What’s next for the Bucks?Milwaukee must balance current championship window with long-term ambitions in pivotal summer

The 2020-21 NBA Championship has only one member Milwaukee Bucks Still alive in the 2022 playoffs, and as you may know, he’s no longer playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. After winning the title, Milwaukee had two key free agents trying to re-sign. Bobby Portis Willing to stay with the Bucks at a discount. PJ Tucker no.So Milwaukee filled Tucker’s salary with Portis and returning free agents George HillTucker received a warm welcome from one of Milwaukee’s biggest rivals: Miami Heat. Tucker’s Heat will now face very boston celtics The team that knocked Milwaukee out of the playoffs has a chance to return to the NBA Finals.

Should the Bucks keep Tucker? Yes, probably. There are no apparent basketball or collective bargaining issues preventing the reunion. Milwaukee can basically let him pass bird rights. The only cost will be financial. The small-market Bucks have paid a huge luxury tax. Adding Tucker’s $7 million salary to their current salary cap table would cost nearly $40 million once taxes are factored in. That doesn’t hold up for ownership, so in Game 7, they’re 4-for-33 from beyond the arc and can play Portis for just 22 minutes, and they don’t have Tucker due to his defensive deficiencies can help. If Tucker was still the Bucks, Milwaukee’s entire roster could be with him in the Eastern Conference finals.

But losses like Tucker’s are relatively common among contenders. The champ crumbled by compromise. The roster is getting old. They become more expensive. Role players want to be seen as starters. Beginners want to be stars. The realities of the basketball business crippled the NBA’s best teams until entropy turned them into shells of their past selves.

we are not completely There What about the Bucks.Tucker or no Tucker, Milwaukee could win this series, maybe even a championship Chris Middleton is healthy. But compromises have started to accumulate.Milwaukee was traded Grayson Allen Partially as a hedge against losses Donte DiVincenzo. Allen is willing to sign the kind of extension they are willing to pay for a low-end starting shooting guard. DiVincenzo is not. DiVincenzo is a strong defender and capable ball handler when healthy (he has never been in Milwaukee this year). Ellen is not one of those things in this series. Milwaukee lost the series by 55 points. They lost 48 minutes of Allen’s minutes.

The shooting guard who really led Milwaukee to a championship is also eligible for free agency this offseason. After performing well in consecutive playoffs, Pat Connaughton It seems likely that he will decline his player option and go to the open market. Milwaukee could re-sign him. Doing so could cost the Bucks’ Portis, who also has player options. Milwaukee has four players with combined earnings of $126 million next season, and they’re already looking at tax boundaries long before Portis and Connaughton’s new contracts are factored in. They will draw the line somewhere.

This entropy takes away the winners of the players who won with them, but is more brutal to the remaining players. The Bucks are getting old.Apart from Giannis Antetokounmponext season they controlled only three players in their 20s: Allen, Luca Verdosa and Rajon Tucker. The Middleton Trio, Zhu Holiday and Brook Lopez Enough to back Antetokounmpo’s title race last season. They could be this season, and if the band stays together next year, Milwaukee will be one of the favorites.

But Lopez, 34, is on an expiring contract and has to overcome back surgery to play for Milwaukee this postseason. Holiday has missed 10 or more games in six of the past eight seasons. Middleton is eligible for an extension this offseason, which would add $152.5 million to the $78 million he already owes.

It’s perfectly reasonable for the Bucks to pay that fee. Just ask how short Phoenix’s championship window is. Milwaukee is temporarily open. A bad few years on the back end is a price worth paying for the extended window. The Bucks already have a championship title. They might finish second or third in this group.

But the lingering fact is that Giannis Antetokounmpo will probably outlive every other Buck in existence. Milwaukee had three years of team control at the age of 27, and when the best player in the world arrived, he himself said it was no longer a matter of course for him to stay put. “My family and I have chosen to stay in this city we all love and take care of – for now,” Janis said in an interview with GQ November. “In two years, things may change.”

In two years, Antetokounmpo will be 29, his contract is about to expire, playing for a team that pays the most to two possible future Hall of Famers, a team that may be in decline . That’s not to spark the kind of free-agent hysteria he did before his last extension, but to acknowledge the simple fact that the two-time MVP will probably want to win into his 30s, if the Bucks continue to make him look like a father. As entropy agents like Time and Almighty Dollar dwindle their supporting roles, they’ll have a hard time convincing Antetokounmpo that they can give him the roster he deserves, as long as he deserves it.

This is the needle that Milwaukee will have to try threading at some point. They have to find a way to extend their current window without closing it, getting younger and cheaper without getting worse. Doing so requires a certain appetite for risk.

It might be worth exploring a Lopez deal. Even in his advanced years, he was an extremely rare big man. The list of elite rim protectors who can also make room on the floor is short. Those who can survive as an interior scorer and survive as a perimeter defender are rare, and at a reasonable $14 million next season, the Bucks may have multiple assets for players who survive without them during the regular season. most of the time.The ideal solution here, even removing the high-end results, is similar to the deal San Antonio did Kawhi Leonard Once upon a time: a transaction in which balance Recognize their need for youngsters and turn a veteran (Hill) into a mid-first-round pick they can use on someone they think is a long-term fit.

A bigger roll of the dice will sniff in Middleton’s market before Middleton is locked into a long extension. Milwaukee is one game away from beating Boston without him, and he’ll likely get a package that could reshape the Bucks in a few years.Does Portland desperately need to give Damian Lillard a winner it will hang in the air Anfernee Simmons and its lottery options?this king May have been desperate enough to give up the playoffs Harrison Barnes and their own choice, depending on where it falls. Such a trade would depend on whether Milwaukee fell in love with someone else’s young player or rookie.It may also be the biggest gamble the general manager has made since the Sam Presti trade James HardenIn fact, the Bucks knew the trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday could win a championship. The team simply won’t split these groups without being very confident in what’s behind Gate 2. Without a top-five pick or mature youngster returning to Milwaukee, the risks here outweigh the rewards.

but Some Risks will be necessary as Milwaukee’s supporting cast could continue to degenerate without a massive infusion of young talent. The Bucks will have some traditional opportunities to find it this offseason. Thanks to the Jrue Holiday trade, they’ll pick up the 24th overall pick in the June NBA draft and then pick three of the next five picks. Winners typically use their mid-level exceptions for verified veterans. The Bucks could use it to lure young free agents.Bucks send 23-year-old Jordan Nvora Every chance to get a rotation seat early in the season. If he re-signs, they could give him another chance next year.

This is a first world problem. Most teams will sacrifice for any chance of winning at the level Milwaukee has been at the past few years. Having Antetokounmpo means having a bigger mindset than most in the league. This iteration of the Bucks is built to win right away. The goal this offseason will be figuring out how to position the Bucks’ next iteration to achieve similar ambitions, because if they don’t take a step in that direction now, they’ll start seeing more and more players Fit them for other competitors without any alternative to them.

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