Bucks’ Lopez: ‘We’re very confident we can win the East’

Brook Lopez signed a one-year deal with Milwaukee.

After spending one season with the Los Angeles Lakers, veteran big man Brook Lopez signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks this summer and thinks the team is going to make a lot of noise in the Eastern Conference.

Now that LeBron James is out West, the East is pretty much wide-open. The Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers are considered the best teams in the conference, with the Bucks right behind the Pacers.

Milwaukee clearly has the best player in the East in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged 26.9 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists this past season while shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 30.7 percent from three. The addition of Lopez will help stretch the floor for the Bucks and create more driving lanes for Antetokounmpo and point guard Eric Bledsoe.

“I think we have such a variety of talent, including many talented young players, and I think that’s going to make things easier for everyone,” Lopez told Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype. “I think we’ll definitely be making noise in the East.”

Lopez, 30, averaged 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds for the Lakers, shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from three. The 10-year pro can’t wait to get on the floor with Antetokounmpo.

“I’m thrilled. He is without question one of the best players in the league and the best player in the East,” Lopez said. “I mean, it’s going to be so thrilling to be on the court with him [and not going up against him]. The most amazing thing about Giannis is, as great of a player he is, he’s an even better teammate. You see him out there with the guys and you look at the kind of leader he’s grown into, it’s really a special thing. It’s unique.”

The Bucks hired former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer this offseason and are expected to make a significant jump with him in charge. Milwaukee finished as the seventh seed in the East in 2017-18 and lost to the Celtics in the first-round of the playoffs in seven games.

“We definitely think the East is wide-open,” Lopez said. “It’s going to be such a fun, exciting time in the East and it’s going to be super competitive. There are a lot of teams that can do [big] things, from Toronto to Boston to Philly – you just go down the list and it’s clear that the East is as exciting as it’s been in a long time. I think we’re very confident that we can, no question, win the East.”

The Bucks lost Jabari Parker to the Chicago Bulls in free agency, but signed stretch forward Ersan İlyasova, guard Pat Connaughton and drafted Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo with the 17th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft.