Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Milwaukee Bucks Season Preview

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The Bucks had a bit of everything last season. After a five-game stretch that resulted in defeat in four of the five, Jason Kidd was relieved as the team’s head coach. The Bucks record was 23-22 at that time. Team General Manager Jon Horst (newly promoted also) said it was time for a change. Joe Prunty was installed as the interim Head Coach for the remainder of the season. This all took place hours before the Bucks faced the Phoenix Suns. There was also the Sterling Brown incident. Brown (a Buck) was tased and arrested outside of a drugstore. Police reports described Brown as aggressive. The body camera images showed differently. Apologies from the Milwaukee Police Chief and Mayor quickly followed.

In a season of upheaval, turmoil, and even tumult, the Milwaukee Bucks still pushed the Boston Celtics to the brink. It took the Celtics seven hard-fought games and home-court advantage to end the Bucks’ season. Here’s the Milwaukee Bucks season preview.

Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Milwaukee Bucks Season Preview

What Worked Last Season

What worked last season? Simply put, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo took that giant step from star to legitimate superstar. At just 23 years old, Antetokounmpo’s play vaulted him into the middle of Kia MVP talk. Antetokounmpo showed a multitude of skills that presumably makes him a terror in the NBA for the foreseeable future. After showing much-needed improvement in his outside shooting, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks in points, rebounds and blocked shots per game. It’s worth noting that Antetokounmpo was also second in assists and steals. Needless to say, Antetokounmpo led every advanced metrics category Bucks last season.

Guards Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe were vital allies to Antetokounmpo and crucial to the Bucks success. Middleton, in particular, proved his health by playing in all 82 games. It appears the torn hamstring of 2016 is now fully behind him. While playing an approximately 36 minutes per game, Middleton averaged 20.1 points, 4 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. Bledsoe’s case was different. After 4 seasons with the Phoenix Suns, Bledsoe maneuvered his way out. In Milwaukee, Bledsoe found a new home with comfortable surroundings. As a Buck, Bledsoe averaged 17.8 points, 5.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. Middleton and Bledsoe led the Buck in threes attempted and made with decent accuracy (35.9 percent and 34.9 percent respectively).

What Needs Improvement

‘A goal without a plan is a wish.’ Words of Herman Edwards. Too many times last season, the Bucks looked like a team without a plan. The team lacked structure offensively. There were too many “ad-lib Antetokounmpo” instances. Though talented, the Bucks seemed lost many nights in the closing minutes of games. This fell squarely in the lap of Prunty and the coaching staff. Of course, it’s not helped by the inconsistent play of Jabari Parker (now departed), Tony Snell and John Henson.

Health was also an issue, therefore depth was an issue. This was evident in the guard rotations. Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova both missed significant time last season due to injury.

Off-season Changes

Prunty got the Bucks to playoffs. However, Prunty was not seriously considered for the role permanently. In comes Mike Budenholzer. Budenholzer comes with a substantial resume based on his years with the Atlanta Hawks. Remember Budenholzer was Coach of the Year in 2014-15. Budenholzer brings stability and consistency to the Bucks team. There will be a plan to combine with the goal. Efficiency is a hallmark of Budenholzer. To this end, it’s expected that Middleton shoots more threes and fewer mid-range shots.

The Bucks also added veteran free agent center, Brook Lopez. Offensively, Lopez provides long distance shooting range and an interior presence. Lopez will help space the floor for Antetokounmpo. So too will Ersan Ilyasova. For Ilyasova, this is a return to the team that drafted him back in 2006. After a surprising playoff run with the Philadelphia 76ers, Ilyasova expects to do the same in Milwaukee. The Bucks drafted NCAA Final Four MVP Donte DiVincenzo. DiVincenzo much like Brogdon enters the NBA after at least 3 years in college.

2018-19 Season Prediction

The Central Division is wide open for the Bucks. Given the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers are weaker than they were the previous four seasons, the only competition will be the Indiana Pacers. That said, the Bucks wins the Central Division in a weakened Eastern Conference with both teams ultimately making the playoffs. Expect this Bucks team to win 50 games.

Main Image:

CHICAGO, USA – OCTOBER 6: Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) of Milwaukee Bucks during the preseason NBA game between Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks, in Chicago, United States, on October 6, 2017.
(Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)