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Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Why the Milwaukee Bucks can challenge the Cavaliers and Celtics in the Eastern Conference

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When you look at the Eastern Conference standings, the Milwaukee Bucks are sitting in the No. 4 spot, tied with the Detroit Pistons and behind powerhouses like the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors.

However, the Bucks' current position is more due to the struggles of the Washington Wizards and the overall mediocrity of the rest of the Eastern Conference squads.

Still, star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have all the makings of a team that could make a deep playoff run, but they just haven't put it all together yet.

Following a dramatic, last-second victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night, though, the tides could be turning in Milwaukee.

The Bucks could certainly go on a run, and it wouldn't be a complete surprise to see them hold on to that No. 4 seed when all is said and done at the end of the regular season.

Here are three reasons the Bucks can challenge the Celtics and Cavs for a spot in the Eastern Conference finals as soon as this year:

Milwaukee Bucks v New Orleans Pelicans

They have a legit superstar

Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the best players in the NBA and can do everything you can think of on a basketball court.

So far this year, he's averaging 29.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. He is, without a doubt, the most versatile player in the NBA, and as long as he plays well, the Bucks can beat anyone on any given night.

When you get into a playoff series, having a player like the Greek Freak who can take over on any given night is a huge benefit. He still needs his teammates to help him, but he can certainly carry the load in a series against the Cavs or the Celtics.

Milwaukee Bucks v New Orleans Pelicans

They're beating up on Western Conference teams

Through 34 games, the Bucks are a somewhat disappointing 7-10 against Eastern Conference teams. That's definitely something that will have to change if they're going to make a deep postseason run, but they've been making up for it against teams from the West.

In fact, the Bucks have two wins against Portland and wins against San Antonio, Minnesota and Oklahoma City already this season and have an overall record of 12-5 against the Western Conference this year.

No, they haven't played the Golden State Warriors yet, but the Bucks are showing they can play with tough teams, even if that success hasn't translated to the Eastern Conference just yet.

Milwaukee Bucks v New Orleans Pelicans

The supporting cast is stronger than ever

One of the problems with the Bucks in recent years has been that they haven't had much depth behind Antetokounmpo.

This year, though, things appear to be different. A trade for disgruntled Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe has already paid dividends and forward Khris Middleton is having a great year, too. Middleton is currently averaging 20.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game and Bledsoe is putting up an 18.2/4.1/4.5 stat line.

Meanwhile, last year's Rookie of the Year, guard Malcolm Brogdon, continues to play well in his role coming off the bench. Add in Thon Maker, Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson, Tony Snell and others and this is the deepest team the Bucks have had in years.

That depth will come in handy in the postseason, where Milwaukee will be a tough out for whoever it matches up with.

Topics:
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee Bucks
Central Division
Eastern Conference
NBA
Boston Celtics
Atlantic Division
NBA Playoffs

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