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Refurbished Bucks hoping to move into East's upper crust

POSTED: Oct 21, 2015 2:33 PM ET

By Steve Aschburner

BY Steve Aschburner

NBA.com

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The buzz around this team is so upbeat, it's hard to believe they're located in Milwaukee, Wis. New aggressive ownership, a new coach, a starting lineup brimming with talent and youth, noise made in free agency and, soon, a state-of-the-art new arena all seem very un-Bucks-like to those familiar with the franchise's past couple decades.

ICYMI

All systems appear to be go for a new home for the Bucks in downtown Milwaukee, with the public-funding portion of a $500 million new arena approved this offseason. ... Forward/center John Henson searched initially for his role under Jason Kidd last season but did enough to earn a four-year, $44 million contract extension signed during camp. ... Forward Chris Copeland, another addition sought for his shooting, chose Milwaukee in part because he played alongside Kidd in New York in the Hall of Fame-bound point guard's final season. He signed a one-year, $1.15 million deal.

THREE POINTS

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo has spent a fair amount of time working on his 3-point shot and felt validated when he went 10-of-26 from the (shorter) arc in the FIBA EuroBasket tournament. But after his 7-for-44 work from downtown in the NBA last season, 3-pointers might be a bit much for the versatile third-year player. What Antetokounmpo needs most is a reliable jumper from 15-20 feet to draw defenders close, after which he can use his quickness and length to beat them to the rim. Something to keep an eye on in the early season.

2. Getting traded during a season is tough on anybody, but it can be especially challenging for point guards like Michael Carter-Williams. Beyond being jarred by the move itself, there's an instant responsibility to learn new teammates' games and preferences -- with little practice time and no preseason. That's why October is so important to Carter-Williams for 2015-16. His turnovers went down slightly after joining the Bucks from Philadelphia but so did his assists, with the latter dipping more in the playoff series vs. Chicago.

3. Greg Monroe's decision to sign with Milwaukee, effectively turning down both the Lakers and the Knicks for an unglamorous, smallish, gray Midwestern market was a commentary on the state of the teams in Los Angeles and New York, sure. But it also spoke volumes about the Bucks and the momentum they generated by improving from 15 victories to 41 in a year. The Bucks still crave outside shooting but are counting on Monroe's work in the paint -- where he no longer will overlap with former Detroit teammate Andre Drummond -- and a nice passing touch to draw defenders and create uncontested looks for others.

MAN ON THE SPOT

Jabari Parker was headed toward Kia Rookie of the Year contention, at least, when he went down with an ACL tear against Phoenix in December. While working his way back, Parker allegedly has gotten in serious NBA shape but still might seem a weak link defensively, and doesn't have the slender, lengthy build of several Bucks teammates. He's more of a scorer than a shooter but Milwaukee might be happy to have that, especially if he develops some rhythm with Greg Monroe.

STARTING FIVE

Michael Carter-Williams | 14.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.6 apg
Adjusted to new team after midseason trade, gets full camp/preseason now.

Khris Middleton | 13.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.3 apg
One of best shooters on team hungry for it, earned $70M payday.

Greg Monroe | 15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.1 apg
Major "get" in free agency erases Larry Sanders mess, plugs in triple-threat big.

Giannis Antetokounmpo | 12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.6 apg
Turns 21 in December, poised for breakout season if shooting range improves.

Jabari Parker | 12.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.7 apg
Nine months of repaired-ACL rehab has him in better shape, still shaking rust.

KEY RESERVES

Greivis Vasquez | 9.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.7 apg
Another big guard (6-foot-6) for Bucks' switching D.

O.J. Mayo | 11.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.8 apg
Good recovery from horrid 2013-14; scoring and leadership off bench.

John Henson | 7.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.9 apg
Long defender with touch found niche in midseason, earned $44M extension.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Don't expect to see Milwaukee improve by 26 wins again, but finishing solidly above .500 and building on last season's one-and-done playoff experience are realistic goals.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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