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Hiring Mike Budenholzer could make Bucks big factors in Eastern Conference

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Hiring Mike Budenholzer could make Bucks big factors in Eastern Conference

The Milwaukee Bucks were expected by many to take another leap forward in the 2017-18 season with Giannis Antetokounmpo's continual rise as one of the best young players in the NBA, a deep roster and a front office that has proven to be both smart and aggressive in improving the team. That leap did not happen.

Instead, the Bucks dragged their feet to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, exited in the first round of the playoffs and fired head coach Jason Kidd along the way. They finally found a long-term replacement for Kidd this week and the man they chose could be the key to getting them over the hump and into the top tier of the conference.

In comes Mike Budenholzer, formerly of the Atlanta Hawks. ESPN reported on Wednesday that he has reached an agreement to become the Bucks' next coach, replacing interim coach Joe Prunty.

Budenholzer and the Bucks appear to be a great fit. Milwaukee has become progressively worse on defense in each of the past three seasons despite having a roster that should lend itself to that end of the floor. Antetokounmpo is a turnover-inducing force and he is surrounded by capable defenders like Malcolm Brogdon, John Henson and Khris Middleton.

Budenholzer coached the Hawks for five seasons. During the first four, when they made the playoffs each year, his Hawks ranked no worse than 14th in the NBA in defensive rating and they were top-6 in three seasons from 2014-15 through 2016-17.

When Atlanta was at its best under Budenholzer, it was because of their defense. In 2014-15, when they won 60 games, they were fifth in points allowed and sixth in defensive rating. The next season, when they won 48 games, they were sixth and second in those categories.

Budenholzer had some talented teams in Atlanta, and got them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015, but these Bucks may ultimately have a much higher ceiling with Antetokounmpo in the mix. Budenholzer coached several All-Stars in Atlanta, yet none were on the level of Antetokounmpo, an MVP candidate.

Antetokounmpo has a chance to be one of the very best players in the NBA and transcendent stars often make the difference in the playoffs. Budenholzer's Hawks teams were always limited by the fact they lacked superstars that could take over games offensively. Now he has one.

Milwaukee now has a chance to be major factors in the East, but their roster needs some work. Outside of Antetokounmpo, they have considerable talent but will probably need another star to contend for championships. What they have is only so impressives compared to the Sixers and Celtics, in particular. Philly has two budding superstars and Boston has more talent overall. They are best set up to control the conference in the long-term future.

The Bucks, like the Wizards and Heat and other teams, are hoping to join the ranks at the top of the Eastern Conference. By hiring Budenholzer, the Bucks have improved their chances.

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Looking back at the top moments in Wizards All-Star Weekend history

Looking back at the top moments in Wizards All-Star Weekend history

The Wizards sent three representatives to 2020 NBA All-Star Chicago in Rui Hachimura, Moritz Wagner and Davis Bertans. The three young big men will join a long list of D.C. greats that have performed exceptionally well during All-Star Weekend history.

John Wall wins the 2014 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

John Wall was the last All-Star to win the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. In 2014, Wall competed in a revamped format of the Dunk Contest with a freestyle round followed by a battle round. Wall was voted Dunker of the Night.

Javale McGee gets snubbed in the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

McGee came in second place in the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, losing the fan vote to then-Clippers star Blake Griffin. McGee 

Tim Legler wins 1996 Three-Point Contest

Legler is the only Wizard/Bullet to win the Three-Point Shootout. Legler defeated Orlando Magic guard Dennis Scott in the final round of the shootout back in 1996. Legler announced that he almost missed the contest due to the birth of his daughter. After consulting with his wife, she insisted he participate, and they induced labor a week before All-Star Weekend. He dedicated the contest to his newborn and put forward the winning prize money toward her college fund.

Dave Bing named 1976 All-Star Game MVP

Bullets star Dave Bing won MVP in the final All-Star Game of his career. Bing is the only Wizard/Bullet in the franchise's history to be named All-Star Game MVP. He shot 7-of-11 from the floor and scored 16 points.

John Wall named MVP of 2011 Rising Stars Challenge

Wall brought home the hardware during his first Rising Stars Challenge, scoring 12 points and dishing out 22 assists to lead the rookies past a star-studded sophomore squad that included Stephen Curry and James Harden. 

Gilbert Arenas reaches the 2007 Three-Point Contest finals

Arenas competed in the Three-Point Contest in 2006 and 2007 as a member of the Wizards. He came in second place in his first go-round, falling to Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, and lost to Heat sharpshooter Jason Kapono in 2007.

Bradley Beal reaches the 2014 Three-Point Contest finals

Beal reached the final round of the shootout in 2014 but narrowly lost to Spurs guard Marco Belinelli, 24-18.

Davis Bertans reaches the 2020 Three-Point Contest finals

The Latvian Laser held his own in his first-ever Three-Point Contest. Bertans swept his money ball rack and ended up making seven in a row to earn himself a spot in the final round where he eventually lost to Kings' sharpshooter Buddy Hield.

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Kemba Walker, Bam Adebayo among players to call Bradley Beal the biggest All-Star snub

Kemba Walker, Bam Adebayo among players to call Bradley Beal the biggest All-Star snub

There have been so many people to come to the defense of Bradley Beal after the Wizards star was snubbed from the All-Star game. His fiancee, agent, teammates and even his alma mater's mascot have in some form expressed their frustration with the NBA coaches not voting Beal in as a reserve. 

Generally speaking, they're all supposed to defend him. But what about those who made it instead of Beal?

In a video produced by Bleacher Report, several NBA All-Stars and All-Star Saturday night participants gave their take on who they thought was the biggest All-Star snub. 

To me, I think Brad," Celtics star Kemba Walker said. "I know it's tough and they select with team records and things like that, but I definitely think Brad Beal should be here. No question."

Beal is averaging 29.1 points heading into the break, which marks the highest scoring average for a non-All-Star ever. World B. Free was the previous record holder from the 1978-19 season. 

"I feel like Bradley Beal is having an incredible year," Heat center Bam Adebayo said. "I feel like he should've been one of those guys who, off the strength of the players, I feel like he shoulda been here. But, I mean, yeah, I feel like it's [because] of his record, but you know, his performance is incredible and I think he's an All-Star."

During voting for the All-Star starters, Beal came in ninth among Eastern Conference guards for the fan vote and fifth in the media vote. But the players had him second, which would have had him starting in the game Sunday night. 

So it's not all that surprising that the players acknowledge Beal as the biggest All-Star snub this year. Maybe the league can get back on track and get him there next season, because there are more than a few players who made it this year who Beal's easily had a better season than. 

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