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The pressure continues to mount on the Milwaukee Bucks as they have, for the second season in a row, failed to reach the NBA Finals. Boasting the league’s Most Valuable Player in Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks need to find success now if they want to keep their star for the long term.
The Bucks were embarrassed in the NBA bubble, having been defeated by the Miami Heat in five games through the Eastern Conference second round. With declining success over the past two years, and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s contract expiring in 2021, GM Jon Horst is in win-now mode.
Milwaukee’s priority this summer will be finding impact players that can be successful in a system even when Antetokounmpo was out. Famous for not having a Plan B when Antetokounmpo is out, the Bucks will have to find a way to improve, despite having $132 million committed in salary this season.
|PTS/G||Pace||Off Rtg||Def Rtg|
|118.7 (1st)||105.1 (1st)||112.4 (8th)||102.9 (1st)|
The Milwaukee Bucks have disappointed for two straight seasons. At the same, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s contract becomes alarmingly close to expiry with every passing day. After losing to the Miami Heat in the second round, Antetokounmpo had to take stock of his future in relation to the Bucks.
The list of suitors for Antetokounmpo at the dawn of free agency will belong. If the Bucks fail to win a championship for the third straight season, Antetokounmpo may look toward greener pastures to fulfill his title hopes. The Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, and Golden State Warriors seem to be at the top of the list.
For now, Giannis Antetokounmpo is still a Milwaukee Buck. He doesn’t seem the type to cause any trouble leading up to the free agency, but should Milwaukee continue to underachieve he’s sure to pressure the front office for improvement or a trade.
All credit goes to Mike Budenholzer for revamping the Bucks’ scheme to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo with capable shooters and finishers, all with the goal of empowering his dominant play. However, without a Plan B, the Bucks struggled during the NBA restart.
In their loss to the Miami Heat in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, the Heat dominated with their efficient play and solid defense. Against an opponent with the ability to limit the Milwaukee star, they showed that they are lacking tactical depth and a player able to spell Antetokounmpo.
While it may seem unfair to say that a team sporting All-Star Khris Middleton beside Antetokounmpo is lacking options, the results speak for themselves.
The Milwaukee Bucks enter the 2020-2021 season with 11 players under contract, with two of those players yet to accept their player option. Their current depth chart reads:
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Eric Bledsoe||Wesley Matthews*||Khris Middleton||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Brook Lopez|
|George Hill||Donte DiVincenzo||Thanasis Antetokounmpo||Ersan Ilyasova||Robin Lopez*|
* Denotes a player with a Player Option
The Milwaukee Bucks have a fair amount committed in salary for this upcoming season, led by All-Stars Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Improving their roster with economical signings is vital, with a focus on shot creation and playmaking.
|Player||Age||19-20 Salary||20-21 Salary|
|K. Middleton||29||$30.6 million||$33.0 million|
|G. Antetokounmpo||25||$25.8 million||$27.5 million|
|E. Bledsoe||30||$15.6 million||$16.8 million|
|B. Lopez||32||$12.0 million||$12.6 million|
|G. Hill||34||$9.1 million||$9.5 million|
|E. Ilyasova||33||$7.0 million||$7.0 million (Not fully guaranteed)|
|R. Lopez||32||$4.7 million||$5.0 million (Player Option)|
|D. Wilson||24||$2,9 million||$4.5 million|
|D. DiVincenzo||23||$2.9 million||$3.0 million|
|W. Matthews||34||$2.5 million||$2.6 million (Player Option)|
|K. Korver||39||$2.5 million|
|P. Connaughton||27||$1.7 million|
|S. Brown||25||$1.6 million|
|T. Antetokounmpo||28||$1.4 million|
|M. Williams||34||$956, 349|
|Totals||$132.2 million||$86.6 million|
The Milwaukee Bucks have four active, unrestricted free agents during this 2020 NBA Offseason. While the like of Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Sterling Brown is unlikely to warrant much interest from the Bucks front office, Kyle Korver and Pat Connaughton played a large enough role for the Bucks to suggest they could see a return to the Brew City.
You can never have enough shooters on your team and the retention of Kyle Korver would only be a benefit to the Bucks. While he only played about 16 minutes per game over 56 games played last season, Korver remained one of the league’s best shooters. Converting on 41.8% of his three-pointers, mostly created by the play of Giannis Antetokounmpo, it’s difficult to see why the Bucks wouldn’t want to bring back such a valuable role player.
Pat Connaughton is no more than a utility player for the Milwaukee Bucks. However, it’d be foolish to say he wasn’t of value to the Bucks. While Donte DiVincenzo usurped much of his minutes, Connaughton is a solid defensive player with the athleticism to spark the team off the bench. At 27, balancing his salary demands will be the real test.
The Milwaukee Bucks, with one year left on superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo’s contract, are looking to win their first NBA Championship since 1971. Their failures in the past two seasons have been a detriment to their image, resulting in a win-now situation in order to maintain a promising future.
The Milwaukee Bucks (+200) open as the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. After coming out of the regular season with the number one seed for the past two seasons, it’s no surprise that the Bucks have a strong entry to open the year.
Their closest contenders are the Brooklyn Nets (+300), Miami Heat (+350), and Boston Celtics (+400). The Brooklyn Nets are the biggest surprise, having finished in just seventh place last season. The introduction of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant has certainly swayed the public.
Despite not even making the Conference Finals last season, the Milwaukee Bucks open their 2020-2021 campaign at a +500 to win the NBA Championship. Just behind the Lakers and the Clippers in the odds to win the Championship, it’s clear that the weakness of the Eastern Conference favors the Bucks.
If you’re looking for an out-right Championship winner, it is tough to pick the Bucks. Despite opening third in odds to win the title, their overwhelming salary commitment and lack of performance with similar roster make-up will quell expectations.
Odds taken from DraftKings Sportsbook, November 2.
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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.
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