With Kawhi Leonard heading West, you would think the Bucks would immediately become East favorites, but it’s not that sample.
Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon this offseason, and questions remain about whether or not the supporting cast can replicate the season it had this past year.
The Bucks are still one of the top teams in the conference, but they are far from a lock to make it to the finals this coming season.
So, here are four burning questions for Milwaukee ahead of training camp:
4. Do They have Enough Wing Depth?
The Bucks signed Wesley Matthews and Kyle Korver this offseason to try and shore up their wing spots, but there are still questions about Milwaukee’s depth at shooting guard and small forward.
For one, Matthews is not even close to the same player he once was thanks to the torn Achilles he suffered several years ago. Korver is 38 years old, and Pat Connaughton is nothing more than a mediocre role player.
Honestly, their best bench wing is probably the inexperienced Sterling Brown, who had a solid year this past season and projects to be a decent three-and-D guy moving forward.
But outside of Khris Middleton, the Bucks don’t have a ton of reliable talent at either the 2 or the 3, and that has to be somewhat concerning for the club heading into the 2019-20 campaign.
3. How do They Replace Malcolm Brogdon’s Scoring?
A legitimate argument can be made that Brogdon was the Bucks’ second-best player this past season, as he had a hyper-efficient year with a ridiculous 50/40/90 slash line.
But Brogdon signed with the Indiana Pacers this summer, leaving Milwaukee with a gaping hole at 2-guard and in terms of scoring in general.
Again, the Bucks tried to patch it up by adding Matthews and Korver, but neither of those players can even come close to replicating Brogdon’s production.
Really, Milwaukee only has two go-to scorers right now in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton, which could end up causing problems for the team as the season progresses (and particularly in the playoffs).
The Bucks were able to get everything working this past season, but there is definitely less talent on the roster right now than there was a year ago, so it remains to be seen how Milwaukee handles the loss of Brogdon.
There were times when Brogdon was the club’s most reliable scorer in key moments in 2018-19.
2. Is Khris Middleton a Capable No. 2 Option on a Title Contender?
The Bucks re-signed Middleton to a massive extension this summer, but there have been questions around the league about whether or not he is worth it.
Middleton is certainly a good player who does pretty much everything well, but is he a legitimate No. 2 guy on a team with championship aspirations? Probably not.
Milwaukee didn’t have enough firepower to make the finals this past year, and that was with Brogdon on the roster, so why should we believe that the Bucks have enough this time around without Brogdon?
I’m just not sure Middleton is that guy. He seems more like a good No. 3 or 4 option on a title contender rather than the second banana, and given that Antetokounmpo still has a pretty big hole in his offensive game (shooting), it would be nice to have more than just Middleton to mitigate that.
Of course, Middleton can prove me (and a lot of people) wrong by having a huge year, but historically, Middleton has been nothing more than just a really good role player who is only moderately efficient (lifetime true-shooting percentage of 56.1 percent).
Will he change that much going into his eighth NBA season? It doesn’t seem all that likely.
1. How will the Bucks Handle the Target on their Backs?
Let’s face it: no one expected the Bucks to do what they did this past season. There were some who thought they could be a top-4 seed, but no one outside of Milwaukee thought that club had a shot of 60 wins.
So, yes; the Bucks caught the league by surprise in a sense.
Now that Milwaukee has everyone’s attention, there will be a target on the team’s back going into the 2019-20 campaign. How will the Bucks handle that?
Remember: it’s not just about Giannis, who will almost certainly be fine. It’s about the role players who may have played a bit over their heads this past year.
Opponents will now be ready for them, and it’s up to Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks to make the necessary adjustments to maintain the level of dominance they did in 2018-19.
And that is no easy task.