This offseason has totally shaken the NBA. Players like Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and Russell Westbrook, just to mention some, changed teams and the title favorite hasn’t been this uncertain in some time. According to Betonline, the Milwaukee Bucks are the favorites (+175) to win the Eastern Conference and have the second-best odds (tied with the Los Angeles Lakers) to win the NBA title (+500). On the same website, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the favorite to win back to back MVP’s (+350). Behind him are Stephen Curry (+500) and Anthony Davis (+700).
Last season, the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis had an amazing run. They reached the Eastern Conference Finals only to be eliminated by the buzzsaw that was Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors. The Bucks finished the regular season with a 60-22 record that gave them the best record in the NBA. However, pinnacle reaching postseason success was not meant to be.
The team was very well-rounded, finishing first in defensive rating in the league and fourth in offensive rating. This season, we could see much of the same both record and ratings wise, as the nucleus of last years regular season success stayed in Milwaukee.
As for the Greek Freak, he averaged career highs in points (27.7), rebounds (12.5) and assists (5.9) which led him to win the first MVP of his career. He established himself as one of the top players in the league. His ability to always be around the rim has made him one of the more dominant players in the league. Giannis’s scoring production comes from the paint when he drives to the basket. From his total shot attempts, in the 2018-19 season, 83.7% percent were from inside the three-point line. 67.1% of his points scored were from the two-point range and only 4% of those were outside of the paint.
Giannis could be even more dominant if he manages to get a more consistent outside shot. Last season, he shot 16.3% of his shots from three (203 total) and only hit 52 of them, for a shot percentage of 25.6%. This summer, Giannis practiced his shooting ability with his new teammate and one of the best three-pointers of all time Kyle Korver. There’s no doubt it will help.
The Bucks are a small market team and will have big pressure in the next two seasons to surround Giannis with all the weapons he needs to compete and win a championship. Giannis has two years left on his contract with the team and when he becomes a free agent, if he does, there will be plenty of teams that will create enough cap space to offer him a contract and entice him to leave Milwaukee.
There is always the possibility that Giannis signs a contract extension next summer and that should be task number one for the Milwaukee Bucks front office. A player with the talent, work ethic and determination to succeed that he has is rare. While this is looking ahead two seasons, with another fumble in the postseason this upcoming Summer, the Bucks could be scrambling to keep Giannis in the Green and Black.
The team roster didn’t have a ton of movement and most of the core of the team remains intact. However, the departures of combo guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Nikola Mirotic are not to be dusted over. Brogdon left to play for the Indiana Pacers in a sign-trade and Mirotic decided to go back to Spain and signed with FC Barcelona.
Brogdon played a big role for the Bucks last season as he was the starting shooting guard playing alongside Eric Bledsoe in the team’s backcourt. He had a historic 50-40-90 season but for the second year in a row, struggled to stay healthy and only competed in seven of the bucks 15 playoff games. As for Mirotic, he arrived to the team right before the trade deadline and did not play that much for them in the regular season. His role was most notable in the playoffs where he got into the starting lineup after Brogdon got injured.
The Bucks also have some new faces in the team that can help Giannis and replace Brogdon and Mirotics’ contribution to the team. The most significant additions are Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, and Kyle Korver. The twin brothers are the only centers on the team so Robin will help to protect the paint and get rebounds in a backup role. His contribution to the team will be mostly on defense.
Korver will bring outside shooting to go along with Middleton and Brook Lopez’s ability to knock down deep shots. As for Matthews, he’ll be filling the void Brogdon left in the starting lineup. Matthews is well known for his perimeter defense and ability to make catch and shoot threes. Because of this, Matthews will be a good fit around Giannis as he will attract the defense and kick it outside for Matthews or Korver to make the shots.
Now, if Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks want to make their goal of winning the title a reality, players like Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton have to elevate their games, or at least maintain it to complement Giannis’s contribution on offense. Last season, Giannis was the only player on the team that averaged more than 20 points. The second-best scorer in the team was Middleton with 18.3 points per game, and then Bledsoe with 15.9 points per game.
With most teams having two stars like LeBron and Davis on the Lakers, Kawhi and Paul George on the Clippers, and Westbrook and Harden on the Rockets; the Milwaukee Bucks will need Middleton to step up and be the second star on the team. The Bucks have the players and the coaching staff, lead by Mike Budenholzer, necessary to win the championship. However, can they execute when it counts? That’s a big wait and see.