Season preview: Milwaukee Bucks

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Season preview: Milwaukee Bucks

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Season preview: Milwaukee Bucks

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Last league year was a huge step forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, with the team winning a league-leading 60 regular-season games, finishing first overall in net rating at +8.6 and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 20 years.

Now, the Bucks’ expectations are going to be massive, and with good reason.

They bring back the reigning MVP and most of the core that was able to find so much success last season, and made a few savvy free-agent additions that could help the team reach yet another level.

Of course, we won’t know anything until the games start, but Milwaukee has the roster, coaching and culture to have a massive 2019-20 campaign, one that could even include a championship.

Their ceiling is that high.

STAYING: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, Sterling Brown, Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton and DJ Wilson.

ADDED: Jaylen Adams (Atlanta), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Panathinaikos), Dragan Bender (Phoenix), Kyle Korver (Utah), Robin Lopez (Chicago), Frank Mason (Sacramento), Wesley Matthews (Indiana), Luke Maye (North Carolina), Cameron Reynolds (Minnesota) and Rayjon Tucker (Arkansas-Little Rock).

GONE: Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana), Bonzie Colson (Darussafaka), Tim Frazier (Detroit), Pau Gasol (Portland), Nikola Mirotic (Barcelona) and Tony Snell (Detroit).

STRENGTHS: They have the reigning league MVP/one of the three best players in basketball on their roster, so that’s a pretty solid strength right there … Giannis Antetokounmpo is still just 24, so the fact that he could get even better is a scary thought … Besides the Greek Freak, Milwaukee also ohas 2019 All-Star Khris Middleton and productive two-way point guard Eric Bledsoe, both of whom are primed for big campaigns … And having shooting big men like Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova is important since the team’s highest-usage player isn’t an outside threat (yet) … They return most of the core that got to the Eastern Conference Finals last season … That core helped push them to a first-place finish in defensive efficiency last season, as well as a fourth-place finish in offensive efficiency … Any way you look at it, they were an elite team in 2018-19, and it’s difficult to see that changing this upcoming league year … Mike Budenholzer’s coaching is top-notch … He put Giannis in positions to succeed that other coaches struggled to … They did lose Malcolm BrogdonNikola Mirotic and Tony Snell this offseason, which will hurt, but by adding an elite sharpshooter in Kyle Korver, a veteran two-way wing in Wes Matthews and a reliable backup big man in Robin Lopez, they should be able to cover for those losses pretty effectively … Speaking of Korver, he’s shooting 42.8 percent from three over the last three seasons … For a Bucks team that ranked 15th in three-point accuracy (35.3 percent) last year, being able to add Korver on such a cheap deal could be huge.

WEAKNESSES: Antetokounmpo’s shooting, if it doesn’t improve, could continue to hurt the Bucks, primarily when the playoffs roll around … Teams really like to pack it in against him when games get tighter and referees’ whistles get quieter and force him to either give up the ball or take a deep jumper, something he’s still not quite good enough at yet … That’s what led to the Raptors defeating Milwaukee in six, and the main reason why Antetokounmpo’s Greek team at the World Cup this summer underachieved … The loss of Brogdon should not be understated … He was a huge piece for them as a dude who could play both on or off the ball and shoot the three-ball at an elite rate … Replacing him won’t be easy, though the Bucks probably hope George Hill can take over that spot permanently … Last season was Milwaukee’s first as an elite team … Will they be able to handle the pressure and perform again with such heightened expectations? … Antetokounmpo’s future and the speculation surrounding it could become a distraction … There’s always going to be noise about it, especially if Milwaukee hits an unexpected rough patch.

PREDICTION: 1st in the Central Division, 1st in the Eastern Conference.

SALARIES:

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