Bucks overhaul roster in attempt to improve playoff fortunes
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Now that they have a long-term commitment from the reigning two-time MVP, the Milwaukee Bucks can focus on chasing the NBA title that has eluded them for the last half-century.
Milwaukee will go the entire regular season without earning a victory as big as the one it got Tuesday when Giannis Antetokounmpo announced he planned to stay with the Bucks for at least the next five years.
The Bucks could offer a five-year deal worth over $220 million. Antetokounmpo had until Monday to decide or else he could have become a free agent at the end of the season.
“This is my home, this is my city,” Antetokounmpo said on Twitter and Instagram. “I’m blessed to be able to be a part of the Milwaukee Bucks for the next 5 years. Let’s make these years count. The show goes on, let’s get it.”
Having the NBA’s best regular-season record and the league’s MVP each of the last two years hasn’t produced any payoff in the playoffs for the Milwaukee Bucks.
They’re hoping a roster overhaul helps deliver them their first title since 1971.
The Bucks paid a hefty price to acquire guard Jrue Holiday to join a nucleus that includes Antetokounmpo, All-Star forward Khris Middleton and center Brook Lopez as they try to solve their postseason problems. Milwaukee lost to Miami in the second round last season after blowing a 2-0 lead to Toronto in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals.
“Obviously everybody wants to win a championship,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m not playing not to win a championship. I’m not playing to be second, third or fifth. I’m playing to be the best. Obviously (you) want to be at the end, the last team standing. But you’ve got to take steps to that.”
The Bucks gave up guards Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, first-round draft pick R.J. Hampton and two future first-round selections as part of the four-team deal that brought Holiday to Milwaukee.
That trade could have severely hindered Milwaukee’s chances of revamping its roster if Antetokounmpo leaves. But that’s not something the Bucks have to worry about anymore.
“It’s special to add (Holiday) to our team,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Just the kind of guy he is and what he brings, we just feel like you know, He’s a perfect fit for us and it’s going to make us better.”
NEW BENCH MOB
The Bucks have almost an entirely new group of reserves.
Hill, Robin Lopez, Ersan Ilyasova, Kyle Korver, Marvin Williams and Sterling Brown have departed. The Bucks added Bobby Portis, D.J. Augustin, Bryn Forbes and Torrey Craig.
Portis should provide scoring and toughness. Augustin gives the Bucks a veteran backup point guard. Forbes offers quality shooting and Craig is a solid defender. D.J. Wilson also could have a bigger role off the bench.
“I think one thing that I’ve seen throughout my two years here and I think will continue on this year especially is Coach Bud’s trust in cycling guys through and playing a deeper bench than some NBA teams,” said Pat Connaughton, one of the Bucks’ few returning reserves. “I’ve been on NBA teams where eight guys play, sometimes nine, but you don’t really get past that. With the Bucks, we’ve had 10, 11, 12 guys produce.”
STRONG ON DEFENSE
Milwaukee should again boast one of the NBA’s top defenses. Antetokounmpo was the league’s defensive player of the year last season and Lopez was a second-team pick on the all-defensive team. Holiday was a first-team all-defensive selection in 2018 ad a second-team pick in 2019.
All the new faces on this roster could make it difficult for the Bucks to post the NBA’s top regular-season record for a third straight season. Holiday isn’t sure how long it will take everyone to get accustomed to playing together.
“I don’t think you can put a number on it, but with this group of guys, they’re serious about what they do,” Holiday said.
Donte DiVincenzo was reportedly headed to Sacramento in the offseason as part of a sign-and-trade bringing Bogdan Bogdanovic to Milwaukee. That deal fell apart. Now the Bucks need a big season from DiVincenzo, who could move into the starting lineup now that Wesley Matthews has left for the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I’m thankful to be here and that I’m wearing Bucks across my chest,” DiVincenzo said.
PORTIS’ LONG LAYOFF
While the rest of the Bucks had a short offseason, Portis hasn’t played a game that matters in nine months. He played last year for the New York Knicks, whose season ended in March.
“I stayed dedicated to my craft,” Portis said. “I sacrificed a lot this summer and God blessed me to be in this position, to be on one of the better teams in the NBA, so I’m not going to take it for granted.”
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