The Milwaukee Bucks are a team with serious championship aspirations this season. Are there any other ways to consider the 2019-20 season a success?
Last year was a season to remember for the Milwaukee Bucks. Finishing with the third-best record in franchise history, NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo led his team all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Losing to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors, the 2018-19 season set the bar extremely high and made one thing clear: The Bucks are in championship-or-bust mode.
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Point guard Eric Bledsoe signed a four-year contract extension in March. Reigning Executive of the Year Jon Horst made it a point to keep Giannis’ supporting cast intact, as he re-signed Khris Middleton to a five-year, $178 million contract and had Brook Lopez re-up on a four-year, $52 million commitment.
Veteran floor general George Hill also returned for three years at $28.8 million.
Despite uber-efficient guard Malcolm Brogdon being shipped to the Indiana Pacers in a sign-and-trade, all hope is not lost in the Milwaukee backcourt. Free agent acquisitions Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver will help replace some of the 3-point shooting lost because of Brogdon’s departure.
The backup center position is shored up following the signing of Brook’s twin brother, Robin Lopez. Overall, the roster is in place for a successful 2019-20 season. With that said, how can we measure that success?
First, growth from young players is key. Donte DiVincenzo spent part of his rookie season on the shelf due to injury and when he was on the court, his 3-point shooting was completely absent. Sterling Brown didn’t make the leap many had hoped. Pat Connaughton was solid but unspectacular in his first season with the Bucks.
The aforementioned additions of Matthews and Korver may crowd the guard picture a bit and Frank Mason III will push for playing time but nevertheless, the trio of DiVincenzo/Brown/Connaughton must be consistent.
D.J. Wilson had high expectations heading into last season, but didn’t meet them. His potential on the defensive end is sky-high and there’s plenty of room to grow on offense as well. Year three will be huge for him.
Dragan Bender has an opportunity to hit the reset button on his career after a disappointing three-year stint with the lowly Phoenix Suns. If any combination of youngsters steps up under head coach Mike Budenholzer, that’d be a huge boost to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Secondly, Giannis Antetokounmpo must not only pick up where he left off after an MVP 2018-19 season, but he must find ways to improve. Adding a reliable 3-point shot to his arsenal is essentially the only thing keeping him from being the best player in the league.
The 24-year-old shot a meager 25.6 percent from that area last season, which would’ve ranked dead last in the league had he qualified. Opposing defenses may take a page out of Toronto’s game plan, forcing Antetokounmpo into settling for jumpers. If he can alleviate this concern, the sky is the limit for both him and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Last, but certainly not least, Milwaukee must win a championship in order for this season to be considered a success. Taking a team to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals isn’t going to cut it. The main core is back with minor tweaks around the edges to ensure a deep, talented, well-rounded roster.
Antetokounmpo’s legend is growing more and more by the day and an NBA title at the age of 25 would take it to new heights. With the Golden State Warriors no longer considered the odds-on favorites to win it all and Kawhi Leonard leaving Toronto, the time to capitalize is now.
Not too many NBA fan bases have the luxury — or burden, depending on how you look at it — of demanding a championship win. If the Milwaukee Bucks don’t reach the pinnacle of NBA success in 2019-20, they might have missed their best shot to do so. The notorious “window” is wide open right now, but it’s up to Mike Budenholzer and his squad to climb through it come June.