Can Giannis Antetokounmpo, And The Milwaukee Bucks, Take Another Step Forward?





As each NBA team is eliminated from contention for the 2016-17 title, The Post looks at what it has in store this offseason. The series continues with the Milwaukee Bucks, who were eliminated by the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs.

2017 draft picks

First round: Their own (No. 17).

Second round: Their own (No. 48).

2017-18 salary cap space (with projected $102 million cap)

$15.7 million. (Nine players with $80.7 million in guaranteed contracts, two draft picks worth $2.9 million; one roster charge worth $815,615; $1.9 million in stretch payments to Larry Sanders). Doesn’t include player options for Greg Monroe or Spencer Hawes.

2017 free agents

PF Michael Beasley, SG Jason Terry, SG Tony Snell (restricted).

Five questions to answer

1. Just how good can Antetokounmpo become?

When Giannis Antetokounmpo was taken with the No. 15 pick in the 2013 NBA draft, no one was quite sure what to expect of the The Greek Freak. He had the physical profile teams dream about, as a 6-foot-10 forward with arms that went for days, but given the difference in competition between Greece and the NBA, it was difficult to judge how good he might be.

In the years since, Antetokounmpo has made improvements in his game as big as the strides he takes when he gallops down the court for the Bucks on a nightly basis. This season, Antetokounmpo was an all-star starter and elevated himself into the conversation about the league’s top 10 players.

The scariest part? Antetokounmpo is 22. He will enter next season as a dark-horse MVP candidate and could be the player who will finally end LeBron James’s run of dominance in the Eastern Conference.

[Why the Toronto Raptors are the epitome of the East’s LeBron Problem]

NoneJabari Parker drives past Indiana’s Lavoy Allen in April 2016. (Morry Gash/Associated Press)

2. Can Jabari Parker come back from a second torn ACL?

The Bucks entered last season as one of the most exciting young teams in the league, built around a trio of long-limbed wings/forwards in Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Parker. But Middleton was lost with a serious hamstring injury before the season began. He made a surprising midseason return, but then Parker went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee for the second time in three years.

Now, the former No. 2 overall pick will enter the final season of his rookie contract as a mystery. He should be back sometime before the end of next season, but how effective is he going to be? And can Milwaukee trust him to stay healthy long-term after twice suffering a serious knee injury?

The first indication of Milwaukee’s level of trust in Parker’s future will be the rookie extension deadline in October. The Bucks could reach an agreement with Parker before that deadline or decide to wait until he hits restricted free agency, which would give them a look at his post-surgery game.

[Subscribe to the Posting Up podcast on iTunes]

3. Will Greg Monroe opt out of the final year of his contract?

Monroe’s signing two years ago was seen as a coup for the Bucks, who were coming off a playoff appearance in Jason Kidd’s first season as head coach. As a free agent, Monroe drew interest from glamour teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, but chose Milwaukee instead. Then came a season of struggles for him and the team, and he began this past season on the bench.

But when Milwaukee used the offensively gifted center as a battering ram against teams with no center or a subpar one on second units, Monroe thrived.

Although success could spur Monroe to skip the final year of his deal, it seems likely he’ll stay in Milwaukee. But if he wants a starting spot, he won’t find it there.

[Why Game 5 is the moment John Wall has been waiting for]

NoneThon Maker defends Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas during a playoff game. (Tannen Maury/EPA)

4. How much can Thon Maker improve in Season 2?

When Kidd decided to make Maker a starter this season, it was seen as a way to get him a few minutes of experience every game instead of having him sitting sit on the bench.

But the 20-year-old was a revelation during Milwaukee’s first-round series against the Toronto Raptors, averaging nearly 20 minutes per game and providing highlights on both ends of the floor. With an athletic, mobile 7-foot center who has potential three-point shooting range and a high motor, a promising Bucks team looks even better.

Maker is now entrenched as the starting center, and if he can lift his game to another level next season, the excitement in Milwaukee — already high — will rise as well.

[Links to every Postmortem so far, including the Lakers, Knicks and Bulls.]

5. What will Tony Snell get as a restricted free agent?

When the Bucks and Bulls swapped a pair of 2013 first-round picks before this season, dealing Michael Carter-Williams to Chicago for Tony Snell, it was seen as a fairly mundane deal. But Snell was an excellent fit in Milwaukee, providing another long, rangy defender on the wings as well as shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

Snell enters restricted free agency as a “Three and D” — a wing who can shoot and defend — which every team wants. How high will his price tag go?

The low eight figures wouldn’t be surprising, which could leave the Bucks with an interesting choice. Given the direction of the franchise and the fact that Milwaukee is not generally a magnet for free agents, he’ll likely return as the starting two-guard next season.

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Source : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2017/05/10/can-giannis-antetokounmpo-and-the-milwaukee-bucks-can-another-step-forward/

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Can Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Milwaukee Bucks, take another step forward?