NBA 2023-2024 Preview: Have the Milwaukee Bucks Taken the Final Step to Success?

Millwaukee Bucks NBA Preview 2023 2024

For a month, our editorial team delves into the intricacies of all 30 teams in the premier American basketball league. Today, we turn our attention to Wisconsin as we preview the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 2022-2023 season isn’t a failure; it’s just a stepping stone to success.

This sentiment echoes a statement made by Giannis Antetokounmpo following a first-round Playoff defeat at the hands of the Heat (1-4). The Greek star of the Milwaukee Bucks tried to downplay his team’s early exit, especially after a thoroughly impressive regular season. Securing 58 wins and suffering 24 losses, and thereby clinching the 1st position in the Western Conference, the Bucks were, quite rightfully, aiming for the NBA Finals. Following this setback, Giannis took the opportunity to urge his management to find reinforcements, a call that certainly didn’t fall on deaf ears.

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Offseason Moves

Departures:

  • Jrue Holiday (to Celtics)
  • Grayson Allen (to Suns)
  • Mike Budenholzer (Coach, Free Agent)
  • Goran Dragic (Free Agent)
  • Wesley Matthews (to Hawks)
  • Joe Ingles (to Magic)
  • Meyers Leonard (Free Agent)
  • Jevon Carter (to Bulls)

Contract Extensions:

  • Khris Middleton
  • Brook Lopez
  • A.J. Green
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo
  • Jae Crowder

New Additions:

  • Damian Lillard (from Blazers)
  • Adrian Griffin (Assistant Coach from Raptors)
  • Malik Beasley (from Lakers)
  • Robin Lopez (from Cavaliers)
  • Cameron Payne (previously with Suns and Spurs)
  • Andre Jackson Jr (36th pick in the 2023 Draft)
  • Chris Livingston (58th pick in the 2023 Draft)
  • TyTy Washington (from Rockets on a two-way contract)

Milwaukee Bucks’ Starting Five:

Damian Lillard, Malik Beasley, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez

Bench Rotation

Point Guards

Cameron Payne, TyTy Washington (two-way)

Shooting Guards

 Andre Jackson Jr, A.J. Green

Small Forwards

Pat Connaughton, Marjon Beauchamp, Chris Livingston

Power Forwards

Bobby Portis, Jae Crowder, Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Centers

Robin Lopez

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

The addition of Damian Lillard forms a stratospheric duo with Giannis Antetokounmpo, both being MVP caliber players. While the Bucks’ defense will take a hit with the departure of Jrue Holiday, the offensive possibilities now available to Adrian Griffin are seemingly boundless, especially with intelligent players surrounding them. Malik Beasley, Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, and Jae Crowder are all players capable of robust defense and making a wide variety of shots, complicating matters for opposing defenses. Factor in the sneaky signing of Cameron Payne as Lillard’s backup, the inclusion of Robin Lopez to add some physical presence in the paint (and to terrorize mascots), and a mix of promising young signees (Andre Jackson Jr, TyTy Washington) and established players (Marjon Beauchamp) in the roster. In short, a well-constructed group that should once again have one of the best records in the NBA next season.

Weaknesses

Concerns surround Khris Middleton, who alternates between injuries and underwhelming performances. The Bucks’ 2021 championship owes a lot to his reliability in crucial moments, which wasn’t the case during the 2023 Playoffs. He has just signed a 3-year extension (with a player option), at a rate cheaper than the $40 million he was promised this season, but it commits the Bucks long-term. With Lillard’s arrival, Middleton will no longer have to shoulder the responsibility of being the second offensive option. This could alleviate some pressure, potentially restoring his confidence in what he does best. Therefore, the success of the Milwaukee Bucks’ season and especially their Playoffs could very well hinge on Khris Middleton’s performance this year.

Player to Watch: Damian Lillard

Averaging 32.2 points in 58 games last season, Damian Lillard statistically had the best season of his career at the age of 33. The former Blazers’ point guard is far from spent and is set to inject his immense talent into the well-oiled roster of the Milwaukee Bucks. While known for his shooting and clutch performances, questions loom over his defense. Defense has never been Dame’s forte, a shortcoming that has been slightly more pronounced in recent years. Analyzing advanced stats, his Defensive Box Plus/Minus was -1.2 last year, -2.7 in 2022, and -1.3 in 2021. Not disastrous by any means, especially when his Offensive Box Plus/Minus was a staggering 8.3 last season. Simply put, Lillard contributes more points than he gives up.

For the first time in his career, Damian Lillard is part of a team widely favored to win an NBA title. He no longer has any excuses and now has to navigate a new dynamic for him – that of being the favorite rather than the underdog. Additionally, for the first time, he finds himself in a franchise where he’s not the primary leader and where there’s already an established style of play, despite the coaching transition from Mike Budenholzer to Adrian Griffin. There’s little doubt regarding his synergy and complementarity with Giannis during the regular season; the question remains how defenses will adapt in the Playoffs and who will find a solution against an increasingly intimidating team.

Season Prediction: 1st in the East

Not only are the Bucks favorites to finish atop the Western Conference, but they are also among the top contenders for the NBA title. The management has pulled out all the stops to satisfy Giannis Antetokounmpo, who no longer has the “step to success” excuse. Success is anticipated this season, at least on paper. It’s time to put those plans into action on the court!

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