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Tuesday, 03 October 2017 01:45

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics: 2017-18 NBA Season Preview | Powered by CLNS Media

2016-17 Round-up: Last season was the season of the Greek for the 42-40 Milwaukee Bucks, as rising superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo took the necessary steps in becoming not only one of the NBA’s best players under 23-years-old, but perhaps the game’s best weapon next to LeBron James. Antetokounmpo became the youngest player in league history (joining Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Russell Westbrook, Scottie Pippen, Chris Webber, Antoine Walker and James) to put together such a well-rounded and incredible single season.

With Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Bucks nearly surprised the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs, before ultimately succumbing to a six-game defeat. The Bucks received a pleasant surprise with second-round pick Malcolm Brogdon’s Rookie of the Year performance, as the savvy guard solidified his standing as the Bucks’ starting point guard of the future. In an unfortunate turn of events for basketball fans everywhere, Jabari Parker went down with an ACL tear in his left knee, the second time Parker has suffered the injury in three seasons with the Bucks. 

At the same time Parker exited the 2016-17 season, Khris Middleton arrived. After missing the majority of the season recovering from a torn hamstring, Middleton played the final 29 games of the season, providing a nice outside shooting touch (43 percent three-point shooting) in the process.

After demolishing the Raptors 104-77 in Game 3 of their series and taking a 2-1 series lead, the Bucks would go on to lose three straight to end the series. The last time Milwaukee won a playoff series was in May 2001 against the Charlotte Hornets in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Thanks to a scheduling quirk, the Bucks met the Boston Celtics only three times. The Celtics and Bucks traded home-and-home results the first two contests (a 112-108 overtime win by the Celtics in Milwaukee, and a 103-100 loss to the Bucks in Boston). With little to play for on the Bucks’ end (Boston was still vying for home court), the Celtics easily won in the season finale.

Offseason Grades: B-

Tony Snell got PAID (4-years, $46 million) for someone who hasn’t averaged more than 8.5 points per game, while Michael Beasley - 9.4 points last season - jumped to the New York Knicks for $2.1 million for one season; Forty-year old Jason Terry ultimately received a one-year deal to come back for another season, while veterans Brandon Rush and Gerald Green (with Boston last season) will look for success in Jason Kidd’s system. The team drafted stretch forward D.J. Wilson with the 17th overall pick.

Training Camp Questions: Can Brogdon make the leap from surprising rookie to a consistent starter? Can second-year forward Thon Maker do the same? Can Parker return to 75 percent of where he was a season ago? Can Greg Monroe finally worm his way out of head coach Jason Kidd’s doghouse? Can Antetokounmpo cover up his only weakness and develop a three-point shot?

Next Move They Make: Reports may be differing, yet there is no denying that the Bucks were sniffing around the Kyrie Irving trade market when the former Cav was being shopped. If Parker was healthy, Milwaukee would be an enticing location for any future superstar to go on the market. Parker’s long term health, however, is in question.

How They Beat The Boston Celtics: Despite being in Kidd’s doghouse against just about everyone else, Monroe has been unleashed in games against the Celtics. The 27-year-old traditional big man put up 13/9 on 50 percent shooting in three games against Boston, and has generally disrupted Celtics bigs in the past.

On top of Monroe’s size, the Bucks’ super-length positions 1-through-5 has caused issues for previous Celtics squads who lacked height (FiveThirtyEighthad Milwaukee as the NBA’s tallest team to begin last season).

If Antetokounmpo goes off, any opponent is susceptible to defeat (particularly in a Milwaukee arena that generally resembles a college crowd). Add in a defense that can lock down opposing offenses in the halfcourt, and the Celtics - in the right scenario - could fall in a playoff series against the Bucks.

Trending: Although Antetokounmpo’s contract isn’t up until after the 2020-21 season, the clock is ticking for the Bucks. If Parker can return to consistent health and/or the Bucks can surround Antetokounmpo with another star, the Bucks should be contenders in an ever-fluctuating Eastern Conference for years to come.

Final Record/Standings Prediction: 48-34, 5th in Eastern Conference

The Bucks benefit from playing in the dreadful Eastern Conference, while Antetokounmpo continues his ascent as a future MVP by developing into a 35 percent three-point shooter. Middleton - one of the league’s more underrated players - develops a consistent chemistry with Antetokounmpo as a nice No. 2 scoring option in Kidd’s system.

Snell plateaus after his contract season, as does Brogdon, who fails to put together a consistent sophomore performance. Kidd continues to rotate Monroe with John Henson (much to the chagrin of Monroe). Maker ups his offensive aggressiveness in his second season in the league. The defense is top-five in turnovers caused per game.

Cory Prescott

Cory Prescott is the Editor at Large for Boston Celtics coverage on CLNS Radio. 

Cory is a graduate of Susquehanna University, graduating with a degree in Communications - Journalism.  While at Susquehanna, Cory spent three years as the sports editor for the school's weekly newspaper.  He also worked for the Crusaders Athletics Communications Department.

Following graduation, Cory spent time writing for the Maine Hockey Journal, as well as Boston Sports Then & Now, in addition to his own blog, Brain Freeze.

A native Mainer, Cory has been residing in Boston for the past few years.

Follow Cory on twitter @CLNS_Prescott.