BDL's 2017-18 Season Previews: Milwaukee Bucks, the East's sleeping giant

The 2017 offseason was the wildest in NBA history. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are now Eastern Conference rivals. Out West, Chris Paul joined James Harden, while Paul George and Carmelo Anthony united with Russell Westbrook. Ten recent AllStars changed uniforms, and we haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant’s strange summer, so let’s get to previewing. The 2017-18 NBA season is finally upon us.

Can Jabari Parker still become the complement to Giannis Antetokounmpo we always imagined for the Bucks? (AP)

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

2016-17 finish: 42-40, lost in the first round
Offensive rating: 106.9 (13th)
Defensive rating: 106.4 (19th)

Additions: D.J. Wilson, Sterling Brown, Gerald Green
Subtractions: Michael Beasley, Spencer Hawes

Did the summer help at all?

It didn’t really hurt.

Beasley’s versatility was helpful off the bench last season until a knee injury limited his effectiveness down the stretch, and they figured Hawes was expendable enough to waive this summer. So, there’s not much the Bucks stand to lose by replacing them with first- and second-round picks Wilson and Brown, who at 21 and 22 years old may be better prepared than most rookies to contribute right away.

Sending those veterans packing also allows Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd to up the minutes load for Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker in their sophomore seasons. Those two actually started as rookies in the playoffs, and the Bucks outscored the Toronto Raptors in the first round with them on the floor.

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Meanwhile, the addition of Green, should he make the team on a non-guaranteed veteran minimum contract, would further strengthen the Bucks’ positional versatility and floor-spacing. The 31-year-old, 6-foot-7 wing started seven playoff games for the Boston Celtics last season, shooting nearly 50 percent from 3-point range. He was also a beloved member of the locker room and would be a veteran presence alongside 40-year-old future coach Jason Terry on a team with limited NBA experience.

Most importantly, Milwaukee returns Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose next logical progression from the Second-Team All-NBA and All-Defensive teams last season is as a viable MVP candidate in 2017-18. The ever-underrated Khris Middleton should begin this season healthy, and at some point Jabari Parker will be back from another ACL surgery. There is hope yet that Kidd could finally unlock the team’s supposed Big Three of the future in time for a playoff run in the watered-down Eastern Conference.

Greg Monroe is listed at 6-foot-11. Thon Maker is a tall man. (AP)

Best-case scenario: Antetokounmpo makes the Greek-freakish leap from bona fide star to transcendent talent. Parker returns to pre-second-ACL-surgery form. Brogdon, Maker and Tony Snell further develop in their second seasons under Kidd. John Henson re-emerges as the low-post player once worthy of a $48 million contract. And Middleton’s Swiss Army knife skill set fills in the gaps.

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The Bucks know what they’re getting in Greg Monroe’s old-school big-man game, Mirza Teletovic’s shooting touch and Matthew Dellavedova’s true grit, but it is those other factors that will determine whether Milwaukee can earn a home playoff seed and contend for the Eastern Conference finals.

If everything falls apart: So long as Giannis stays healthy, it’s hard to imagine Milwaukee completely falling apart, but the real fear is that the young Bucks stagnate. Parker is the key. The 2014 No. 2 pick is already approaching restricted free agency. If he doesn’t get the max extension he’s reportedly seeking, he might still command a hefty salary in restricted free agency next summer. A lack of progress from Parker is the absolute worst-case scenario, because the Bucks will be faced with the impossible decision of gambling any future cap space on a guy who may never be the same or cutting their losses on a player who, along with Antetokounmpo, once embodied championship promise.

Best guess at a record: 46-36

Read all of Ball Don’t Lie’s 2017-18 NBA Season Previews:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Atlanta HawksBoston CelticsBrooklyn NetsCharlotte HornetsChicago BullsCleveland CavaliersDetroit PistonsIndiana PacersMiami HeatMilwaukee BucksNew York KnicksOrlando MagicPhiladelphia 76ersToronto RaptorsWashington Wizards

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Dallas MavericksDenver NuggetsGolden State WarriorsHouston RocketsLos Angeles ClippersLos Angeles LakersMemphis GrizzliesMinnesota TimberwolvesNew Orleans PelicansOklahoma City ThunderPhoenix SunsPortland Trail BlazersSacramento KingsSan Antonio SpursUtah Jazz

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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