The NBA is set to return to action at the end of July, and numerous questions pertaining to the logistics of the league’s plan remain. While we are learning the answers to those questions gradually, NBA teams must now question how they will perform when the season does return.
With playoff basketball on the horizon, here are the most critical questions surrounding the championship contenders in the Eastern Conference.
The 2019-20 NBA season is suspended, with the standings frozen in place as of mid-March. The league has every hope of resuming the season and giving teams a chance to finish what they started. There are certain teams with a better chance of winning bigger than others.
These five teams in particular had a legitimate chance to win an NBA title in 2020 and will want to make sure that they get to play out that opportunity.
Giannis Antetokounmpo will be a team captain for the NBA All-Star Game, and Milwaukee Bucks teammate Khris Middleton will also be part of the festivities. However, in Antetokounmpo’s mind, that’s not good enough for the team with the NBA’s best record.
Antetokounmpo cited Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez as other players who he felt deserved All-Star nods and suggested that the NBA still does not respect the Bucks enough.
“I want to be honest. I feel like at times that we don’t get as much respect and it’s OK, we haven’t earned anything, at the end of the day,” Antetokounmpo said Friday, via Eric Woodyard of ESPN. “I think [Eric Bledsoe] should’ve made the team. We have a great team. We have guys that don’t play a lot of minutes.
“Bled could average 20-25 points if we actually played a lot of minutes but we didn’t. He’s sacrificed also, a lot for this team and is one of our leaders,” he continued. “Not just Bled, and Brook [Lopez] also. I wanted Bled to be on the team, the whole team wanted Bled to be on the team because he’s definitely deserving, but this team is unselfish.”
Antetokounmpo undermines his own point here. Perhaps Bledsoe could have huge numbers if he played more, but he doesn’t. He averages 26.3 minutes per game and scores 15.5 points per game in that span. Those aren’t All-Star numbers. Neither are Lopez’s 10.1 points per game in 26.4 minutes per night.
The Bucks are great because guys like Bledsoe and Lopez accept these roles and contribute immensely. That does not make them All-Stars. It makes them an exceptional and well-rounded team. The lack of All-Star selections doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being disrespected, especially when Giannis isn’t the only member of the team to make it. There are other players who should be far more aggrieved by their All-Star snub than anyone from the Bucks who didn’t make it.
The Milwaukee Bucks took care of business with a big win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, and the team decided to put in the final dagger via Twitter.
Milwaukee won 111-104 to improve to an NBA-best 25-4, while the Lakers are now 24-5. The two teams are the best in the league this season by record, but that didn’t stop the Bucks from trolling the Lakers after the win.
Milwaukee shared a screenshot of an October tweet from the Lakers that bragged about winning a preseason game over the Warriors. The Lakers said in that early-October tweet that the league should be warned that they would be a threat. The Bucks then included a burn over that screenshot, saying:
“Was this just for preseason? Asking for a friend.”
The Bucks better hope that tweet doesn’t come back to bite them. If I were the Lakers, I’d start preparing a followup tweet in case the purple and gold beat the Bucks in the NBA Finals. Between this and what Giannis Antetokounmpo did during the game, the Bucks were definitely celebrating the victory.
The Milwaukee Bucks have every intention of paying Giannis Antetokounmpo as much money as they possibly can to convince him to finish his career with the team, but apparently they are not allowed to say that publicly.
On Tuesday, the NBA announced that the Bucks have been fined $50,000 for comments general manager John Hurst made about the team’s plan to offer Giannis a super-max contract extension next summer. NBA rules state that they are not allowed to talk publicly about that yet, even though Antetokounmpo is their own player.
Fine is in response to Bucks GM Jon Horst recently saying Giannis Antetokounmpo will be offered the five-year, nearly $250M supermax next summer when he is eligible for extension. https://t.co/tUR7nIKXk7
The NBA recently took steps toward penalizing teams more severely if they are found guilty of tampering, but tampering almost always involves talking about a player who is under contract with another team. Giannis is one of the best players in the NBA, and contract rules are designed to give the Bucks the advantage in re-signing him before or when he becomes a free agent. They shouldn’t be fined for stating the obvious.
After a successful BIG3 campaign, Joe Johnson is eyeing a route back to the NBA.
According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, Johnson is set to visit the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, and Brooklyn Nets next week in a bid to return to the league.
Story filed to ESPN to go up shortly: Joe Johnson, fresh off an MVP and championship trophy in the BIG3, will travel to Detroit, Milwaukee and Brooklyn for workouts next week to try to get back into the league, sources told ESPN.
Johnson last played in the NBA in 2017-18, when he split the season between the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets. He featured in the BIG3 league this season, where he was a massive success, winning a league title and an MVP award.
Korver will provide perimeter firepower around Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose outside shot is still very much a work in progress. He had been previously linked to the Los Angeles Lakers, partially due to his experience playing with LeBron James.
Korver is a career 42.9 percent three-point shooter. The 38-year-old shot 46.7 percent last year, averaging 8.6 points per game as he split the season between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz.