The Bucks are coming off debatably their best season since 1971, the question has since become can they sustain it next season? This article will explain what steps Jon Horst needs to take over the course of the next month for that to happen. The important thing to remember when considering the offseason is that the Bucks were two wins away from beating the eventual champs, including being up 2-0 on them. It was a close hard fought series, that if they were able to finish could have brought a Larry O’Brien trophy back to the 414. So the Bucks running it back would seem to have a chance at the title. The avenues for improvement as this point seem slim, with the way the salary cap works you are easily able to bring back your own guys, but will struggle to sign external free agents for high prices.
- Keep The Core Together
- Re-Sign Khris Middleton
With the way the NBA salary cap works, the Bucks can use Khris’s 19.5 million cap hold to extend him at any price. Guys who could realistically replace him and make the Bucks better start and end with Kawhi Leonard after the ligament tears in the finals. 2020 Free Agency is similarly barren for stars aside from Anthony Davis, calling AD to Milwaukee a longshot feels generous. So with that in mind, the only option on the table seems to be re-signing Khris Middleton. Khris has proven how valuable he can be for Milwaukee with his ability to defend multiple positions, score, and make plays. Anything the Bucks could get under the max would be a steal. Something like 5 years 170 million with a lower starting pay this year could be a huge steal.
- Re-Sign Brook Lopez
Lopez became the league’s best-kept secret last year in Milwaukee as he became not only a dynamic floor stretcher and a defensive anchor. He was a lovable personality and a great leader in the locker room. He was a perfect fit for the Bucks last season and it is tough to see them replacing him with anyone else. Luckily he has expressed interest in returning to the Bucks.
- Re-Sign Malcolm Brogdon
Last but not least Malcolm Brogdon the former rookie of the year winner is rumored to command a deal of up to 80 million guaranteed over 4 years. With Brogdon’s cap hold being a measly 3 million dollars, it would be very tough to move on from him and effectively replace him. So it makes more sense to retain him. If he has any room for upside next year would be a great year to show it.
2. Fill Out The Bench
- Use Some Cap Space on a Player
If the Bucks can sign Brook Lopez for 10-12 million and stretch Jon Leuer, they would have 7-9 million to spend on another player. They could in theory target a higher priced backup point guard, maybe George Hill, maybe Darren Collison, maybe Tomas Satoransky. Another position of need would be a backup small forward. Someone like Trevor Ariza, Stanley Johnson, Rudy Gay, Thabo Sefolosha, or DeMarre Carroll. They could get a center for that money as well, but for a backup with Ersan and DJ already on the roster, I am not so sure that makes sense.
- Use The Room Exception on a Player
Since the Bucks will use cap space on Lopez they will have the room exception, which is 4.7 million on a one year deal, or 9.8 million over two years. In my opinion, the Bucks have to target whatever they did not above. So if they used the space on a small forward, then you have to use the Room Exception on a point guard. 4.7 million might not sound like a lot of money, but once cap space dries up that is almost double the veteran minimum.
- Sign a Few Veteran Minimums
Assuming by this point the Bucks have made no moves beyond those five signings and stretching Jon Leuer. They should have 12 guys on the roster looking something like this:
PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Malcolm Brogdon
SF: Khris Middleton
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Brook Lopez
Bench: Donte Divincenzo, Sterling Brown, Ersan Ilyasova, DJ Wilson, Pat Connaughton
Projected Bench: Trevor Ariza, George Hill
They have no more cap space at this point or exceptions. They still could use another big body behind Brook Lopez that is more of a traditional center, some potential targets could be: Thomas Bryant, Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Kyle O’Quinn, or Zaza Pachulia.
Assuming you sign a center you are up to 13 on the roster and sitting fairly well two deep. With a handful of extra wings on cheap deals.
At this point you can go best available, personally, I would lean towards point guard and inquire about guys like Jeremy Lin, Tim Frazier, Trey Burke, or Quinn Cook. Potentially cheap 3rd string point guards that would be a nice insurance policy in case Bledsoe or Hill would have to miss a handful of games.
Assuming that works out you are now at 14.
- Sign a Young Upside Guy
Call it the Christian Wood Memorial spot, but I would like one young guy that could grow a bit with this staff. Perhaps someone off this year’s summer league team like Daulton Hommes or Rayjon Tucker, could be someone off another team’s summer league team like Yovel Zoosman.
Now we are up to 15 players on the roster. Congratulations Jon Horst, you are poised for another great season. The Bucks have 15 guys you can feel good about giving minutes to on any given night and this is a team that is in position to challenge Toronto and Philly to make it out of the East and compete for a title. One other thing to keep in mind is that if the Bucks are in a good position come March, there could be very good options on the buyout market if one of the veteran minimums were not working out or even the young upside guy. In the 2018 NBA playoffs the 76ers were able to win a series in part due to two guys they got off the buyout market, Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli. So there is always the chance of an in-season move, but that is more of a shore up depth move than anything else. The Bucks roster will be set up for success not only in the regular season, but hopefully deep into May. 2020 could be the first title for the Bucks in 49 years and only the second major title for the city among active franchises. Either way this summer will be a key one for the Bucks.