The Milwaukee Bucks entered training camp this week with 14 players on guaranteed contracts. Here’s a look at those players, including what each brings to the table as well as the skills he will need to demonstrate improvement in during the 2018-’19 season.
Weight: 242 pounds
What he brings: Antetokounmpo, at just 23 years old, has rounded himself into one of the top players in the NBA and arguably the best talent in the Eastern Conference. He affects the game on both ends with his athleticism and length and has the ability to carry the Bucks to new heights.
Where he can improve: In addition to continuing to get better with his jump shot, Antetokounmpo will be pushed by coach Mike Budenholzer to trust his teammates more, especially when it comes to moving the ball. Antetokounmpo still has room to grow when it comes to moving without the ball and finding new ways to make opposing teams pay.
What he brings: In Bledsoe’s first full season with the Bucks, Milwaukee will rely on him to create offense using his quickness and ability to attack the rim. When Bledsoe was able to get in the paint last year, he put pressure on defenses by making baskets in traffic or finding shooters on the outside.
Where he can improve: Budenholzer believes Bledsoe can be an elite perimeter defender at the front of the Bucks’ defense. In order to achieve that, Bledsoe needs to demonstrate a defensive focus and consistency that at times were lacking last season.
What he brings: Despite being limited by injury, Brogdon showed improvement as a second-year player last season. He provides a consistent presence on both ends, putting up good shots and moving the ball when appropriate on offense while putting in a solid effort on defense.
Where he can improve: Brogdon admits that in past seasons he didn’t do enough to strengthen his legs, which contributed to fatigue. He says he tried to rectify that this summer and hopes it will help him sustain a high level of energy throughout the season. That should help him especially on defense, where he needs to improve his foot speed when facing opposing point guards.
What he brings: As a rookie last season, Brown showed positive flashes as a three-and-D guard. He welcomes all defensive challenges and, with experience as well as a full off-season well spent in the weight room, should be better equipped to serve as a versatile, impactful defender off the bench.
Where he can improve: While Brown wasn’t shy about taking on defensive challenges, he still has room to grow individually and within the team’s scheme. Offensively, Brown needs to consistently be in the right spots and ready to hoist up catch-and-shoot three-pointers in order to force defenses to respect his shot.
What he brings: A free-agent acquisition who spent his first three seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Connaughton was brought in to be an offensive weapon off the bench. He’s not averse to letting three-pointers fly, averaging 4.9 three-point attempts per 36 minutes while shooting 36.4 percent in his career.
Where he can improve: Connaughton needs to continue the defensive development he showed last year in Portland. Armed with good size for a two-guard, Connaughton must demonstrate that he can hold his own on defense.
What he brings: Dellavedova should fit nicely into Budenholzer’s system. His game is predicated on defensive intensity, moving the ball, communicating well and knocking down catch-and-shoot three-pointers – he shot 40.3 percent on those last season.
Where he can improve: Dellavedova struggled with the rest of his shooting during an injury-plagued 2017-’18 season. His turnovers per 36 minutes of 2.5 in the small sample size of 38 games was a career high, something he needs to fix in order to earn playing time.
What he brings: The Bucks took DiVincenzo with the 17th pick in this summer’s draft because of his winning pedigree, versatility, shooting ability and demonstrated willingness to play a role for the betterment of the team.
Where he can improve: DiVincenzo has to prove that his skills in college can translate to the NBA. He needs to grind through his first season amidst a talented set of backcourt players to earn any playing time that he gets.
What he brings: Henson put together one of his best seasons last year, rising to the challenge of being the Bucks’ everyday starting center. At his best, he can work the pick-and-roll for easy baskets at the rim while anchoring the defense with his shot-blocking ability.
Where he can improve: Offensively, Henson can be a liability because of his limited range. Teams don’t respect his shot and can instead clog the lane, cutting down on opportunities for other players. Henson, at the direction of Budenholzer and his staff, is working on expanding his shooting range. On both ends, Henson must work on his positioning for rebounds since his long frame doesn’t allow him to out-muscle most centers.
What he brings: By now, Ilyasova’s third stint with the Bucks, most in Milwaukee know what he offers. Ilyasova is a solid three-point shooter, a sneaky-good rebounder and a smart, willing defender who has a knack for taking charges.
Where he can improve: Ilyasova is a savvy veteran and as such needs to communicate his skills and insight to others, especially in the heat of the game. Communicating on defense will be crucial, especially early in the season. Offensively, Ilyasova needs to pick his spots wisely and continually force teams to respect his shot.
What he brings: After trading Greg Monroe early last season, the Bucks weren’t able to replicate his physicality inside. Lopez should change that while adding a new dimension as a 7-footer who has comfortably shot 34.6 percent on three-pointers over the past two seasons while attempting nearly five threes a game.
Where he can improve: Lopez’s defensive quickness isn’t his strong suit and will be something that other teams try to exploit. He’ll need to communicate well with his new teammates to manage switches on pick-and-rolls and keep up with each challenge teams throw his way.
What he brings: Entering his third year, Maker is still full of potential. His infectious energy, outside shooting and shot-blocking ability make him a weapon off the bench and an interesting option for Budenholzer to mold.
Where he can improve: Maker knows the task is to take the intensity, focus and proficiency he has shown in the playoffs and apply it throughout the season. Sometimes lost defensively last season, he needs to get better at knowing, communicating and executing his assignments consistently.
What he brings: Middleton has been the Bucks’ most consistent player the past five years, which led to former coach Jason Kidd aptly calling him the team’s security blanket. He’s a smart offensive player with an elite mid-range game and plugs a lot of holes defensively with his long frame and versatility.
Where he can improve: The most glaring deficiency in Middleton’s game last season was his three-point shooting. At 35.9 percent he was still a good shooter, but that number was way down from his prior 40.4 percent career average. In Budenholzer’s offense, Middleton needs to find a way to maintain or even add to his high volume of three-pointers (career-high 5.0 per game last season) while making more.
What he brings: A three-point marksman, Snell has shot 40.4 percent from beyond the arc in his two seasons with the Bucks. At the other end, Snell’s size and wingspan usually mean he can pick up a tough assignment for Middleton or Antetokounmpo, which is an overall benefit for the team.
Where he can improve: In addition to getting his three-point attempts up – he attempted just 4.7 per 36 minutes last season – Snell needs to move more without the ball. Often he would set up in his spot and wait for the ball instead of moving to create opportunities. Defensively, Snell seemed to lose some of his mojo last season and needs to be more consistent and reliable.
What he brings: Wilson’s potential is still largely unknown considering he played just 71 minutes last season. His skills – outside shooting, athleticism, handling the ball, positional versatility – have only surfaced at the G League and summer league levels.
Where he can improve: There’s lots of room for growth for Wilson in his second season. He apparently has gotten stronger, which he’ll need to use to battle inside as well as confidently drive the lane without shying from contact. If he’s going to see the floor, he needs to demonstrate an ability to defend, rebound and make threes at a respectable rate.