Milwaukee Bucks: The Most Dangerous Team in the Eastern Conference

Jesse MotiffSenior Analyst IMarch 7, 2010

DALLAS - FEBRUARY 12:  Brandon Jennings #3 of the Rookie team drives against the Sophomore team during the first half of the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center on February 12, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The hottest team in the Eastern Conference doesn't play in Boston, Orlando, or even Cleveland. In the last month, no team has played better than the Milwaukee Bucks.

Given the fact that the team hasn't had any real success since the 2001 season, most fans have zero idea about the team and how they have played themselves right into the thick of the playoff hunt.

With a 9-1 record over their last 10 games, only the Dallas Mavericks have played better. The Bucks have gone from NBA also-ran, to being percentage points out of the fifth seed in the East.

The Bucks first garnered national attention this season when rookie Brandon Jennings dropped 55 points on the Golden State Warriors in only his seventh career game. He has continued to play well averaging 15.8 points and 6.1 assists per game this year.

Jennings has brought excitement to a team that has floundered in anonymity for several years. While he may not win the Rookie of the Year award, no newcomer has keyed his team's success the way that the 20-year-old kid from Compton, Calif. has for his.

Andrew Bogut has established himself as one of the best centers in the conference and is finally living up to his status as a number one overall selection. The seven-foot Australian native is averaging 16 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks a game.

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Bogut's versatility gives the team a balanced inside-outside game, allowing Jennings and the rest of the backcourt to get wide-open looks at the basket.

When long-time shooting guard Michael Redd went down for the season for the second consecutive year, it was thought by many that the season was over. In reality, it was the moment that sparked the team's resurgence.

The team signed veteran Jerry Stackhouse to come off the bench and provide a spark with the second unit. He has averaged almost nine points a game since signing with the Bucks in late January.

Most fans hoped the Bucks would make a trade to acquire talent at the deadline to make a push for the playoffs, and GM John Hammond didn't disappoint.

To add another scorer to the team, Hammond sent Joe Alexander and Hakim Warrick to the Bulls in exchange for shooting guard, John Salmons.

It was Salmons' arrival that has sent the Bucks on their current hot streak. Since joining the Bucks, the former star at the University of Miami has averaged 19.2 points a game, including a season-high 32 points in an overtime loss against the Hawks, the only loss he's had in a Bucks' uniform.

The Bucks now have three legitimate scorers in Jennings, Salmons, and Bogut. That will be key come the playoffs having so many options since the defensive intensity increases.

Carlos Delfino, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Ersan Ilyasova provide great length and other options for the offense. They've also provided a spark defensively that many Bucks' teams have been missing over the years.

Stackhouse, Luke Ridnour, and Charlie Bell all average near 10 points a game, giving the Bucks one of the best scoring benches in the league.

Add all that offense to coach Scott Skiles' refusal to play anyone that isn't giving maximum effort on the defensive end, and the Milwaukee Bucks are now a threat to the top teams in the conference.

Although they beat division leader Cleveland on Saturday night, they did so without facing LeBron James. James was held out of the game for precautionary purposes after hurting his ankle the prior game against the Pistons.

The Bucks face their toughest test since the Salmons' trade when they host the Celtics on Tuesday night. If the Bucks can beat a team with the experience, length, and defensive intensity of the Celtics, they will have proved themselves as a force in the upcoming playoffs.

The Bucks have the team to compete with the Celtics, and if the playoffs started today, the two teams would face each other in the first round. The Celtics may actually be a better matchup for the Bucks than either the Hawks or Magic.

Regardless of who they play, just making the playoffs will be a victory for a franchise that heard rumblings of relocation only a few years ago.

The Bucks are poised to become the next young team to establish themselves as a threat to the Eastern Conference hierarchy. For a fan base yearning for a winner, they don't need to wait until next season for the breakthrough. This April and May will be just fine for them to watch the Bucks introduce themselves to the fans around the league.

To read more by Jesse Motiff, click here .