Additions: Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, Donte DiVincenzo, Tim Frazier, Pat Connaughton, Trevon Duval
Subtractions: Jabari Parker, Mirza Teletovic
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Malcolm Brogdon
SF: Khris Middleton
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Brook Lopez
Key Bench Players: Tony Snell, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Shabazz Muhammad, Matthew Dellavedova, Tim Frazier, Pat Connaughton, Thon Maker, Tyler Zeller
This Milwaukee Bucks team is all of a sudden very deep with fourteen different guys able to contribute, and that is without taking into account their first round pick in Donte DiVincenzo. They have depth at every position from the guards, wing, and big men. Although it is a very deep squad, they will still rely on one man to obtain a top seed in the Eastern Conference: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Greek Freak is an actual freak of nature with 6’11 size, a 7’3 wingspan, tremendous athleticism, and playmaking abilities that are not typical of a player his size. In just his fifth season in the NBA at the age of 23, Antetokounmpo averaged 26.9 points, 10 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.4 blocks while shooting 52.9% from the field. Even without a consistent perimeter game (28.4% from three for his career), he is one of the best scorers in the league, as he shot 75.6% at the rim last season, can dish dimes to his teammates, and defend at an extremely high level. From a name that nobody heard of as the 15th overall pick in the 2013 Draft to a bonafide top-ten superstar in the NBA, Antetokounmpo is at the top of my MVP candidate list.
The loss of Jabari Parker hurts the Bucks ever so slightly, but it is not like Antetokounmpo does not have any support. Khris Middleton is one of the top 3-and-D players in the league who poured in over 20 PPG last season and can handle some playmaking duties. Eric Bledsoe is a hound on the defensive end, averaging 2 steals per game after being traded to Milwaukee from Phoenix last season, along with 17.8 PPG, a decent shooting stroke, and passing ability. Malcolm Brogdon is this team’s glue guy and Swiss Army knife. A gifted defender, above average playmaker, and knockdown shooter, Brogdon can fill in wherever needed on this Bucks roster. Add in Brook Lopez with his newfound shooting ability and his rim protecting from the center position, the Bucks have a very fearsome starting five that have the ability to match up with almost any team in the East.
The Bucks bench is much improved from last year. Backing up Bledsoe at the point guard are the two capable Matthew Dellavedova and Tim Frazier, who are both pass-first guards that can play above-average defense. On the wings, new coach Mike Budenholzer can sub in one of Tony Snell, Shabazz Muhammad, Pat Connaughton, or rookie Donte DiVincenzo. All three can shoot and are average to above-average athletes. As for big men, they have stretch-4 Ersan Ilyasova who enjoyed success in Philadelphia last season, the athletic swat-blocking duo of John Henson and Thon Maker, and the always consistent hustler Tyler Zeller. Budenholzer can mold his second unit to however he sees fit, whether its a shooting lineup with Delly, Connaughton, Snell, Ilyasova, and Maker, or a defense-first lineup of Delly, Connaughton, Snell, Henson, and Zeller. Frazier will most likely be the third-string point guard and Shabazz Muhammad does not really fit this team too well. Muhammad is an excellent iso-scorer but has a problem with ball-stopping and is a poor outside shooter and defender. Thon Maker and DiVincenzo are both very athletic with shooting ability, but the Bucks may bring them along slowly in this win-now mode.
This is a very good Bucks team who can realistically make a run for the Eastern Conference title. Right now, I have them as the third or fourth best team in the East behind Boston, Philadelphia, and maybe the Raptors (it all depends on Kawhi Leonard’s health). Behind a legitimate MVP candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo and his lengthy, versatile squad, they will not go down easily.
Picture Courtesy of Fansided (Giannis Antetokounmpo)
*For yesterday’s article on the Miami Heat, click here
Up next tomorrow: Minnesota Timberwolves
University of South Carolina ’21