In what’s shaping up to be a monumental season for the Brooklyn Nets, teams will be looking to take them down and keep them from claiming their first NBA championship. With that in mind, we wanted to take a look at the teams that figure to pose the biggest threat to Kevin Durant, James Harden, and friends.
We’re starting where it ended. In a classic series punctuated by an all time great Game 7, the Milwaukee Bucks were an inch away from being knocked out by the Nets. However, the Bucks survived and went on to win their first NBA championship in 50 years.
With Milwaukee expected to be Brooklyn’s toughest test (and Ring Night opponent) in the East, it’s only right that we start with them. Here’s a conversation I had with friend of the site, Brew Hoop’s Kyle Carr:
Brian Fleurantin: When we last saw you guys, the Bucks beat the Nets in Game 7 en route to the title. How exhilarating was it to cover a team that made history like they did, and for the organization, how validating was the championship after they fell short the previous two seasons?
Kyle Carr: It was exhilarating AND stressful during the run and something I will always remember. I think for the organization and LED ownership, it was the cherry on top for their investment that included a new practice facility, arena and Deer District. Giannis was immortalized with a historic finals; Milwaukee was able to get payback on Miami with a first round sweep and came back from three different series in which they trailed. Any doubts that Milwaukee couldn’t win a championship was silenced
BF: I was pretty surprised the team let PJ Tucker leave to join the Heat, but they did replenish the roster by picking up Semi Ojeleye, Grayson Allen, and George Hill (plus the eventual return of Donte DiVincenzo). What did you think of the team’s offseason?
KC: The majority of important offseason moves were solved before the season ended. Giannis agreed to the Supermax, Jrue Holiday signed his extension and Budenholzer saved his job. PJ Tucker leaving was very surprising considering Milwaukee had his Bird Rights and how beloved he was with the fans and team. Bobby Portis coming back was huge and his deal as well. I think one of the concerns was what would happen if Jrue Holiday wasn’t available. Jeff Teague became the bucks backup point guard which isn’t ideal in the year 2021. Bringing back George Hill and adding Grayson Allen will give the Bucks enough ball handlers along with Jrue and Donte DiVincenzo.
BF: I read an article from CBS Sports last week that floated the possibility of the Bucks shifting the roster around some to avoid the repeater tax. Is that something we should be worried about or do you envision Bucks management keeping the core of the team together for as long as possible?
KC: The Bucks were always going to be in the tax at this point with Giannis’ Supermax kicking in. I don’t think there will be too much of a shakeup with the core (Giannis, Middleton, Jrue, and Brook). I think that is part of why Bobby Portis has the deal he has now to take less money now and get paid later on. This also will have an impact on how negotiations with Donte DiVincenzo and Grayson Allen this upcoming offseason.
BF: Something that was discussed a bunch last season was the Bucks using the regular season as a laboratory to experiment and try new things out. Do you think Mike Budenholzer and the coaching staff will take that approach again this season as they try to repeat?
KC: I think there will be some elements as they have new guys on the bench so there might be different looks to test out. Last year we saw a lot of it in the regular season since there was a shortened and limited preseason. I think with more practice time, there would be a chance we don’t see all the experimentation.
BF: Khris Middleton really grew into the role of go to scoring option late in games for the Bucks. Do you see him taking on a bigger role in the offense throughout the regular season?
KC: Somewhat, I think there will be more deferring to Khris especially in crunch time or if Giannis sits out. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Khris is rested a bit more considering his Olympics after the postseason.
BF: Giannis has accomplished just everything possible on a basketball court, and he’s only 26 years old! Where do you see his game evolving to next at this stage of his career?
KC: That is the fun part in that i don’t know how it will happen. Giannis has won and achieved everything he can in the NBA so now it will be can he be the undisputed best player in the league. Kevin Durant is his biggest competition right now and potentially with Luka Doncic lurking. I guess if he repeats his Game 6 NBA Finals free throw shooting or adds some post moves, that could make him unguardable.
BF: What player on the Bucks do you see taking on a newer, possibly bigger role this season?
KC: I am curious to see what Grayson Allen will do this season. It’s only been one preseason game but it seems as though he could either be a starter (in place of Donte DiVincenzo who is injured) or an excellent 6th man. His shooting could be a boost and it seems as though defensively he has improved in that area throughout his career.
BF: What’s your way too early prediction for the team this season?
KC: I think a lot of people are maybe underrating Milwaukee which is odd since they are champs and returned most of the core contributors. So as long as Giannis is healthy enough, Milwaukee will always be an Eastern Conference favorite and title contender. I think they will make it again to the Finals and the only team that can beat Milwaukee in a seven game series is a healthy and vaccinated Nets team.