For the second straight season, the Milwaukee Bucks have failed to live up to expectations in the playoffs.
In 2019, Milwaukee blew a 2-0 series lead in the Conference Finals to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors. This season, the Miami Heat upset the top-seeded Bucks in five games in the Semi-Finals.
For the Bucks organization, pressure is mounting to win a championship next season. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won his second MVP Award along with having already been named DPOY, will be in the final year of his contract, should he choose to forgo the super-max extension Milwaukee will offer him.
The coming offseason could make or break the Bucks going forward. A failure to reach the NBA Finals would probably mean a Giannis departure. While every team hopes to get better during the offseason, is it possible for Milwaukee to do so?
Cap flexibility & draft picks
As for cap flexibility in the coming offseason, Milwaukee doesn’t have many good options if they wanted to shake up their roster. Kyle Korver, Pat Connaughton, Sterling Brown, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Marvin Williams will come off the books, but only account for roughly $8 million.
The Bucks’ biggest contract, should Giannis wait to sign an extension, will be Khris Middleton, who is owed $107 million over the next four years after this season.
Guard Eric Bledsoe is the teams’ third-highest paid player, who will make over $54 million until the 2023 offseason. Brook Lopez, Milwaukee’s defensive anchor in the post is owed about $40 million as well.
If the Bucks wanted to make a trade for another star this offseason, it would involve giving up at least one, perhaps two of their three top earners. George Hill‘s $10 million salary could be included in a deal, as well as Ersan Ilyasova‘s $7 million contract for next season.
Regarding draft capital to throw in a trade, Milwaukee doesn’t have many options either. In the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft, the Bucks have one pick- the 24th. In future drafts, many of their picks are owed to different teams from past trades.
Potential deals and conclusion
Milwaukee clearly needs to some moves this offseason. However, their lack of moveable contracts that aren’t negative assets will likely keep them from any big trades.
Bledsoe has been a solid guard on both ends of the floor during the regular season as a Buck, but hasn’t done so in the playoffs. Lopez and Hill both still have value, but a package of them wouldn’t be enough to get an established star or even a young player with upside.
Trading Middleton is Milwaukee’s best opportunity to improve their roster. In theory, the Milwaukee could bundle assets outside of Middleton and Antetokounmpo for a star player, though depth would become an issue. Is Middleton good enough to be the second best player on a Finals team? So far, the answer has been no.
The Bucks could use a ball handler, but trading for Chris Paul would be too expensive and too short-sighted. Milwaukee likely doesn’t have enough to pry Bradley Beal away from the Wizards. They could try and go after Spencer Dinwiddie, but making the money match would be difficult.
It’s clear the Bucks don’t have the best situation regarding salary cap or draft assets. In free agency, they should target young players with potential upside, as their roster lacks youth, and ball handlers who can create their own offense. In this free agent class however, these prospects may be hard to find.
As of now, it doesn’t appear as if Milwaukee can improve much this offseason. That’s a bad sign going forward with their franchise player’s contract nearly up.
Featured image credited to CBS Sports.
Stats credited to basketball-reference.com.