The 2017-2018 season marked the 50th season in Milwaukee Bucks basketball history. In the first season as general manager, Jon Horst saw the franchise go 44-38 and earned a trip to the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Sadly, their season would end following a seven game loss to the Boston Celtics.
With Jason Kidd out, a new head coach is ready to take the reigns and lead the Bucks to the newly built Fiserv Forum. The goal this season: make it past the first round for the first time since 2001. Following the emergence of some of their talent, the Bucks are definitely in the mix of teams to take the Eastern Conference title.
Will it be the year to fear the deer? Here is a preview of the 2018-2019 Milwaukee Bucks.
New head coach
Finding a new head coach was the top priority for Jon Horst. The offseason was labeled the most important in franchise history. 10 candidates would enter the field, with names such as David Blatt, Monty Williams, Steve Clifford and Ettore Messina getting an interview.
These potential targets were good, but they were not at the top of the Bucks' list. After a week of interviews, the Bucks announced that they picked their guy. On May 17, Mike Budenholzer was named the next Milwaukee Bucks head coach.
Budenholzer, 48, was recently the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, guiding them to a 213-197 record over the course of five season. In that time the Hawks made four playoff appearances and holds the franchise best 60-22 record for the 2014-15 season. He was named NBA Coach of the Year that season an took the Hawks to the 2014-15 Eastern Conference Finals.
Prior to joining the Hawks, Budenholzer spent the previous 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, including the final 17 seasons as an assistant coach with two as the team's video coordinator. During his tenure with the Spurs he was part of one of the most successful eras in NBA history. As an assistant coach, he helped lead San Antonio to a league-best 908-438 (.675) regular season record and four NBA Championships (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007).
The Milwaukee Bucks made just one selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, selecting Donte DiVincenzo with the 17th pick.
During his time at Villanova, shot a career 46.9 percent from the field, with shooting 37.8 from behind the arc. During his junior year, DiVincenzo averaged 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
Measuring in at 6’4.5 in shoes with a solid 6’6 wingspan and strong 201-pound frame, DiVincenzo has nice size for a combo guard, but lacks a degree of length. He compensates with great energy and all-around athleticism.
He is not afraid to come off the bench as he did so often for the Wildcats. DiVincenzo did most of his damage as a set shooter off the ball, but also scored at a strong rate creating out of ball screen and hand off actions as well as with or without the ball in transition. With a reputation as a rowdy defender, he will have to continue to get better on the defensive side of the ball to earn quality minutes.
Fans were not given an opportunity to see DiVincenzo during the Las Vegas Summer League as he played in just two games, totaling 13.5 minutes per game.
The Bucks were very active during the free agency period. In total, three players were signed to NBA level contracts, three were signed to training camp contracts and two were signed to two-way contracts.
Ersan Ilyasova signed a three-year, $21 million contract on July 16th, returning where his career first started. For his career, Ilyasova is averaging 11 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. The very next day Milwaukee signed Brook Lopez to a one-year, $3.38 million contract. Lopez spent last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 13 points and 4 rebounds per game. Lopez also is a career 50 percent shooter from the field. Pat Connaughton signed a two-year, $3.36 million contract on August 1st.
Former Duke Blue Devil Trevon Duval and former Molloy Lions guard Jaylen Morris are on two-way contracts, they most likely starting their season with the Wisconsin Herd. Brandon McCoy, Travis Trice and Jordan Barnett have been giving invites to training camp.
Their only loss of the offseason was forward Jabari Parker. Once a highly touted prospect, Parker was elected second overall by the Bucks in the 2014 NBA Draft. Injuries would plague Parker for most of his tenure in Milwaukee and was never really able to get back to that potential superstar level of play. The Bucks would reject offering Parker a qualifying offer, allowing him to sign with any team. Ultimately, Parker signed a contract to return to the city where we was born, signing with the Chicago Bulls.
PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Malcolm Brogdon
SF: Khris Middleton
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Brook Lopez
Guards: Matthew Dellavedova, Sterling Brown, Tony Snell, Donte DiVincenzo, Pat Connaughton
Forwards/Centers: Ersan Ilyasova, Thon Maker, D.J. Wilson, John Henson, Tyler Zeller
The goal for this season has to be get past the first round in the Eastern Conference and reach the Semi-Finals. If they don't, once again the season will be seen as a failure. Depending where they finish in the standings, there could be a potential playoff matchup with either the Indiana Pacers or Philadelphia 76ers. Can it be done? Possibly.
Most of the seasons' success will hinge on the shoulders of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell. These guys have been a major part of the success that has been the Bucks rebuild and now have to take the second step.
Another story line that fans will be paying attention to is how well Mike Budenholzer will do in his first season. Budenholzer has a track record of being one of the best defensive coached in the league. If he can coach up Antetokounmpo and Brogdon on how to best use their length and athleticism, combined with two-way player Middleton and getting the most defensively out of Eric Bledsoe, the Bucks could turn themselves into one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.
Brook Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova and Tyler Zeller now in the mix, which one will play best with Antetokounmpo in the front court? How improved will the front court be from a year ago? From the rotation of centers a year ago, Thon Maker, John Henson and Zeller averaged 6.5 points per game.
As for personal accolades, Antetokounmpo could be on track to make another All-NBA selection. With so much talent in the NBA, Khris Middleton could also make a case for a All-NBA section. Antetokounmpo will also be in consideration for another All-Star appearance. Budenholzer could be up for Coach of the Year honors at seasons end as well.