Of every possible postseason permutation available to the Milwaukee Bucks, they couldn't have gotten a better draw than a banged up Celtics squad just waiting to be upset by a second-rate opponent. Game 7 was there for the taking, and then suddenly it wasn't.
So now we're left with bitter memories, even more bitter thoughts, and hearts full of dread mixed with unfounded hopefulness as the 2018 offseason looms for the Bucks.
Expectations were high heading into the 2017-2018 season, but all that ended up being in store were disappointments, firings, and another year of general mediocrity made lighter by the sheer presence of Giannis Antetokounmpo. That's a lot of darkness to work out of for an ownership group that hasn't shown itself capable of the task, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. Maybe this summer will be one of those moments where even the unqualified can luck into a correct move or two.
Giannis Antetokounmpo on Jabari Parker Free Agency: ‘He Ain’t Going Anywhere’ (Bleacher Report)
That's some type of endorsement for Jabari Parker, but will it be enough to keep the mercurial forward in Milwaukee? For Giannis and the Bucks the decision may be mostly out of their hands thanks to the vagaries of the restricted free agency Parker is set to enter.
The list of teams with the need for a player like Parker may not be long, and that group gets smaller when accounting for who also has the money to bring him in. He's bound to get an offer sheet of some sort, but will the pill be poisonous for the Bucks to swallow? Or will Parker be back on a reasonable deal trying to carve a permanent role in Milwaukee?
By any other name, Khris Middleton’s game has been sweet (ESPN)
It was refreshing watching Khris Middleton bring it every game throughout the series, and you can't ask for much more than the 24.7 points per game with TS% at 71.9 and on a reasonable usage rate of 24.1%. After having an on-again, off-again year, Middleton did just about everything you could ask of him in his role to perfection.
A shame, then, that such an untouchable stretch of play was for naught. He's owed $13 million next season and then holds a player option for the 2019-2020 season at the same amount. If he stays healthy and turns in a like performance throughout next year, he's almost a lock to head onto the open market at age 28.
Enjoy Khris while he's a lock to be in Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Bucks need a new coach. They can’t afford to pass on Mike Budenholzer. (Washington Post)
‘Round and ‘round the coaching carousel goes; who will the Bucks pick? Nobody knows.
A name that keeps popping up, however, is former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. If you're buying what the Washington Post's Tim Bontemps is selling, Bud might be the savior this franchise is looking for.
While I agree with much of his argument for the hire, I remain leery about the level of control over roster-building Budenholzer would look for if he were to come to Milwaukee. We’ve already seen what a head coach with too much say can do to a franchise (*cough* the wasteland that is the Jason Kidd era *cough*) so hopefully ownership is wise enough to stand firm if such a demand is in the offing.
The Giannis Effect: The Bucks are counting on Antetokounmpo to take them to new heights (ESPN)
Sometimes it can be easy to forget that Giannis Antetokounmpo has put Milwaukee back on the global map all by himself. His star-power is unlike anything the city has seen in decades and he's got a personality that makes him easy to root for. The fact that he is a player without many equals is just icing on top.
The Bucks have recognized this and are slowly but surely making him their raison d’etre. No one else is likely coming through the proverbial door to take this franchise to the promised land, so remember to thank him for his being every hour, on the hour. That's all we can do as fans to help make sure he stays in Milwaukee.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the NBA’s most unique superstar. But will that be enough? (SB Nation)
If we're being picky, no, simply being unique may not be enough. Now, if he adds a reliable jumper? Watch out, world.
It is fair to ask wonder how to best build around Antetokounmpo. The obvious structure on offense is to surround him with reliable shooters and let him go to work driving and dishing in the paint, but could it really be that simple? He clearly isn't best suited to be an iso shot creator, nor is his shot consistent enough to have him sit on the perimeter. On defense, he can be a jack of all trades, but it is right to be concerned whether he has the strength and stamina to play the five on a nightly basis or if he's better suited as a lock-down defender in critical situations who you let slouch off on the weakest opposing threat.
One thing is for sure: I'm glad I'm not in management's place right now trying to figure out the future of all things Giannis.
From the Social Media Realm
When “Game of Thrones” meets the Milwaukee Bucks:
Giannis is heartbroken after delivering terrible news to J-Kidd #GameOfZones pic.twitter.com/tDbk3BJ6jF— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 26, 2018
Anyone else concerned that one of the team's owners is so high on the mid-range jumper as a reliable offensive tool?
We'll be back. The future is bright in Milwaukee. #bucks #midrange— Aaron Rodgers (@AaronRodgers12) April 29, 2018
A “Big Three” of a bygone era, except the first-round playoff exits are still the same:
I took this picture 5 years ago. Reminder: 5 years is a long time in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/RfLvEnO8xy— Frank (@fmaddenNBA) April 28, 2018
Thank you for your rule change suggestion, Brandon:
If u pass the ball to ur teammate and he goes to the free throw line and makes 2 shots that should be ur assist.— Brandon Jennings (@brandonjennings) April 27, 2018
Jabari Parker was nominated for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for his volunteer work in the wider Milwaukee community. We strongly suggest you go and support his deserved candidacy:
Vote for @JabariParker by using the hashtags:#JabariParker #NBACommunityAssisthttps://t.co/xOnYgUgpCz— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) April 25, 2018
And, to finish the season appropriately, here's a Really Good Tweet™ from our very own Kyle Carr:
Thanks to @Mitchell_NBA and @adamrparis for giving me this opportunity. I also want to thank my other Brew Hoop people @Greg_Licht @RileyFeldmann @ericbuenning @Dakota_Schmidt @Stoltzy3 @AllTheBucks and Rachael for being great people and putting out great content.— Kyle Carr (@KyleCoche) April 29, 2018
Since I no longer have anything worth predicting, I want to take this time to thank each and every one of you who takes the time to join me here every Monday, and all of us at Brew Hoop more generally. I sincerely enjoy going through and reading everyone's interactions with the site's writers and with one another, and it goes without saying that many of you have helped shape my views about the game of basketball.
The Milwaukee Bucks may not have been a surefire success on the court every night, but this season was a joy regardless thanks to all of you.
So take a few weeks off, decompress, rejuvenate, and get ready for the 2018 offseason in all its glory.