NBA Eastern Conference Team Preview – Milwaukee Bucks

September 28, 2023

Tony Camino

Bucks NBA Title Favorites After Acquiring Damian Lillard

The Damian Lillard trade saga was almost certain to end with bad news for the Cavaliers, but the Bucks were not the expected landing spot. The Heat, Sixers, and Celtics all appeared to have more interest, and Lillard was attempting to force his way to Miami. Nevertheless, Lillard ended up in Milwaukee in a three-team trade involving the Suns and Blazers, making the path to an NBA title even more challenging.

The Trade Details

Bucks get: Damian Lillard

Blazers get: Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, 1st Round pick, swaps in ‘28 & ’29

Suns get: Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little, Keon Johnson

Big-time trades often require the departure of talented, valued players, and Jrue Holiday is the odd man out here. He’s a terrific defender and was a vital piece of their title run, but the upgrade to Lillard is a great move. The Suns step in to help orchestrate the trade and acquire some valuable depth in exchange for a former number-one overall pick who appeared disinterested in the franchise.

Does the Cavs Lineup Stack Up Against the Bucks?

After a low-key but productive offseason, the Cavs are aiming to become a more versatile and talented team in 2023-24. Adding top free agents from their wish list, Max Strus, Georges Niang, and Ty Jerome, provides them with three players capable of filling various roles and effectively spacing the floor. These new additions should aid the stars in flourishing with more offensive space to work with. However, the revamped Bucks present an intriguing challenge.

Here’s the primary depth chart the Bucks will be working with this season.

PG: Damian Lillard

SG: Pat Connaughton, Malik Beasley

SF: Khris Middleton, Marjon Beauchamp

PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jae Crowder

C: Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis

The opening night starting lineup is still uncertain, as the Bucks could go in several directions at shooting guard. Overall, this team provides Antetokounmpo with the most shooters he’s ever had in his career, with every player listed above, except him, being effective from beyond the arc. This makes them the most formidable team on paper, but everything still needs to come together as expected.

Middleton is coming off a down year where he never seemed to fully regain his form after an injury. If he returns to form and remains consistent, there might not be much anyone can do to stop them when they’re healthy. The spacing in the new Bucks offense will make one-on-one matchups even more critical, and there isn’t a great defensive option to guard Lillard in space aside from Isaac Okoro.

The most significant challenge remains guarding Antetokounmpo, as teams will struggle to handle him in isolation. Evan Mobley or Jarrett Allen will need to be effective at slowing him down just a little bit so that they don’t have to throw more defenders at him. This Bucks team has too many shooters and scorers to send multiple defenders at Antetokounmpo, as they have sometimes done in the past.

The Bucks certainly make the path in the Eastern Conference more challenging, but the ceiling of this Cavs team is right up there with them. Further development of Darius Garland and Mobley can take this team to the next level, and the new additions should create the necessary space for everyone to thrive. Getting past the Bucks won’t be easy, but the Cavs have the talent to do so if they make the leap this year.

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