The Bucks fell short of the NBA Finals in each of the last two postseasons after putting up the NBA’s best regular season record in each of those two years. However, general manager Jon Horst tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic that he believes the club is “young in its evolution of championship contention,” and that the current Bucks roster is its strongest yet.
“I think that this is the best roster that we’ve had in the last three years,” Horst said. “I have a ton of confidence in the work that our coaches have spent on improving our offensive and defensive systems and our style of play and just the way that that they’re going to approach the season and the way that we’re going to work. And then the work that our players did.
“… If you really peel back, how do you get better? I think you get better coaching, player internal development, and from a front office perspective, you improve the roster. I think we’ve checked all those boxes, and I feel confident about those things. The work that’s been put into all those areas and the results in all those areas. That’s why I feel good about this team and that we’re better than last season.”
In his conversation with Nehm, Horst discussed a wide ranging of topics, including his thoughts on all the veteran players Milwaukee added to its roster in free agency or via trade this offseason.
The discussion is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber, but here are a few more notable comments from the Bucks’ GM:
On what Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision to sign an extension with the Bucks says about the organization:
“I think it shows mostly a lot about Giannis and his desire to win and to be part of a culture where winning is first and foremost, and where the resources are going to be provided to you to win and continue to push the envelope and be in a position, year in and year out, to compete at the highest level. But to do it in a family environment, in a healthy environment, where people want to come to work every day and enjoy what they do every day. And for us, the goal from day one has been to create that environment, create that culture, and not just do that, but also to win at a high level. And we haven’t reached the ultimate goal yet, but I think we constantly improve and get better and push toward being great.”
On the NBA’s investigation into the Bucks’ pursuit of Bogdan Bogdanovic, which cost the team its 2022 second-round pick:
“We were fully cooperative with the NBA, very open and transparent. And a decision was made and we’re moving forward from that. We’re excited about the season. I think that at different points in your life or different points in your career, things happen and you’re only as good or as bad as how you respond. And we chose to be very cooperative, forthcoming, transparent and tried to work with the league to come up with the best result. The takeaway is that, be honest and helpful and deal with the result and move on and be better. … It’s not a lesson, but it’s a takeaway.”
On the Bucks’ decision not to sign a true backup center to replace Robin Lopez:
“It’s more a bet that we’re going to be more versatile and more equipped to play against teams that constantly go small. And so really our backup fives are Bobby (Portis), D.J. (Wilson), and Giannis, right? All of which also play the four very well. So we have options and versatility.
“… This season, I think we’re intentionally trying to push our money to the front and be a little bit riskier on the back end. And if we have to adjust and pivot, we’ll figure out a way to do it. Of course, we are always a little nervous, but I’ll tell you, I think our roster fits the NBA and the way teams are going to play us better this season than it ever has before.”
On the perception that the Bucks made a mistake by agreeing to a two-year deal with Pat Connaughton that would have violated CBA rules before amending it to a three-year deal:
“I’m sure it’s a more interesting read to write the story that we don’t know what we’re doing… We know what we’re doing. Maybe (it’s) not as interesting to say a deal wasn’t done, (that) negotiations and discussions are still evolving. We’ve done some complex things in the last few years and got it done and figured it out. We were negotiating and trying to figure out a deal that would work for Pat and us.
“… Frankly, I was surprised by a lot of stuff that was written in the process of negotiating a deal with Pat. There’s not a better answer than that. Again, you’re just trying to figure it out, like you’re literally going through real time. If people want to report stuff in real time as fact and final, that’s fine.”