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4 MILWAUKEE BUCKS

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A MODEST PROPOSAL...

DANGLE KHRIS MIDDLETON FOR A STAR

The Bucks gave Boston a hell of a series in the first round, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo making an argument for being the best player in the East, they should be doing more damage. What the Bucks really need to do is find a second superstar to pair with the Greek Freak, especially with his free agency looming in 2021. That's where Khris Middleton comes in.

A widely underrated player, Middleton was exceptional last postseason, averaging 24.7 points and shooting an insane 61.0% from three-point range in a seven-game loss to the Celtics. But he's also Milwaukee's best trade chip, and the team can't be afraid to use him to lure an elite, next-level talent. (Middleton reportedly quashed talks of an extension and, assuming he declines his $13 million option, will become a free agent next summer.)

As constructed, Milwaukee's ceiling is lower than Boston's and Philadelphia's. The small-market Bucks will have a trickier time than those teams recruiting free agents, so they need to be aggressive in the trade market. If any superstars start grumbling about wanting out, Milwaukee must be ready to offer Middleton.

STARTING 5

COACH MIKE BUDENHOLZER

2017--18 RECORD: 44--38

PREDICTION: Lose 2nd round

PG ERIC BLEDSOE (53 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

5.0

APG

SG MALCOLM BROGDON

48.5

FG%

SF KHRIS MIDDLETON (28 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

20.1

PPG

C BROOK LOPEZ [NEW ACQUISITION] (99 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

4.0

RPG

26.9

PPG

PF GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO (6 [SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING])

The only player in Bucks history who averaged a double double with more points per game than the Greek Freak was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six times).

BENCH

SG PAT CONNAUGHTON [NEW ACQUISITION]

SF TONY SNELL

PF ERSAN ILYASOVA [NEW ACQUISITION]

(*) NEW ACQUISITION

(#) SI'S TOP 100 PLAYER RANKING

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP MILWAUKEE

JASON KIDD was not a good coach. I think, as amazing as GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO is, you just can't go one-on-one with your star player like that anymore. I know it's a league of superstars, but they needed to pass the ball more and they weren't good defensively. Mike Budenholzer's going to be great for them because they're going to run Spurs stuff. They did get a lot better defensively last season when [interim coach] Joe Prunty took over.... Is Giannis's jump shot finally there? Most can't take away his ability to get to the basket and finish, but he's got to be a really good jump shooter if he wants to become a true MVP-caliber player who leads his team deep into the playoffs. Every year LeBron added something. I want to see Giannis's growth in the leadership category, too. Budenholzer will be good for him in that.... Their bigs are not all that good. JOHN HENSON is O.K. THON MAKER is O.K. I wonder if Thon will ever get there. He has not come close to meeting the hype that came with picking him No. 10. With BROOK LOPEZ and ERSAN ILYASOVA, they'll be stretchy, but their defense is sketchy.... KHRIS MIDDLETON is really good. He's an offense-centric player but can do a bit of everything: good shooter, solid and smooth with the ball and a good passer, too. Now he has the mid-post game that makes him really tough to guard.... MALCOLM BROGDON has proved he can be a very high-level backup point guard, but he's going to be 26 this year. He had a similar second season to his first. Maybe he takes a leap, but I don't think we can count on it.