With the best player in the world on their side, the Milwaukee Bucks are strong contenders to win the NBA championship this season.
However, Giannis Antetokounmpo can't do it all on his own. The Bucks missed the chance to retain their title last season, losing out to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
The absence of Khris Middleton hurt them in that series, but even without him they proved to be title contenders.
The Bucks are running it back this year, while their rivals have failed to make any major moves. They head into the new season as +325 favourites to make it out of the East, while they're the shortest priced division favourites, at -270 to take the Central Division.
|What||NBA Season 2022/23|
|Where||USA and Canada|
|When||October 18th 2022 - June 2023|
|How to watch||Sky Sports, NBA Pass, bet365's Sports Live Streaming|
|Odds||BOS Celtics +700, GS Warriors +600, LA Clippers +700, MIL Bucks +650, BKN Nets +700|
It's been a quiet offseason in Milwaukee, with no major trades – mainly due to their lack of assets. The Bucks are very limited given that their next first-round pick is in 2028, so they were left with free agency as their only route to building on last season's team.
The Bucks did secure their own free agents, retaining Jevon Carter, Wesley Matthews and Bobby Portis. Their only new addition was Joe Ingles, who joined after failing to make an appearance for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Ingles picked up an injury early this year, but he's projected to return by 2023 – setting him up for a return with plenty time to spare before the Playoffs. When back on the court Ingles will add perimeter threat, while he's a solid defender. That will boost the Bucks rotation, but they could have done with some playmaking off the bench.
While it's partially a consequence of having the best player in the world on his team, questions remain over coach Mike Budenholzer. A year after leading the Bucks to a championship, he came under fire for how he handled key moments in the Celtics series.
The doubt around the coach can be seen in the Coach of the Year voting, in which Budenholzer is 12th in the betting despite his side being second-favourites for the title.
Even with a title on his resume, the Bucks coach has a point to prove this season. Middleton's contract ends next summer and he's considering his future, so this could be the final title tilt for this side. With the team heading towards a potential crossroads, Budenholzer needs to prove the doubters wrong this season.
It's a scary thought, but despite being a two-time MVP and an NBA champion, Giannis is just entering his peak. The Greek Freak stepped up again last season, recording both regular season and postseason career-highs in points per game.
A year on from winning the title, Giannis also recorded his career-best average for rebounds and assists per game in the Playoffs. He's clearly the best player in the league, but his previous success almost counts against him when it comes to major awards.
Giannis is third-favourite to be named MVP at +525, while he's fourth-favourite for Defensive Player of the Year. Regardless of how he ends up in the award stakes, if he gets even better this season then it's hard to see how the rest of the league can keep up.
The Bucks have a mixed opening, despite meeting the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets within their first three. Aside from those meetings with fellow Eastern Conference contenders, things are easier for the Bucks.
After heading to the Sixers, six of their first seven games are at home. That run starts against the Houston Rockets and finishes with a doubleheader against the Detroit Pistons.
With the best player in the world on their side, the Bucks can aim no lower than the NBA Finals. Given how the East appears to be opening up, their biggest title threat could well come from the other conference.
The previous couple of seasons have seen them take their foot off the gas in the regular season – finishing as the third seed in each. Expect them to do the same this year, with the aim of delivering a third title to Milwaukee.
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