Following a four-month hiatus as a result of COVID-19, the NBA is getting ready for a long-anticipated league restart. Beginning on July 31st, the top 22 teams will compete at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando. Given that there will be a secured “bubble”, concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and no fans, it’s safe to say that this will be a season unlike any other. Taking the unique NBA landscape into consideration, the Last Word on Pro Basketball staff continues this contender or pretender series with the Milwaukee Bucks.
NBA Contenders or Pretenders? Milwaukee Bucks
The Giannis Show
Giannis Antetokounmpo is arguably the best player in the league right now. All signs indicate that he will win his second consecutive MVP award this season. This, without question, is well deserved.
Simply put, Antetokounmpo is the best player on the best team right now. So far this season, in just over 30 minutes per game, Antetokounmpo is averaging roughly 30 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists. There’s no other way to put it – those numbers are insane.
It helps that he’s an extremely mobile and athletic 6’11” forward. It’s almost impossible to find a defender who can keep him in check. A few names come to mind, like perhaps Anthony Davis, but Antetokounmpo can put up numbers in many different ways.
The Bucks’ success goes as far as Antetokounmpo can take them. Until he can be stopped, that’s a great situation for a team to be in.
Besides having Antetokounmpo on board, the Bucks provide him with a very solid supporting cast.
The first notable name is Khris Middleton. Middleton has emerged as one of the league’s best sidekicks, as seen in his two consecutive All-Star appearances. This season he’s averaging about 21 points, six rebounds, and four assists per game. He’s also shined in games where Antetokounmpo was absent. Middleton is more than capable of carrying a team for a few games if needed.
Eric Bledsoe is proving to be a very solid fit on this roster. The “do it all” point guard meshes well on the Bucks because of his ability to play off the ball. He can, however, lead his offense too. He’s also a very physical player on both ends of the court. Bledsoe tested positive for COVID-19, however, but signs point to him joining the team soon.
Brook Lopez has become a legitimate long-range threat as the center, George Hill is shooting the good as ever, Donte DiVincenzo is a fantastic two-way bench player, and Wesley Matthews is a veteran three-and-d starter. Antetokounmpo has a supporting cast that can help him reach the Finals.
Eastern Conference Threats
The Bucks virtually have the first seed locked up in the East. They’re 6.5 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Raptors. This means they’ll likely play a mediocre Orlando Magic team in the first round, or one of the injury-depleted Brooklyn Nets or Washinton Wizards.
The reigning champions in the Raptors have barely missed a beat without Kawhi Leonard. The Celtics are better with Kemba Walker, and Jayson Tatum is becoming a star. Jimmy Butler is leading one of the most surprising teams in the league in Miami. Philadelphia has struggled, but Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are elite talents.
The East is no cakewalk. Milwaukee is in for a challenge past the first round.
Milwaukee Bucks Verdict: Contender
The Bucks have the best record in the league. Antetokounmpo is the likely MVP. The tools are all there for a championship run.
Eastern Conference foes have improved, but the Bucks have had the better of them, for the most part, this season. Odds are in their favor to make the Finals. That is where things will truly become interesting. It’s a safe prediction to say one of the two Los Angeles teams will make the Finals. If this is the case, the Bucks will be in for a match-up versus teams that employ several elite players.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images