Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise heading into the summer.
State Of The Franchise
The Bucks came into the 2015/16 season with high expectations after finishing at .500 the previous year, reaching the playoffs and then signing coveted free agent center Greg Monroe during the summer. Instead of meeting those expectations, the Bucks took a big step backward, wallowing in last place in the Central Division and winding up 16 games under .500.
Milwaukee does have some quality young players pieces to build around, most notably Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 6’11” Antetokounmpo was a revelation after becoming the team’s primary ballhandler, recording five triple-doubles after the All-Star break. Having a 21-year-old point guard as tall as a center makes him a matchup nightmare for opponents, though Antetokounmpo needs to improve his shooting.
The second pick in the 2014 draft, Jabari Parker, bounced back from a season-ending knee injury during his rookie campaign to average 18.9 points and 6.6 rebounds after the All-Star break. The shooting guard spot is also in good, young hands, as Khris Middleton averaged a career-high 18.2 points and shot 39.6% on 3-point attempts.
Now, GM John Hammond must find better pieces to surround his budding stars. There are plenty of areas for improvement. The Bucks need to develop a defensive mindset, upgrade their perimeter shooting, become a better rebounding team, and add veteran savvy to the mix. They finished 17th in defensive field-goal percentage, 21st in 3-point percentage, and 25th in rebounding.
Big Man Dilemma
The Bucks were eager to upgrade their frontcourt last summer and were thrilled when Monroe chose to sign a three-year max deal with them. They soon learned that Monroe’s shortcomings often outweigh the positives he brings to the table.
Monroe is a solid low-post scorer and rebounder, but lacks the foot speed and athleticism to guard the paint or pick-and-rolls effectively. He also doesn’t block shots. Monroe often sat during crunch time while Miles Plumlee closed out games.
“We got him to help score, and he did that,” head coach Jason Kidd recently told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Charles F. Gardner. “He delivered. I think with our defense, we’ve got to do a better job.”
The best solution would be to move Monroe and find a better rim protector. Milwaukee reportedly shopped Monroe to the Pelicans prior to the trade deadline but couldn’t get the package it wanted for him. The Bucks will surely continue to pursue deals involving Monroe, hoping to find a team willing to live with his deficiencies.
Plumlee is a restricted free agent and the Bucks have expressed their desire to re-sign him. But he’s nothing more than a complementary piece and the Bucks will still need a starter to replace Monroe if they’re successful in moving him and his $17.14MM salary for next season.
Free Agent Targets
With approximately $61.6MM committed to guaranteed salaries next season, the Bucks have plenty of cap room to sign free agents. Dwight Howard and Hassan Whiteside will be the top big men available, though it would be a big surprise if either would want to spend their winters in Milwaukee.
The Bucks could certainly use a forward with a consistent long-distance stroke to improve spacing. Ryan Anderson, Marvin Williams or Harrison Barnes could fill that need but they’ll all come with hefty price tags.
It’s more likely Milwaukee will chase second-tier free agents. The Bucks had one of the worst benches in the league last season and have vowed to improve it. They especially need to find shooters — Middleton and oft-injured point guard Jerryd Bayless were their only reliable 3-point threats last season.
The Bucks have to decide whether to pursue any of their unrestricted free agents, a quartet of backcourt players who had injury issues last season — Bayless, O.J. Mayo, Steve Novak and Greivis Vasquez. They will reportedly try to retain Bayless and Novak while letting Mayo and Vasquez find new homes.
Besides Monroe, the Bucks must figure out what to do with Michael Carter-Williams, who is now in an awkward situation with Antetokounmpo essentially taking his job. Carter-Williams is a subpar shooter, so playing him off the ball doesn’t work. He’s still on his rookie contract, so a potential suitor could acquire the 24-year-old to audition him at the point without committing to him beyond next season.
- First-round pick: No. 10
- Second round picks: Nos. 36, 38
The Bucks could go any number of ways with their lottery pick, but the smart money has them taking a big man. Jakob Poertl and Skal Labissiere are the top centers expected to go in the bottom half of the lottery. Should they target a stretch four, Marquette product Henry Ellenson and/or Domantas Sabonis could still be on the board when their pick comes up.
Anyone who thought the Bucks might sour on Kidd after their subpar season were proven wrong when the team agreed to a contract extension with him this week. Kidd still has one year left on his original deal before that new three-year, $18MM extension kicks in.
The Bucks aren’t a typical last-place team. They have some real hope of getting back into the playoff picture next season, thanks to the talented young trio of Antetokounmpo, Parker and Middleton. But they’ll need to make shrewd decisions while restructuring their roster around those players. Milwaukee must find a defensive stalwart in the middle and more perimeter threats. Monroe and Carter-Williams don’t seem like a part of the long-term plan and need to be moved. The Bucks also need to acquire some veterans who can help nurture the talented young core
- Greg Monroe ($17,145,838)
- Khris Middleton ($15,200,000)
- John Henson ($12,267,606)
- Jabari Parker ($5,374,320)
- Michael Carter-Williams ($3,183,526)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo ($2,995,421)
- (Larry Sanders $1,865,547) — Salary remaining from release via stretch provision
- Rashad Vaughn ($1,811,040)
- Tyler Ennis ($1,733,880)
- Total: $61,577,178
- Miles Plumlee ($3,113,318/$5,273,235)
Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)
- O.J. Mayo ($12,000,000)
- Greivis Vasquez ($9,900,000)
- Jerryd Bayless ($3,900,000)
- Steve Novak ($980,431)
- Total: $26,780,431
Other Cap Holds
- No. 10 pick ($2,140,500)
Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.