The NBA's bubble inside Disney World has been going strong for nearly a month. There have been no cases of COVID-19 outside of the initial arrival period, training camp and the scrimmages have come and gone and now it's time to start the real games.
As the 2019-20 season resumes, all eyes will be on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. The reigning MVP, who looks to be the favorite to make it back-to-back in that department, led the Bucks to a league-best 53-12 record before things were shut down. But as nice as regular season accolades are, Giannis and the Bucks have their sights set on bigger goals.
After falling short in the Eastern Conference finals last season, the Bucks are expected to make it out of the East, and are one of the favorites to win it all in the bubble. And with Giannis' free agency decision in the summer of 2021 looming over everything, the stakes are even higher than usual for Milwaukee.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo
- Eric Bledsoe
- Sterling Brown
- Pat Connaughton
- Donte DiVincenzo
- George Hill
- Ersan Ilyasova
- Kyle Korver
- Brook Lopez
- Robin Lopez
- Frank Mason (Two-way)
- Wesley Matthews
- Khris Middleton
- Marvin Williams
- DJ Wilson
Players sitting out: Cam Reynolds (Two-way)
All times Eastern
- July 31 vs. Celtics, 6:30 p.m.
- Aug. 2 vs. Rockets, 8:30 p.m.
- Aug. 4 vs. Nets, 1:30 p.m.
- Aug. 6 vs. Heat, 4 p.m.
- Aug. 8 vs. Mavericks, 8:30 p.m.
- Aug. 10 vs. Raptors, 6:30 p.m.
- Aug. 11 vs. Wizards, 9 p.m.
- Aug. 13 vs. Grizzlies, TBD
MVP x2: Giannis Antetokounmpo ran away with the MVP Award last season, and it looks like he's going to do it again this time around. The league announced earlier this month that this season's awards will be based on what happened prior to the seeding games, as all 30 teams were not invited into the Orlando bubble. The Greek Freak was already the favorite for MVP, and it's all but locked in now that LeBron James -- seemingly the only contender -- doesn't have a chance to make a late push in these eight games. If Giannis does indeed win MVP, he'll be the first player to go back-to-back since Steph Curry in 2015 and 2016.
Finals or bust: Despite going up 2-0 to start the series, the Bucks ended up falling short in the Eastern Conference finals last season against the Toronto Raptors. While the circumstances are obviously not what anyone wanted or expected, Milwaukee's expectations in the bubble remain the same: win their first title since 1971. At the very least, they need to get to the Finals, especially with Giannis hitting free agency in 2021. There are no guarantees in getting big name stars to stay in small markets, and no one knows how the pandemic is going to affect free agency, but the Bucks' best hope of retaining their star big man is proving he can win titles there.
Money Midd: Khris Middleton was in the midst of a career season when the pandemic shut things down. Through the first 55 games, he was averaging 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists, while coming just a tenth of a percentage point short of the 50/40/90 club. For all of the talk about Giannis needing a second star, Middleton has been that this season. In order for them to break through in the East or win a title, however, they'll need him to keep it up in the playoffs. Against the Raptors in the ECF, Middleton all but disappeared, averaging just 13.7 points on 41.1 percent from the field. That can't happen again.