14. Milwaukee Bucks
The clock is ticking.
While the Bucks’ biggest change this summer came in filling their head coaching vacancy, there is pressure on these players to prove their mettle and make good on championship pedigree. Mike Budenholzer will get this team to play sound defense, and Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t be the sun and moon on offense any longer.
After trading for Eric Bledsoe and letting Jabari Parker walk, this is the Bucks’ team. Considering that Antetokounmpo just finished an MVP-caliber performance in his fifth season, he doesn’t need a ton of support.
Yet with what little means the Bucks had, they could have done more.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on the latest episode of his podcast that the 3-year, $21 million deal Milwaukee gave Ersan Ilyasova was a direct byproduct of Budenholzer wanting him. Ilyasova played for Budenholzer in Atlanta, and gives Antetokounmpo a better floor-spacer in the frontcourt. Milwaukee doubled down on that idea by giving Brook Lopez $3.3 million for one season.
Those moves probably spelled the beginning of the end for Parker, ignoring the fact that the Bucks also hard-capped themselves in the process by dipping into their biannual exception.
If Bledsoe, Antetokounmpo, Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton coalesce into something formidable, Milwaukee could be knocking at the door of the Finals. If not, the clock starts on Antetokounmpo’s potential departure in 2020.
Those are the stakes.