Who helped turn the Milwaukee Bucks into NBA title contenders?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 19 (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 19 (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Brook Lopez, A.J. Green, Atlanta Hawks: Jalen Johnson, Bogdan Bogdanovic
ATLANTA, GA – JANUARY 11 (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Who made the Milwaukee Bucks into contenders: #4: Brook Lopez

Brook Lopez’s arrival in Milwaukee happened the same off-season as Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks then had themselves a defensive anchor and a player who had been known as a paint dominator but had reinvented himself as a floor-spacing big man. His play style fit perfectly alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo because opposing big men had to pay attention to Lopez outside of the 3-point line, opening driving lanes for Giannis.

Brook Lopez has been a part of five seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and has averaged 13.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Lopez has shot 48.2 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from behind the 3-point line. He has shot a very reliable 82.5 percent from the free-throw line.

Arguably the biggest mark that Brook Lopez made was his monstrous Game 5 against the Atlanta Hawks in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, a game that the Milwaukee Bucks played without Giannis Antetokounmpo. Lopez scored 33 points in Antetokounmpo’s absence. Brook Lopez added seven rebounds and four blocks to go with his 33-point outburst. Lopez was insanely efficient, shooting 14-of-18 from the field. Lopez missed the only two 3-point shots he attempted and made 5-of-7 free throws, and the Milwaukee Bucks emerged with a 123-112 victory.

However, Brook Lopez had a signature moment in the series before against the Brooklyn Nets that helped the Milwaukee Bucks get to the Eastern Conference Finals in the first place. The Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets went to overtime in Game 7 of the series in Brooklyn. With the game tied at 111, Kevin Durant had what looked to be a wide-open layup. Brook Lopez blocked the shot with under a minute to go.

The Nets got the rebound off the blocked shot, Joe Harris missed a 3-pointer, and the rebound was collected by none other than Brook Lopez. Khris Middleton made a mid-range jump shot, and the Bucks would get two more free throws from Brook Lopez to finalize a 115-111 victory over the super-team Nets to head to the Eastern Conference Finals. Lopez finished Game 7 with 19 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks.