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Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Can Giannis Antetokounmpo lead the Milwaukee Bucks to an NBA title?

giannis-khris-eric
Can the Bucks contend for a title in 2020? (NBAE/Getty Images)

With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.

Today, we're looking at the Milwaukee Bucks.

2018-19 season record

60-22 (1st in Eastern Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

58-24 (1st in Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

Thanasis Antetokounmpo (free agency)

Dragan Bender (free agency)

Kyle Korver (free agency)

Robin Lopez (free agency)

Wesley Matthews (free agency)

Notable departures

Malcolm Brogdon (sign-and-trade)

Nikola Mirotić (free agency)

Tony Snell (free agency)

Depth chart

Starter 2nd 3rd 4th
PG Eric Bledsoe George Hill Frank Mason III
SG Wesley Matthews Pat Connaughton Sterling Brown Donte DiVincenzo
SF Khris Middleton Thanasis Antetokounmpo Kyle Korver Cameron Reynolds
PF Giannis Antetokounmpo Ersan Ilyasova DJ Wilson Dragan Bender
C Brook Lopez Robin Lopez

3 key storylines

Giannis' MVP Encore

On July 14 - three weeks after earning the honour - Giannis Antetokounmpo asked that fans stop calling him MVP until he won it again. This offseason, the 24-year-old also said that he feels he is only at 60% of his full potential.

That doesn't sound like a man that's content with where he's at in his career.

Hungry and motivated by the bitter way that the 2018-19 season came to an end, Giannis enters this season looking to continue his trend of steady improvement while imposing his will on the league.

Given the fact that the Greek Freak averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game in 2018-19, could we see him average 30 and 15? It's certainly not outside of the realm of possibility.

Of course, the biggest focus will be on Antetokounmpo's development as a jump-shooting threat, a dynamic that would make him virtually unstoppable. Should he add a reliable jumper to his arsenal this year, he'd be moving closer to his full potential while bringing the Bucks closer to that highly-coveted NBA title.

The strength of the starting unit

While yet another MVP-calibre season is expected from Antetokounmpo, this team can only go as far as the remainder of its starting five.

Khris Middleton, who is coming off of the first All-Star selection of his career, remains in Milwaukee after signing a five-year, $178 million deal this offseason. The 28-year-old Middleton will again be looked upon to have another All-Star year as his shooting, playmaking and defensive abilities are a major key to the team's success.

After Middleton, point guard Eric Bledsoe will be looked upon to bounce back as he saw his production dip in the postseason. The loss of Malcolm Brogdon adds to the meaning of Bledsoe's importance and George Hill will take on the remaining responsibilities at the lead guard position.

Brogdon, the former Rookie of the Year, did a great job of making up for some of the Bucks' backcourt issues in the 2019 postseason and his absence will surely be felt if Bledsoe does not play at a high level throughout the year.

The Bucks brought in 11-year veteran Wesley Matthews to start in the backcourt alongside Bledsoe. Matthews, who will be 33 this season, has the potential to bring 3-point shooting and savvy play in addition to his veteran leadership.

Rounding out the starting unit is Brook Lopez, who established himself as one of the best rim-protecting and 3-point shooting bigs in the NBA last season. Can he sustain the high standard of play he set for himself in 2018-19? Lopez's ability to stretch the floor as a 3-point shooter is a critical component of the Bucks' offence and spreading the floor for Giannis, who thrives with the ability to create in space.

Milwaukee's unique depth will allow it to alternate pieces to figure things out but the team will ideally look to stick with the players that it has invested in for the coming years.

Contending for a title

Milwaukee was just two wins away. After taking a 2-0 lead in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals over the Raptors, the Bucks would go on to lose four straight games to Kawhi Leonard and company, and we all know how the story goes from there.

Now, with the defending champs' Finals MVP and starting shooting guard Danny Green gone, focus shifts to the Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers as the two teams most likely to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2020 NBA Finals.

For Milwaukee, a team that came so close last season, the realistic goal of progression should be to emerge as a contender to win the franchise's first title since 1971. Last year's loss was almost a rite of passage - the proverbial bump in the road on the journey of becoming a champion; every great story has at least one.

With Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Bucks have one of the deepest, most talented rosters in the Eastern Conference and again look to put the NBA on notice after finishing with the league's top record last season.

The focus now shifts to not only being good enough to best the Sixers but equipping this team to outlast the elite teams in the Western Conference, who could very well wear each other down on their respective paths to the Finals.

5 games to watch

Oct. 24 at Houston Rockets

Russell Westbrook. James Harden. Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Opening night for both the Rockets and Bucks means must-see television when the league's last three MVPs share the floor. Giannis' quest for back-to-back MVPs begins while Harden looks to reclaim the honour.

Nov. 2 vs. Toronto Raptors

Who doesn't love a playoff rematch? The Raptors and Bucks meet for the first time since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and vengeance is sure to be on Milwaukee's minds.

Nov. 6 at LA Clippers

Days after facing the team that eliminated them in the Conference Finals, the Bucks head West to face Kawhi Leonard, the player that dominated that series. It's a battle of NBA.com's top two-ranked players as Giannis and Kawhi go head-to-head.

Dec. 19 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the new-look Lakers make their lone trip to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks in December. There will be no shortage of star power as two of the league's most talented teams battle it out.

Dec. 25 at Philadelphia 76ers

There's a brewing rivalry between the Sixers and Bucks, the two presumptive favourites out of the Eastern Conference. The two teams meet for the first of four times on Christmas Day, setting the stage for Giannis, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to put their talents on full display.

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