If you Google “Milwaukee Bucks continuity” around this time you will get 36,800 results or so, and dozens of stories from the past few weeks. People will talk about continuity throughout the (thankfully abbreviated) preseason, too.
Indeed, the team is bringing back almost the exact same personnel as last season, with Michael Beasley being the only departed rotation player, while rookies D.J. Wilson and Sterling Brown are the additions most likely to earn meaningful minutes.
Continuity, of course, is great when you are the 2015–16 Warriors, who won a record 73 games on the backs of 95 percent of the same players who won the championship the previous season. Continuity is great when it means Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are coming back. Same for the Thunder and their stars that season, who ranked second in the league behind the Warriors in continuity that year, before infamously not knocking them out of the playoffs.
It is these continuity score numbers (calculated as the percent of a team’s regular season minutes that were filled by players from the previous season’s roster) that confirm exactly how intact the cores and supporting casts of those great Warriors and Thunder teams were, but which also show that it was the Trail Blazers who had the highest continuity score last season — and they disappointingly dropped from 44 wins the year prior to 41 last year. Before last season, Vegas had tabbed Portland, helmed by a rising superstar in Damian Lillard and a co-star in C.J. McCollum, to win 46.5 games, but they sputtered and instead took a small step back.
For the Bucks, like the Trail Blazers last season, logic dictates that they should improve slightly on their 42 wins from last year, if for no reason other than the improvements of their young and improving core, headed by a rising superstar and co-star. But the example in Portland is a cautionary one of many, and for all the talk of continuity in Milwaukee, other cities are telling just the opposite story — that they are due for improvement because of all of their change. And it rings emphatically reasonable in not just Oklahoma City, Houston, Denver, Boston.
Some of the highest scores on the historical continuity chart are linked with some of the greatest teams: the recent Warriors, Thunder, and Spurs giants, the LeBron-era Heat (91 percent in his final season in South Beach), Kobe’s Lakers (95 percent in 2008–09 on a championship team), Jordan’s Bulls (97 and 92 percent in his final two title seasons), and Isiah’s Pistons (95, 92, 95, and 97 percent respectively in consecutive 50+ win seasons to wrap up the 1980s), to name a few.
But those were fully-formed teams in their primes led by iconic superstars. They are not applicable to the current Bucks. These were teams winning big and then continuing to win big.
The Bucks had (by far) their lowest continuity score (of 24 percent) in franchise history in 2013–14, which happened also to be their franchise-worst season, with 15 wins. They shook up everything before that season, and four years later they have found continuity (though injuries to Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker have thrown that off a bit) but are not yet a fully-formed team in their prime. Maybe this core will grow together through 2020 and then be appended to the paragraph a couple above, and maybe not. But to say what matters: In their worst season, the season of least continuity, they found their iconic superstar, and a way.