Last year was an unforgettable campaign for the Milwaukee Bucks, finishing first in the Central Division, and earning the number one overall seed in the Eastern Conference at 60-22. Over the past few years, Milwaukee has been a consistent playoff team, but they’ve usually finished in the middle of the pack. That was until NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and NBA […]
Last year was an unforgettable campaign for the Milwaukee Bucks, finishing first in the Central Division, and earning the number one overall seed in the Eastern Conference at 60-22. Over the past few years, Milwaukee has been a consistent playoff team, but they’ve usually finished in the middle of the pack. That was until NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and NBA Coach of the Year, Mike Budenholzer joined forces last year.
Giannis averaged a career-high 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and 10.3 APG. While these breathtaking numbers paved the way for the Bucks, he enjoyed playing with the likes of veterans Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, and Brook Lopez; just to name a couple. Although the Bucks dominated their way through the first two rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs with convincing victories over the Pistons and the Celtics, they eventually fell short in the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual NBA Champion, Toronto Raptors. Milwaukee looks to elevate to the NBA Finals in 2020.
Milwaukee had an interesting offseason, which included the departures of some key role players in Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic, but they re-signed some other core players in Middleton and Lopez to long-term deals. Jon Leuer (no longer on the roster) was the first move of the offseason via trade, followed by bringing back reserve guard George Hill and signing Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez. In addition, the Bucks added depth by tabbing veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver and adding Thanasis Antetokounmpo, (the younger brother of Giannis). On paper, it’s easy to point out how the Bucks have two pairs of brothers on the roster, with the Lopez twins, along with Giannis and Thanasis, but more importantly, the Bucks have pieced together another championships caliber roster. However, the expectations are much higher this season.
Let’s take a look at the Bucks Roster heading into the regular season.
- Jaylen Adams
- Eric Bledsoe
- George Hill
- Frank Mason III *Two-Way
In 2019, Bledsoe finally proved that he can still play at a high level. Bledsoe started 78 games last year, which is the most he’s started since his days with the Phoenix Suns. Bledsoe averaged 15.9 PPG and looks to lead this Bucks backcourt, despite the departure of Brogdon. Hill, who enters his 12th NBA season, will stay put as the top reserve in Milwaukee’s backcourt as a quality spell for Bledsoe, who can even finish games when called upon. Adams, a name I’m sure Fonz is happy to see, but I’m not sure he makes the final roster.
- Pat Connaughton
- Donte DiVincenzo
- Wesley Matthews
- Cameron Reynolds *Two-Way
- Rayjon Tucker
This group probably has the most depth on the roster, but Korver can slide into the small forward slot with Sterling Brown. In the offseason, Matthews was acquired on a veteran’s minimum. Korver was also brought in to add shooting depth after losing two snipers, in Brogdon and Mirotic. Connaughton looks to take the next step in year two with the Bucks, where he showcased his perimeter shooting and freakish athleticism. As one of the top two reserves last season, Connaughton could give Matthews a run for his money for a starting backcourt spot, as the dual athlete averaged 6.9 PPG. Expect DiVincenzo to get more action this year.
- Sterling Brown
- Kyle Korver
- Luke Maye
- Khris Middleton
Last year, Middleton cracked the All-Star roster for the first time, but now he carries a huge five-year contract he needs to play with. He is the Bucks number two scorer behind Giannis as he averaged 18.3 PPG last year. Korver and Brown will compete for minutes based on matchups, but I expect Korver to get the bulk for now. DiVincenzo could play up in this spot as well.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo
- Dragan Bender
- Ersan Ilyasova
- D.J. Wilson
This group features the league MVP, as Giannis looks to continue to dominate inside the paint. However, he’s been working on his shooting and foul shots all summer with Korver. If the Bucks get to the Finals, it’s because Giannis improves his capabilities behind the arc and on the foul line. Ilyasova is a quality veteran off the bench who plays excellent defense. He even finished some games in relief of Brook Lopez last year. Of course, Giannis’s younger brother, Thanasis is on the roster. He was selected back in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft by the Knicks and hopes to earn a roster spot. It’s safe to say he will be battling for a role with Wilson and Bender.
- Brook Lopez
- Robin Lopez
Brook Lopez posted a career-low 12.5 PPG last year but played a huge factor in the Bucks deep playoff run. He started his most games since the 2010-2011 season and stayed healthy. Brook also averaged a career-high in blocks and is at a point in his career where he is looking to win, and doesn’t have to do it all anymore. He joins forces with his twin brother, Robin, who now joins his sixth NBA team. Look for this to be a nasty combination in terms of interior defense that will frustrate opposing big men.
Mike Budenholzer is coming off his second NBA Coach of the Year Award in the past five years. It’s very rare to see a coach in his first season with a team win this honor. This had a similar feel to his 2015 season coaching the Atlanta Hawks. Budenholzer helped this team take the next step, but there is still work to be done, and that’s winning the NBA Finals.
Projected Lineup/Roster Cuts
- PG: Eric Bledsoe
- SG: Wesley Matthews
- SF: Khris Middleton
- PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
- C: Brook Lopez
- Sixth Man: Pat Connaughton
- Key Role Players: George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova, Robin Lopez, Kyle Korver
- Rest of the Bench: Sterling Brown, D.J. Wilson, Donte DiVincenzo, Dragan Bender, Thanasis Antetokounmpo
- Two-Way Players: Frank Mason III, Cameron Reynolds
- Roster Cuts: Rayjon Tucker, Jaylen Adams
The Bucks lineup features Giannis and a bunch of veterans. This is truly a team with the potential to go all the way. I expect them to repeat as the top team in the Eastern Conference. Obviously, Giannis and Middleton are the top players, but Lopez and Bledsoe are critical to the team’s success. Adding Matthews is a downgrade from Brogdon, but they couldn’t afford to keep him getting an offer from the pacers. It’ll be interesting to see how the bench pans out. I’d expect Hill, Connaughton, Ilyasova, and Lopez to be the core four that play every night. Eventually, DiVincenzo should eat into Korver’s minutes. This second unit could beat some of the other Eastern Conference team’s starters.
I want to say that Milwaukee wins 62 games. Without having to worry about Kawhi Leonard anymore, the only other legitimate threats I see are the Celtics and the Sixers. Most of this group was together last year, so the experience will help them come playoff time. If I’m a Bucks fan, I am very excited and the sky is the limit for this team!