We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Milwaukee Bucks.
When Kobe Bryant was doling out expectations for some of the NBA’s brightest stars, there was a noticeable omission: Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.
So, Antetokounmpo reached out to Bryant via social media basically saying, ‘what about me?’
The Black Mamba responded with a pretty cut-and-dry challenge – become the league’s MVP.
Antetokounmpo will be in the conversation for sure, especially after being named an All-Star last season.
He averaged 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.6 steals per game.
The 6-foot-11 point forward became the first player since LeBron James in 2008-2009 to lead his team in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.
But for the Greek Freak to come away with the league’s highest individual honor, Milwaukee will have to rack up a few more wins than last season’s 42-40 finish and likely advance past the first round of the playoffs, which they have not done since 2001.
They should benefit from a roster that remains relatively intact and seems poised to build off of last season’s postseason berth, where they were eliminated in the first round by Toronto in six games.
Despite not having a bona-fide, knockdown shooter (although Khris Middleton is pretty darn close), the Bucks were among the league’s best shooting teams in connecting on 47.4 percent of their shots which ranked fourth in the NBA.
However, the Bucks had their share of issues defensively despite having the kind of length at every position that, on paper at least, would lead one to believe they were one of the league’s better teams defensively.
But the numbers tell a different story, with the most noticeable being their defensive rating of 106.4, which ranked 19th in the NBA, tied with Houston and Philadelphia, a pair of defensively-challenged teams from last season.
Still, through the playoff series loss and the defensive challenges come growth, the kind that has the Bucks poised as one of the potential surprise teams in the East this season.
In addition to Antetokounmpo, the Bucks return a lineup that includes rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon (the first second-round pick to ever win the award), Jabari Parker, Middleton, as well as increased depth with Tony Snell, John Henson and Thon Maker.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: None.
Key losses: Michael Beasley (free agent to New York).
Rookies of note: D.J. Wilson.
Expectations: 48-34 (Second in the Central Division, fourth in the East)