The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip-off on Dec. 22. To get you ready for the year to come, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Today, we take a look at the Milwaukee Bucks.
2019-20 season record
56-17, 1st in Eastern Conference
Jrue Holiday, Trade
Jordan Nwora, No. 45 pick of 2020 NBA Draft
Bobby Portis, Free agency
Nik Stauskas, Free agency
Jaylen Adams, Free agency
D.J. Augustin, Free agency
Torrey Craig, Free agency
Bryn Forbes, Free agency
Eric Bledsoe, Trade
George Hill, Trade
Sterling Brown, Free agency
Ersan Ilyasova, Free agency
Kyle Korver, Free agency
Robin Lopez, Free agency
Wesley Matthews, Free agency
Marvin Williams, Retired
|PG||Jrue Holiday||D.J. Augustin||Jaylen Adams|
|SG||Donte DiVincenzo||Bryn Forbes||Nik Stauskas|
|SF||Khris Middleton||Pat Connaughton||Jordan Nwora|
|PF||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Torrey Craig||Thanasis Antetokounmpo|
|C||Brook Lopez||Bobby Portis||DJ Wilson|
3 key storylines
Antetokounmpo's contract extension
This isn't just a key storyline for the Bucks, this is one of the biggest storylines for the entire NBA this season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is currently set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021, and the sweepstakes for the reigning two-time MVP have already begun this offseason with teams hesitant to make certain moves to assure they have cap space to sign The Greek Freak next offseason should he not re-sign with Milwaukee.
The deadline date for Antetokounmpo to sign the dotted line on a contract extension with the Bucks is Dec. 21, the day before the start of the 2020-21 regular season. According to ESPN's Zach Lowe, the supermax deal would be worth "between $220 and $250 million."
If he doesn't sign an extension by Dec. 21, it will be an on-going conversation discussed at a nauseating level throughout the season, and who knows what that type of uncertainty could do to a team's locker room (i.e.: Kyrie Irving in 2018-19 with the Boston Celtics). It's already a talking point, with Antetokounmpo's teammates reportedly getting him pens to sign the extension as a playful gift. While that's light-hearted and funny, there could be a lot more of where that came from.
Will he sign the supermax extension before the Dec. 21 deadline? We only have a few more weeks to find out.
How will Holiday and the new additions fit?
The Bucks' biggest offseason acquisition came in a trade that brought Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Even though he's only a one-time All-Star, there's no doubt that Holiday is among the best two-way guards in the entire NBA and should be an immediate upgrade for a Bucks team hoping to pursue a championship.
Holiday has been a model of consistency on both ends of the floor, giving Milwaukee another scoring threat on offence while still providing elite-level defence at the guard position. NBA.com's Scott Rafferty did a deeper dive into how Holiday fits with the Bucks, mostly highlighting how Holiday provides Milwaukee with a better shooter (knocking down 3s at a 35.4% clip for his career) and playmaker (averaging 6.4 assists per game for his career) than the player they traded in Eric Bledsoe.
Milwaukee's busy offseason didn't stop there, bringing in a plethora of players in free agency that are poised to crack the rotation. D.J. Augustin and Bryn Forbes add a pair of trustworthy ball-handlers off the bench, Torrey Craig gives them a versatile defender to throw at opposing scorers, Bobby Portis adds some much-needed physicality to their frontcourt and Nik Stauskas gives them a marksman shooter to replace Kyle Korver.
Toss in second-round draft selection Jordan Nwora as a potential burst of offence, and this team is recharged for another strong season.
It all makes sense on paper, but making it work on the court is a whole different story. There aren't many reservations that it will eventually click, the question is just how fast will it click.
Can the Bucks reach the NBA Finals?
Finishing with 60 wins in 2018-19, the Bucks seemed destined to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. Taking a 2-1 lead on the Toronto Raptors, putting themselves two wins away from finally returning to the championship round, it was all but certain we'd see Milwaukee competing for a title.
When everything fell apart and the Raptors won four consecutive games to bounce the Bucks from the playoffs, we still knew the Bucks would be back.
In 2019-20, they finished with 56 wins and likely would have gotten to 60 again if not for the coronavirus pandemic suspending the season. They were a powerhouse all season, retaining the No. 1 seed in the East again. Even though they never looked right in the bubble, the expectation was still an NBA Finals run for Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee.
After being eliminated by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, that puts even more pressure on the Bucks to take things a step further this season.
"To think that a season is championship or bust is certainly not how we've approached it," head coach Mike Budenholzer stated in his training camp media availability on Monday.
While that's most certainly trying to take some of that pressure off of his team, there's no fooling anyone that every season with the two-time MVP Antetokounmpo on your team is championship or bust.
Will the Bucks end their 46-year drought of reaching the NBA Finals this season?
5 games to watch
Dec. 23 at Boston Celtics
There's no love-loss between the Bucks and Celtics, and it's must-see-TV every time they face off. Expected to be two of the best teams in the East again this season, this Opening Night matchup for each of these teams will set the tone for the conference in 2020-21.
Dec. 25 vs. Golden State Warriors
Antetokounmpo's Christmas Day debut didn't go as planned last year with the Bucks being routed by the Philadelphia 76ers. He'll have another chance to shine on the NBA regular season's brightest stage when the Bucks go head-to-head with Stephen Curry and the replenished Warriors.
Dec. 29 at Miami Heat
The Heat ended the Bucks' title hopes last season, taking care of business in upset fashion in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. With Miami as reigning champions of the Eastern Conference, Milwaukee will surely be looking for revenge, and this is its first opportunity to get back at the Heat for knocking it out of the playoffs.
Jan. 18 at Brooklyn Nets
With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving ready to rock for the 2020-21 season, the Nets should be a threat to the Bucks' hopes of retaining the East's best record for the third consecutive season. This is the first time we'll get to see Brooklyn's new-look squad square up with the East's top seed, and you won't want to miss it.
Jan. 21 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
To be the best, you've gotta beat the best. Last season was looking like a crash course that would eventually lead to a Bucks-Lakers NBA Finals but when Milwaukee couldn't advance past Miami, we were robbed of that matchup. The Bucks will be eager to take their shot at the defending champions, and watching Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and Anthony Davis battle will never disappoint.
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