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5 BUCKS

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The Bucks withstood injuries to Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker to make the playoffs last season, then gave the Raptors a stern test in the first round. Thanks in large part to a suffocating defense, as well as stellar play from blossoming MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee has a very bright future.

One more promising development from the postseason was the play of much-maligned 2016 lottery pick Thon Maker. Drafted 10th despite concerns over his real age—he was listed as 19—the 7'1" South Sudan native was a frequent DNP-CD early on. Maker appeared in only 57 games during the regular season, starting 34. This year, though, coach Jason Kidd should use him as his full-time starter.

The Bucks had a +11.9 net rating when Maker played with the rest of the regular starters last season, but that group appeared in only 15 games. In the playoffs Maker showed that his defense is a huge upgrade over Greg Monroe's; he has also flashed potential as a three-point shooter from the corners. If Maker builds on what he showed late last season, the Bucks could become a terrifyingly strong—and long—team.

PROJECTED LINEUP

2016--17 STATS

COACH JASON KIDD

(4th season with Bucks)

2016--17 RECORD 42--40

(2nd in Central)

PG MALCOLM BROGDON

10.2 PPG; 4.2 APG; 45.7 FG%; 40.4 3FG%

SG TONY SNELL

8.5 PPG; 3.1 RPG; 45.5 FG%; 40.6 3FG%

35 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

SF KHRIS MIDDLETON

14.7 PPG; 4.2 RPG; 45.0 FG%; 43.3 3FG%

9 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

PF GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO

22.9 PPG; 8.8 RPG; 5.4 APG; 52.1 FG%

72 [THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING]

C GREG MONROE

11.7 PPG; 6.6 RPG; 2.3 APG; 53.3 FG%

BENCH

PG MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA

7.6 PPG; 4.7 APG; 39.0 FG%; 36.7 3FG%

C THON MAKER

4.0 PPG; 2.0 RPG; 45.9 FG%; 37.8 3FG%

SF JABARI PARKER [INJURED TO START SEASON]

20.1 PPG; 6.2 RPG; 49.0 FG%; 36.5 3FG%

• THE CROSSOVER TOP 100 RANKING

(I) INJURED TO START SEASON

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP MILWAUKEE

They have a star player in GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO and have done a really good job surrounding him with the right kind of guys. You can play Antetokounmpo all over the floor, he can guard all these different positions, and his potential is off the charts. He's gonna be 23 this year! He has no ceiling, only how he limits himself. If he can become a 33 or 34% three-point shooter, he's pretty much unguardable.... THON MAKER was never Kevin Garnett or Kevin Durant—whoever was saying that was so stupid. But the guy's big, he cares, he plays hard, and he can probably be a three-point shooter. That's a win.... MALCOLM BROGDON is going to play for a long time, but generally you see a Rookie of the Year and say he's going to be an All-Star or something. I'm not sure that's the case with him. He might just be in a really good spot as a really good player. He guarded, played tough and is incredibly intelligent.... KHRIS MIDDLETON is one of the more underrated guys in the league, with his size and length and shooting. These two-way wing types are what everyone is looking for. They kind of turned TONY SNELL into that, too, and rebooted his career. They can play Antetokounmpo at center and surround him with four 6'5"-plus guys, switch everything and make threes, run and gun. That just gives them so many options.... In a playoff game when their offense is sluggish, that's where GREG MONROE's value comes in. He's really tough, he's really physical, and he's proved capable of being able to score.

TELLING 57 STATISTIC

BOTTOM LINE

The Greek Freak gives the Bucks their best chance to end the franchise's 16-year streak without a playoff series win.