For the Eastern Conference, it looks like I have saved the best for last. Some of the teams we’ve discussed up to this point have a shot at winning a title this upcoming season. If they hope to do so, they’ll have to overcome Giannis and the Bucks.
Milwaukee has had plenty of noise coming from their camp this off-season. The concern about Giannis potentially leaving and heading elsewhere forces the team to be aggressive and it paid off. Antetokounmpo signed a massive extension last week and will be continuing his reign of terror on the league in Milwaukee. With the additions the team made and having Giannis resign, it looks like a pretty good off-seasons for the favorites in the East. The team used the draft as a way to supplement talent to use around Giannis. Jordan Nwora and Sam Merrill are both excellent shooters who were taken in the second round. Merrill earned the distinction of “Mr. Irrelevant” for this year’s draft as he was the last player picked. The philosophy for this team has been to get shooters around the Greek Freak and they didn’t waiver from that in the draft.
Milwaukee didn’t waiver from that in free agency either as the team was more offense-oriented in their signings. D.J. Augustin left Orlando for Milwaukee and former top-10 pick Nick Stauskas landed in Cream City as well. Their shooting should fit in Budenholzer’s system well. The team also signed Bobby Portis away from New York and should feel good about the signing. Portis isn’t exactly Kevin Garnett like some expected in his younger days, but the guy can play. This team was already pretty established, so their priority wasn’t to get top-tier talent in free agency. The goal was to add solid talent that fit the team’ scheme and they found that.
Of course, the team also added in defensive menace Jrue Holiday to the fold. He had been long rumored as a potential trade candidate and New Orleans finally pulled the trigger. The deal showed how desperate the Bucks were to keep Giannis happy because of the package they gave up. The team forfeited three picks and gave the Pelicans the rights to swap picks in two other seasons. Despite the massive haul Milwaukee had to concede, they got a tremendous player who should fit the team very nicely. It makes giving up all those draft selections a little easier knowing Antetokounmpo will be around all those years.
The team did lose some pieces from last year’s squad and I don’t mind them not being brought back. Eric Bledsoe was dealt to New Orleans in the Jrue Holiday deal and Bucks fans can rejoice. His playoff performances have been mediocre at best and put a ceiling on how high Milwaukee could go. George Hill was also sent out and has landed in OKC. Wes Matthews, Kyle Korver, and Robin Lopez all left after seeing good playing time last year. Lopez’s departure signals the team’s desire to play smaller, which could be very interesting. Matthews and Korver leaving is interesting. Stauskas was signed to play the Korver role while Dante Divincenzo will be asked to start taking on a larger role to fill the game Matthews left. Dante has struggled to this point in his career and he may not be very good; that could be hard to deal with.
There were a few pieces that changed hands this off-season in Milwaukee and I’m interested to see how it all shakes out. There is more competition in the East this year with Brooklyn being healthy and it could lead to a great race for the number one seed. The whole Bogdan Bogdanovic situation leaves a bad taste in the mouth of people in Milwaukee for sure. This team would be unequivocally the best team in the East with him. Without him, this team is still stellar and one of the favorites to win the title.