With their loss on Sunday, the 2021 NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks fell short of a return to the Finals in disappointing fashion. A combination of putrid shooting and a questionable defensive scheme led to the game seven collapse.
Now that their season is over, it’s time to start thinking about what will be an important off-season for the Bucks. As long as the core of Giannis, Khris, and Jrue are together they will be in title contention, and the key to hoisting the trophy again will be improving the supporting cast that underperformed in the Boston series.
I’ve compiled a list of realistic targets Milwaukee can acquire via free agency, trade, and the draft. Let’s get into it!
First off, it’s crucial that the Bucks bring back key bench pieces Bobby Portis Jr. and Pat Connaughton. Both played a huge role in the 2021 championship run and have become fan favorites in the Cream City, and if the duo declines their player options Jon Horst should make it a priority to re-sign them.
Alongside Bobby and Pat, I would like to see Wes Matthews and Jevon Carter back in Bucks uniforms next season. Matthews played some awesome defense, specifically on Jayson Tatum and DeMar DeRozan, throughout the playoffs and looked like the most important guy outside of the big three at times. There’s a chance his old age catches up to him next year, but renewing his deal at the vet minimum would be a low-risk, high-reward move. Carter is another hard-nosed defender who also shot the ball very well during his short tenure in Milwaukee, leaving fans confused when he didn’t see the court often. He’s proven he can be a contributor when he gets the opportunity and hopefully he comes back.
Restricted free agent Jordan Nwora is one of my favorite Bucks (I’m a proud owner of his jersey), but I would be fine with him going elsewhere if it meant he could spread his wings and get more playing time.
For new additions, there are a few different roles that need to be filled. The most glaring one is a backup point guard. George Hill’s age and Coach Bud’s unwillingness to play Jevon Carter made Jrue-less minutes an adventure, and that problem needs to be addressed.
One guy who fits that role is Delon Wright. The 6’5″ combo guard has been a contributor for playoff teams like Toronto, Dallas, and Atlanta in the past and is known best for his defense.
Wright is also a solid shooter (37.9% from three in the 2021-22 season) and passer and could play with or without Jrue.
Another type of player the Bucks could use is a movement shooter. Grayson Allen, Pat Connaughton, and Wes Matthews are all reliable catch-and-shoot threats, but they need Giannis to create looks for them. Therefore, when two or more of those guys are in the game without Giannis the offense slows down. A lineup of Jrue, Grayson, Pat, Bobby, and Brook posted a disgusting offensive rating of 71.8 in the playoffs, the worst of any five-Buck combo that played 15+ minutes together.
Adding a player who can fly off screens and knock down triples would add much-needed movement when the Greek Freak is taking a rest. Malik Monk, who spent his 2021-22 campaign with the Lakers, can do just that.
Furthermore, Monk can hit the deep ball off the dribble at times- something I’ve never seen Pat or Wes do.
Other viable shooting options include Patty Mills and Ben McLemore.
Finally, the Bucks could use a center who can move a little. I love Brook Lopez, but he’s really slow and that’s why his time on the court was limited against Boston. Adding a big who has decent lateral quickness would really help out on defense. Unfortunately, there’s a reason why having guys like that is so valuable and that’s because they’re hard to come across. There aren’t any upcoming free agents who fit that mold.
The Milwaukee Bucks will select 24th overall in the 2022 NBA draft, the perfect chance to add some young talent to a team with an aging core.
One guy I’d really like to see them draft is Kennedy Chandler, a point guard from Tennessee. The 19-year-old is quick, shifty, and one of the best passers in the class. He could create for himself and others when the stars need a break, filling the backup spot.
Another good selection would be Christian Koloko from Arizona. He won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award and might be the aforementioned type of big the Bucks need. He’s mobile, long, and swats a ton of shots.
Other players who would fit well in Milwaukee include Jaden Hardy (The G-League Ignite guard who has shown flashes of self-creation from all three levels), Patrick Baldwin Jr. (a 6’9″ sharpshooter), and Trevor Keels (a tough guard from Duke who can defend and finish).
To wrap up this article, here are a few potential trade targets. The Bucks don’t have the money or the assets to pull off a deal for a bigger name such as Jerami Grant, but there are some solid role players Jon Horst should call about if they’re available.
First on that list is PJ Washington. The three-year man from Kentucky would be an excellent fit next to Giannis as a four/small-ball five because he stretches the floor and is switchable on defense.
A deal to get Washington would likely have to end Brook Lopez’s tenure in Milwaukee. The Hornets will need to pay LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges big bucks in the near future, and when Lopez’s contract expires that will clear up cash for Charlotte to throw the bag at their young stars. The full deal would probably look something like this:
A second guy who should be on Milwaukee’s radar is Royce O’Neale. O’Neale is a consistent 3&D wing who’s been a key contributor for the Jazz over the last couple of seasons. If Utah decides to enter rebuild mode, the Bucks could rescue the veteran with a package centered around Grayson Allen and draft capital of some kind.
Devonte’ Graham is a third player that could be a target for Milwaukee. Graham had a down year with New Orleans, as the acquisition of C.J. McCollum and the emergence of Jose Alvarado made him the odd man out in the guard rotation. However, if he could return to his Charlotte form he would bring nice shooting off the bench for Milwaukee. Grayson Allen, George Hill, and a pick might be enough to pry Graham away from the up-and-coming Pelicans.
Overall, a really solid off-season for the Bucks would result in the 2022-23 rotation looking something like this:
Starters- Holiday, Monk, Middleton, Washington, Giannis
Bench- Wright, Connaughton, Matthews, Portis, Koloko
With the best player in the world at the helm, that’s a championship roster. My favorite part about it is the drop-coverage defense that cost Milwaukee their season wouldn’t need to be played anymore. This group is very switchable, full of guys who can guard multiple positions, which is becoming the new norm in today’s NBA.
What does your ideal Bucks off-season look like? Let me know your thoughts on my Twitter, @thebenchmobblog. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!