Who Are The Bucks' Key Players for 2019-2020?
Benny Sieu - USA Today
With just a month to go until the start of a new NBA season, it's time to take an in-depth look at each team’s roster. The Milwaukee Bucks were 60-win team last season; while the roster has stayed relatively intact, there are also several new acquisitions that will play key roles. If the new guys mesh well with the already-solid roster, and last year’s numbers prove to be more than just a mirage, the Bucks will likely be looking at another year of championship contention.
For the purposes of this article, we will be focused on the role players. Obviously Giannis is the most important player on this team, and without him the Bucks would be in trouble. All-Star Khris Middleton is also an imperative member of the squad, and there is no denying the impact he has for the cream and green.
But beyond those two, who else needs to step up for this team to accomplish its goal of reaching the NBA Finals this year?
The first candidate would be Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe probably faces more pressure from his home fans than anyone, and after his poor finish in the playoffs for the second consecutive year, he needs to prove he is capable of playing well in big games. Before the postseason, Bledsoe had a very solid season, one that saw him rewarded with a contract extension in March.
Bledsoe maintaining his first-half-of-the-season form throughout an entire year will be imperative to the Bucks' chances of competing for a championship. If he is able to step up his game, it might just be possible for the nine year veteran to make his first All-Star appearance.
Joining Bledsoe in the backcourt this year will be the newly acquired Wesley Matthews, who has big shoes to fill in replacing Malcolm Brogdon. The Bucks certainly have numerous guys who will slot into Brogdon’s role throughout the season, but Matthews will be most important.
A career 38% three-point shooter, the Bucks will need that and more from Matthews this season. Brogdon was a strong attacker of the basket and a solid defender, something Iron Man is not known for at this stage of his career. He will bring a veteran presence to the table in his hometown Wisconsin, and you can expect him to acclimate to coach Mike Budenholzer’s offense quite comfortably.
George Hill will be another key member of this year’s Bucks squad. Acquired in December in a salary dumping trade, Hill was solid in his first few months in the Brew City; by the postseason, he was turning back the clock, and often appeared to be the Bucks' best player on the court without Giannis.
His postseason experience and veteran leadership has already proved huge for this team, and if he can continue to shoot and attack the rim as he did at times last postseason, he will be worth every cent of the $29 million the Bucks gave him this offseason. With a lot of new faces and an (at times) inconsistent starting point guard, Hill may prove be the most important member of this backcourt.
After re-signing in the offseason, Brook Lopez will be back for another go-around with the Bucks. It’s more than fair to say Lopez was one of the most important players on the roster last year, and he will be again come October.
His ability to stretch the floor at the five spot is huge in today’s NBA, and it especially helps Giannis, as it frees up more space on the floor, which means more room for the Greek Freak to dominate the paint. The Bucks defense and rebounding improved dramatically last season as well, and a great deal of that success can be attributed to Lopez.
Splash Mountain shot 36.5% on 7.9 three-point attempts per game and averaged over two blocks per game last season. If he can produce like that on both ends of the court again this year, the Bucks will be very well-positioned for another 55+ win season. Expect some fun antics from him and his newly acquired brother Robin as well (some of which may already be starting).
While maybe an afterthought for many, a final key player to keep an eye on for this team could be D.J. Wilson. Wilson was picked 17th overall out of Michigan in 2017, but was a complete flop for the Bucks in his rookie year. Wilson began his second campaign injured last year, but when he finally returned, Coach Bud did not hesitate to play him.
Wilson stepped in and looked every bit the part of an NBA player, something that certainly couldn’t be said his first year. While his 20 minutes, six points, and five rebounds per game averages will not jump off the page, the Bucks do not necessarily need star play from Wilson.
What they do need is another quality big man who can stretch the floor while rebounding and banging in the post on defense. Wilson showed flashes of such ability last year, and another year in Bud’s system can only help. In what has suddenly become a crowded front-court, it will be interesting to see if Wilson can emerge out of training camp.
The list could go on and on, as almost every member of this roster will play a key role for the Bucks at some point this season. Last year, they were arguably the deepest team in the league, which was pivotal to their 60-win regular season that culminated in a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
They appear to be pretty deep again, and if the players mentioned above (along with stars like Giannis and Middleton) can all step up, Brew City may finally be looking at a championship winner for the first time in almost 50 years.
Statistics Courtesy of Basketball Reference