Last year’s Milwaukee Bucks finished 44-38 and were, in my opinion, one of the league’s most disappointing teams. They had the roster to compete in the Eastern Conference, but their defense was horribly schemed and Jason Kidd/Joe Prunti’s offense did not use their weapons to their full potential. Those coaches are gone now and Mike Budenholzer steps in. He’ll bring a modern offense to this team and he should put them well over their total of 45.5 wins.
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That said, I am really excited to see what happens with Khris Middleton this year as well. He’s in a contract year and is surely looking for something big next summer, but he’s also one of the more underrated players in this league. He was absolutely fantastic as the Bucks took the Celtics to seven games last year and I could see an even better year this year. Again, playing in a real modern NBA system is a huge part of that.
The offseason acquisition of Brook Lopez could be one of the steals of the year. He’s a great 3-point shooter for a big man and his playmaking shouldn’t be ignored. He’ll make a nice center combo with Thon Maker that can stay on the floor even as other teams go smaller.
Questions surround Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell. I truly believe the Bucks could’ve beaten the Celtics in last year’s playoffs if it wasn’t for Bledsoe. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt as he’d just come off playing mostly meaningless basketball for the Suns and he’ll need to do better this year. He’s a fine player, but he should know that he’s the third banana here.
Tony Snell went from a valuable 3-and-D guy to a barely replacement level player last year. His Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) was just 0.1. They’ll need better from him. I think the free flowing, ball movement offense will benefit him as he is a great “stand in the corner” guy, but a terrible “dribble the ball” guy.
The bench is a mishmash of frustrating and intriguing. Brogdon is a strong piece, Sterling Brown could be a key piece this year, Ilyasova is a guy that you wonder why they signed but will ultimately be fine, DiVincenzo felt like a reach in the draft, and Dellavedova is the ultimate pest. This will take awhile to sort out, but I think they have the making of a good 10-deep team.
To me, it’s all about the pace and three point shooting. Under Kidd and Prunti, the Bucks were a joke. While Budenholzer’s teams have always been good at these things, even when the personnel wasn’t anywhere close to as talented as this Bucks team. Check out these stats from a recent, great Kevin O’Connor column at The Ringer.
|Season||Bucks Pace Rank||Hawks Pace Rank||Bucks 3-Pt. Rank||Bud Hawks 3-Pt. Rank|
This Bucks team with Giannis in his prime is made to play fast and with Middleton, Snell, Bledsoe, Brogdon, Brown, and Ilyasova on the outside, I can see them draining threes at an elite level.
I am all-in on this Bucks team this year and this might be my favorite bet that we’ve covered here. This Bucks team with Budenholzer coaching them could be one of the top teams in the East and I like them better than some of the favorites that we’ll get to later. A top-3 seed and 50+ wins feels very doable.
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