New Orleans Pelicans and Milwaukee Bucks face similar challenges yet are heading in opposite directions

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An interview with The Stepback’s Kane Pitman.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans and Milwaukee Bucks square off on Wednesday in a matchup of two teams going in opposite directions. (For more on the matchup in total check out our preview here.)

In our Outsider’s Perspective series we go deep into each Pelicans opponent by gathering various contributors and editors from around the basketball community. This edition features Kane Pitman, who works both with Pick and RollAU in covering the wonderful world of Australian hoops and The Step Back. Kane gives us a tour through Milwaukee’s torrid start, the future harassment of star Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the finishing pieces for a roster with deep playoff visions.

Hope you enjoy your latest installment of Outsider’s Perspective!

1. The Bucks are currently second in a much improved Eastern Conference. Milwaukee looks deeper after adding a few new faces, but their improvements will largely be attributed to their star in Giannis Antetokounmpo and new coach Mike Budenholzer. Is there one factor that can solely be plated next to Milwaukee’s early success?

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of Giannis, they picked up some low-key players over the summer that perfectly compliment both Giannis and Coach Budenholzer’s offensive scheme. Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova and Pat Connaughton have provided extra floor spacing and allow the Bucks to surround Giannis with four shooters at all times. Giannis is obviously the key to the Bucks’ success, but placing adequate personnel around him has been huge.

2. Many in New Orleans look at The Greek Freak and see similarities to their star in Anthony Davis. The physical and game improvements are one thing, but in the end, some see a unique all time talent in a small market with a limited ceiling. Milwaukee doesn’t appear to be heading towards the roster crisis the Pelicans experienced, but for Giannis the whispers about relocation will only be silenced by winning on the biggest of stages. Even though he’s said all of the right things — similar to Davis — is there an early sense of urgency in Milwaukee in regards to earning and keeping the loyalty of their superstar long-term?

I think there certainly should be. I did feel the sense of urgency contributed to the firing of Jason Kidd before the season was complete. It allowed the Bucks to signal their intentions early to all available candidates and similarly illustrated to Giannis that ownership was not going to accept mediocre results — contrary to the reports that Giannis was upset by the move.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks are on the clock no doubt, but with the move to hire Budenholzer and the recent trade providing significant cap relief, they have positioned themselves in a far better position to continue their rise to contention.

3. Are the Bucks missing a particular piece that can take them over the top? Or are the parts already presently there?

The Bucks have real depth throughout the roster. They have an MVP candidate. The only real question remains as to whether or not they view Khris Middleton or Eric Bledsoe as a max-type player and legitimate number two option. Both guys will be pushing for All-Star appearances this season and could see their salary double next summer.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I’m honestly still not totally sure how I feel about paying both salaries on that level, but I think the picture will become clearer on what action needs to be taken upon the conclusion of this season.

4. What’s the biggest misconception about the Bucks?

I think people underestimate some of the lesser names that have provided this team with real depth that fellow contenders in the East like Philadelphia lack among their reserves. Connaughton, Sterling Brown, Ilyasova, Tony Snell and others provide consistent scoring off the bench, allowing the Bucks to plug in different guys on different nights. The coaching staff has the ability to roll with the hot hand.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Having multiple options matters over the course of a season despite rotations shortening in the playoffs. You’ve got to get there first and then it’s not out of the question an injury or two hits — think the Boston Celtics during the last postseason.

As mentioned above, I have some concerns about who is the number two on the roster, but I think the overall depth is underrated outside of Milwaukee.

5. Outsider’s Perspective on the Pelicans.

They’re a franchise that just hasn’t been able to string together a solid run of luck. As you mentioned earlier, the difficulties for small market franchises are amplified when you have a genuine star player, and unfortunately for the Pels, injuries have repeatedly hurt their chances. Jrue Holiday has missed significant time in previous years, Anthony Davis also, now heading into tonight they will be without Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton. They’ve had rough luck and must now face the music with losing Davis — life is brutal in small NBA markets when adversity hits.

That was our time with Kane Pitman and we hope you all once again enjoyed it. You can find Kane on Twitter @mkebucksaus. Enjoy the game and as always — Geaux Pels!