What a whirlwind of a start to the 2021-22 NBA season. The Milwaukee Bucks, your reigning NBA champions, went through some violent ups-and-downs (or more accurately, the fanbase has) over the past 24 hours or so. To summarize:
- Bobby Portis rejected higher offers to stay in Milwaukee on a 2 year/$9M deal.
- PJ Tucker was apparently denied a higher offer to stay in Milwaukee, and took his talents to South Beach and joined the Miami Heat on a 2 year/$15M contract.
- Reeling from the loss of one of their Dawgs, the Bucks signed Semi Ojeleye to a 1 year minimum deal (counts for about $1.7M on the cap).
I posted a thread on Twitter that summarized my thoughts going into the next phase of NBA free agency. For anyone who refuses to venture over to the dumb bird site (you’re better off for it), here it is:
Bucks currently have 1 regular roster spot to fill, plus 2 two-way slots. If either 2R guy takes a two-way, then Milwaukee has an extra seat on the bench.— Mitchell Maurer (@Mitchell_NBA) August 3, 2021
Remaining resources are slim: the $5.9M TMLE, minimums, and a pair of TPEs.
Biggest needs: PG, wing depth
Letting PJ Tucker walk stings a great deal; Bucks need players who can survive in a playoff rotation (they have 7-8). PJ might be at the end of the road (making his loss sting less), but he also may have 1 more good postseason left. Betting on Semi to replace PJ is a big gamble.— Mitchell Maurer (@Mitchell_NBA) August 3, 2021
In short, the Bucks still have full use of their $5.9 million Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to add a player to their rotation. This is the main resource they have at their disposal and with ownership apparently cheaping out on re-signing Tucker, it seems likely that they’ll use it. Any other additions (or bringing back Thanasis) will probably come from minimum-level contracts, and the two traded player exceptions (TPEs) will likely expire unused (like so many TPEs do) over the course of time.
As things stand, they are returning seven of the eight players who made the playoff rotation and will see if Semi Ojeleye can replace anything that PJ Tucker offered in a similar environment. More likely, that TMLE resource will be used on someone that offers a bit more upside, and the Bucks will once again use the regular season to fine-tune their postseason lineups and what schemes fit the best with those personnel groups.
In terms of what the Bucks actually need, the picture is clear but not crystal-clear. The top of the roster is secure with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton locked up. Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, and the returning Bobby Portis are all key pieces for a playoff run. Donte DiVincenzo and his recovery from ankle surgery is a complete unknown at this point; the Bucks will need another guard to take his place for at least the start of the season, and there’s no guarantee that Donte will return at the same level he was at when injury struck. Help on the wing is always useful, so the Bucks will likely search for that, as well as a backup point guard to replace Jeff Teague (who the Bucks could always bring back, but an upgrade would be a welcome change). No matter what way you slice it, additional perimeter defense is the trait I would prioritize most, though guards capable of scoring in the half-court would be a close second.
As usual, post any rumors or opinions worth discussing in the comments. The season is coming up fast!