The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics come into the 2020-21 NBA season as two of the favorites in the East. Both had successful regular seasons last year before falling short to the Miami Heat in the playoffs. The Celtics have a hugely talented, developing starting 5 while the Bucks have a solid starting unit based around league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
On December 23, the two franchises face off in what will be a tightly contested matchup. The Boston Celtics come into the matchup without without point guard Kemba Walker, who is set to return to the court in January.
Without Walker, the Boston Celtics will be looking to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to provide the points while relying on their strong defense on the other end to stop the Milwaukee Bucks new-look offense. During the NBA offseason, the Bucks were able to sign superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to a contract extension and bring in Jrue Holiday as their third point-scorer and defensive stalwart.
Although having home court advantage, the Bucks should expect to win this one with superior offensive output. Ahead of the Eastern Conference battle, we take a look at who from each side would comprise a combined starting 5.
Best Starting 5 between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics
This starting lineup will not take into account injured players such as Kemba Walker but will include some of the Eastern Conference's top talent. Let's examine who has made the cut in our Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics combined five.
Center - Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)
Brook Lopez gets the nod ahead of Daniel Theis in our combined starting 5 between the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics. Lopez outscored the German last season, averaging 12 points. Neither are prolific scorers but are rather utilized by their teams to support their bigger stars. Lopez is a more traditional center at 7 feet and has adapted his game to be able to shoot from beyond the arc as well as his ability in the post.
Lopez is a seasoned veteran in the league and is a valuable piece in the Bucks rotation at this position. Lopez shot 83% from the free throw line last season, which is impressive for a center. Not only has he adapted his shooting game with the Milwaukee Bucks, but he has begun to drive on the dribble from the three-point line. This creates space for the wing shooters, who he can kick to, and makes him more unpredictable to guard.
Power forward - Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Against most other players in the league, Celtics' star Jayson Tatum would take up a spot as power forward in a combined starting 5. However, his opposite number is back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. On his way to a second straight award, the Greek averaged 29.5 points and 13.6 rebounds for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Antetokounmpo is quite unlike any player in the league. At 6"11', he is the primary rebounder for the Milwaukee Bucks despite Lopez's superior height and is devastating on the fast break.
His versatility means he can be utilized in several roles and is not uncomfortable dribbling the ball. His length makes him a menacing defender, able to contest shots and switch assignments after a pick and roll, which earned him a place on last years NBA First Team All Defense.
Small Forward - Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Boston Celtics' standout star comes in at small forward instead for our combined starting 5. Jayson Tatum signed a new contract with the franchise during the offseason as they cemented their trust in the 22 year-old. The versatile forward scored 23.4 points and 7 rebounds last season as he willed his side to the Eastern Conference Finals.
As well as being the face of the franchise and leader on offense, Tatum averaged 1.4 steals last season as part of the Boston Celtics strong defensive unit. Although still very young, the ceiling is high for Tatum's future, and he has even been suggested as a dark horse for this season's MVP shortlist.
Point Guard - Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks)
Given Kemba Walker's absence to start the season, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens will be looking to NBA veteran Jeff Teague to fill in at point guard. Therefore, we instead have opted for multi-guard Jrue Holiday from the Bucks. During his first eight seasons in the league, Holiday played at point guard before shifting positions.
Brought in this offseason as part of the Milwaukee Bucks' attempts to keep Antetokounmpo happy, Holiday will provide his new team with additional points, averaging 19 last season, and defensive prowess with 1.6 steals. He is a certain upgrade on Eric Bledsoe and will be useful asset if the Bucks have any hope of reaching an NBA Finals. Holiday can easily mark any opposition guard in the league and has the hustle to grab rebounds, making him a very shrewd acquisition by the franchise.
Shooting Guard - Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)
Filling out our team at shooting guard is Jaylen Brown. Brown is another of the Boston Celtics young talents and will only get better this year. He averaged 20 points and came up clutch in the playoffs, improving both his offensive output statistics and rebounding.
With Walker out, Brown will receive more of the ball and be relied upon to help make up for the lost points that Kemba's absence will reveal. He shot 38% from downtown, which is solid, but coach Stevens will be hoping Brown can continue to improve his free-throw percentage This will be a contest to keep an eye on to see if Brown can get the better of Holiday's defensive ability as the Bucks guard may switch onto the Boston Celtics' shooter.