Here we stand only a few days away from opening night in the NBA, and that means it is once again time for Milwaukee Bucks basketball. Expectations are high for the team this year coming off of a deep run into the playoffs last season. We’ve compiled a few questions for our site’s Bucks writers, Jesse McNamar, David Turicek, and myself to answer as we prepare for the NBA season.
Who is the biggest threat to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference (besides Philadelphia)?
David Turicek: Brooklyn Nets
After acquiring Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and DeAndre Jordan this past free agency, there is no doubt that the Nets could be a serious threat to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference. Without these superstars, Caris Levert and Joe Harris led the Nets to an impressive playoff appearance last season. I see no reason, other than team chemistry issues, that the Nets would struggle to make a return to the playoffs—especially if Kevin Durant is able to recover by then. For this reason, the combination of Durant and Irving along would cause a number of issues for the Bucks. Even with Giannis guarding Durant, the Bucks lack a guard, as far as we know, that can effectively guard premier point guards like Kyrie Irving. This mismatch makes me fear the Bucks having to play the Nets in the playoffs.
Nate Truettner: Boston Celtics
I’m stuck on this one between a few teams. Outside of the near-locked Top 2 teams in Milwaukee and Philadelphia, the East is wide open 3-8. Boston may have found a better point guard for their roster in Kemba Walker while retaining both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Boston has a really solid roster top to bottom, but their bench is a little suspect. Indiana is a more complete team than Boston and has a pair of underrated stars (Oladipo and Turner), but Oladipo is coming off a season-ending knee injury and this team’s offensive production is hard to project, even with Malcolm Brogdon now in the fold. Miami is my third option here. I’m not a huge Jimmy Butler fan but he definitely improves their roster overall as an elite two-way player. Tyler Herro should also be an instant contributor off the bench as a rookie as well. It’s hard to pick between these 3, but I’m leaning Boston as the third best team in the East.
Jesse McNamar: Indiana Pacers
While I do think it’s a firm two-team race in the East, Indiana could put some pressure on in the playoffs. While they don’t have the traditional superstar on their team, the Pacers’ depth chart is filled with starting NBA talent. They already had Victor Oladipo, who is a proven All-Star, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis and added former Bucks’ guard Malcolm Brogdon and 7-year veteran Jeremy Lamb in the offseason. They were a good team last year and they improved in the offseason with extra depth. They may be ready to take the next step this season.
Who’s your pick for NBA MVP?
David Turicek: LeBron James
After finally building his own team and seemingly taking the role of both captain and manager in Los Angeles, LeBron James is about ready to make a significant playoff push in the Western Conference. Now that the Warriors are depleted without Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis has joined the Lakers, there is no reason that LeBron does not flourish this season. While there are many other adequate candidates for the MVP, including the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, much of the spotlight will be on LeBron James because he has no excuses and some would argue that he still needs to assert himself as the best player of all time. This is the season where LeBron sparks a new legacy in Los Angeles, but that does not mean Giannis cannot stop him.
Nate Truettner: Steph Curry
Giannis is the odds-on favorite to repeat as MVP this season. James Harden’s production should be consistent with the past few years, even with the addition of Russell Westbrook. LeBron James and Anthony Davis will get their numbers with the Lakers. Kawhi and Paul George both will be strong contenders for the award. This seems like Steph Curry’s year, though. Golden State lost its best scoring option (KD) in the off-season, and their third best scoring option in Klay Thompson due to injury. Curry will be asked to do a ton to carry Golden State to the playoffs. I’m not crazy about the pairing with D’Angelo Russell, but Curry will still see a scoring increase on sheer volume alone. I’m expecting him to average around 30 points a game and get the Warriors a high playoff seed, landing him the MVP award.
Jesse McNamar: Giannis Antetokounmpo
He’s the favorite and there’s a reason for that. The Freak snatched the MVP from a record-breaking scoring season from James Harden and Giannis is only going to improve while Harden won’t repeat to nearly the same degree. Giannis has improved significantly ever single season and there’s no reason to believe he’s going to slow down. Yes, he is the most dominating player in the league today. But if you watched him play down the stretch last playoffs and especially against Toronto, you’d know he still has a lot of room to improve his game. He showed in the preseason that he’s worked a lot on his jumper and free throws, two aspects he has been below average in his career. Giannis also has the “advantage” of having no other similar superstar in Milwaukee like so many other teams have now. I think this effectively eliminates Harden, Westbrook, James, Davis, Leonard, George, etc. Especially if the Bucks repeat as the Eastern Conference champions, Milwaukee will have a back-to-back MVP.
What’s your Finals prediction?
David Turicek: Bucks over Lakers in 6
With the East split open following Kawhi’s departure and the majority of teams still searching for chemistry, this is the perfect season for the Bucks to build on their success last season and take it to the next step in winning the NBA Finals for the first time in over 50 years. While they may have some competition in the Eastern Conference from the 76ers, Heat, Celtics, Pacers, or Nets, the authentic and drama-ridden Bucks side will thrive yet again. Kevin Durant will likely not play for the majority of the season so the Bucks really need to take advantage of this opportunity. By adding veterans such as Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver, and Robin Lopez, the Bucks have the experience. Oh, right, they have Giannis too. And this year, sit back and enjoy because he Giannis may be shooting threes like Kyle Korver. The Bucks will come up against LeBron James and the Lakers in the 2020 NBA Finals and will spoil LeBron’s dreams of winning a championship in Los Angeles in just six games.
Nate Truettner: Bucks over Clippers in 7
I can’t remember the league being as open as it is right now. The evil empire is finally broken up (thanks Kawhi) and the next champion is anyone’s guess. There’s only two title contenders in the East in my mind: Milwaukee and Philadelphia. I expect them to meet in the Conference Finals and I’m riding with the Bucks to win that series in 6. Things are a little messier in the West. The Clippers, Rockets, Jazz, Nuggets, and Lakers all seem like they could make a title run. The Clippers do seem to be in the best position though so I’ll give them the nod in the West. Bucks-Clippers in the NBA Finals, and of course I’m going to pick the Bucks to win this one in 7 games. Bonus prediction: Giannis signs the supermax with Milwaukee after their championship.
Jesse McNamar: Bucks over Clippers in 6
The Giannis revenge series. Assuming both teams are relatively healthy, this could be one of the most anticipated Finals in years because of the questions surrounding Milwaukee. Can Giannis win in a small market like Milwaukee? Did the Bucks’ front office do enough to prove to Giannis that it’s worth sticking around for the future? Will Giannis sign the supermax with the Bucks’ or find another offer elsewhere? We’re going to hear this all season and it won’t end until someone is holding the trophy. The Clippers are better on paper than the Raptors were last season but we know all too well that what matters most is who is the hottest when the playoffs start. I think the Bucks’ make a major move at the deadline that solidifies the lineup and Milwaukee win its first championship in 49 years.