By Paul Imig Special to Published Oct 28, 2015 at 1:06 PM Photography: David Bernacchi

Welcome to a world where the Milwaukee Bucks are a thing. Not since George Karl, Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell and Ray Allen were a game away from the NBA Finals in 2001 has there been so much hype and positive attention surrounding this franchise.

Over the past year, the all-but-forgotten Bucks bounced back from a disastrous 15-win campaign to become one of the league's top rising teams. Expectations are raised now, though, especially after a very successful offseason that included the signing of center Greg Monroe.

With the Bucks getting set for their home – and season – opener tonight against the New York Knicks, here are some of the top storylines to keep an eye on this season. 

Jabari Parker's return, health

Parker's torn ACL in December 2014 ended what could have been a Rookie of the Year season for the No. 2 overall pick. The good news for Parker and the Bucks is that he's on pace to return in early November. Only missing five or so games this season wouldn't be much at all in the big picture, considering the type of injury Parker suffered.

The bigger question is what his performance level will be on the court. When a player returns from a serious knee injury, they generally need a full year back on the court before getting back to their full range of motion. Parker was never known for his defense anyway, so staying with quicker forwards could be a challenge. However, Parker's talent is unquestioned, and the Bucks have done a great job in not rushing him back too quickly. After all, if Milwaukee is going to be a serious title contender in the next five years, Parker must one of the leaders of that group.

The improvement of Giannis

It was supposed to take Antetokounmpo several years to develop into anything useful in the NBA after he was selected 15th overall in 2013. Instead, he immediately showed how high his ceiling was by using his long arms to guard multiple positions defensively and by finishing around the rim like few others are able to do. Now, Antetokounmpo is a must-see player. The most fascinating part of his game is how much room there is for it to still grow. Improved mid-range and three-point shooting will be at the top of his priority list. If he figures that out on a consistent basis, watch out.

Monroe's impact

It was the surprise free-agent signing of the NBA offseason. Monroe choosing Milwaukee over New York and Los Angeles was a clear indicator that the tide is turning for the Bucks. As a max-contract player, however, Monroe now has to live up to that billing. On paper, he provides Jason Kidd's offense with one thing it was sorely missing: an interior post presence. Meshing with new teammates and getting enough touches down low will go a long way in determining how much impact Monroe will be able to have in his first season in Milwaukee.

Position battle?

Michael Carter-Williams will be the starting point guard at the beginning of the season, but will he still be in that spot once the calendar turns to 2016? The Bucks surrendered a first-round pick to acquire Greivis Vasquez, and the steady veteran will likely be breathing down Carter-Williams' neck all season. Milwaukee's front office would certainly rather Carter-Williams succeed, but John Hammond put a solid Plan B in place if it doesn't work out well enough. If Carter-Williams can improve his jump shooting (a big if), his career trajectory would see a significant uptick.

Paul Imig Special to
Paul Imig spent the past five years working for FOX Sports WI. He began by covering the Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers before taking over the Green Bay Packers beat in 2011. In addition to his writing, Paul also made television appearances nationwide on FOX Sports 1. He can be heard on the radio statewide on The Bill Michaels Show and can be seen on Time Warner Cable's Roundtable show with Dennis Krause. Paul is the 2015 recipient of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's award for Graduate Of the Last Decade (GOLD).