Welcome back to yet another installment of the Brew Hoop Round Table, where we ask that everybody use coasters and please don’t feed the aging pugs from the table, thanks. You thought we couldn’t possible top our mid-Finals roundtable, but this is a new frontier for the Milwaukee Bucks as they retool to defend their title. The free agency action has been hot and heavy, even if the Bucks haven’t had their names called all that often. Our staff (and you) weigh in!
1. We’re two days into free agency. How do you think the Bucks have done?
2. What, if anything, do you think the Bucks should have done differently?
3. Was there another team’s signing that made you sit up in your chair?
4. It’s way too early, but how do you think the Bucks stack up in the Eastern Conference?
5. If you had one minute alone with Marc Lasry, Wes Edens, and Jamie Dinan (LED), what would you say?
We’re two days into free agency. How do you think the Bucks have done?
Mitchell: I’m not into giving letter grades until the whole project is completed (or at least the pieces have stopped moving), but I would say that I’m somewhat satisfied with the results so far. Getting Bobby Portis to re-sign with his non-Bird rights was a coup, securing the MLE resource for reinforcements elsewhere. More importantly, it returned the third big to the Bucks’ three-big playoff rotation (alongside Giannis and Brook) that just won the title. Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye are nice gets for the minimum; each has a shot at returning more value than the investment the Bucks put up to acquire them. George Hill is a surprising return, and a valuable archetype. PJ Tucker’s departure stings, especially since it was primarily out of misguided frugality, but there’s also enough basketball rationale to justify his exit.
Gabe: Like Mitchell, it’s still too early to give any final assessment on Milwaukee. They made a major move in bringing back Bobby Portis. It hurt to lose PJ Tucker, but with the additions of Hood, Ojeleye, and George Hill, I think the Bucks are in the green more than they are in the red at this point.
Van: Quite well. Any criticism of the team for not bringing back Tucker is overblown—yes, he was an important piece to the championship and his specific brand of defense is not replaceable, but let’s remember that 1) with PJT in the lineup the Bucks are playing 4 on 5 once they have the ball, 2) he’s 36 years old, and 3) they just won a ring. That last one means you need to be happy, dammit! Anyway, they project to have a massive tax bill (at least $40m at this point), so replacing Tucker with minimum wings like Hood and Ojeleye is reasonable. Plus, they’re both younger AND bigger. I don’t think frugality is relevant to the conversation when re-upping Tucker to a $5–10m deal brings the tax bill from its already high figure to well over $50m. They’re paying the tax and they’re paying it significantly; what more do we want? Remember when they wouldn’t pay it to keep Malcolm Brogdon? Things are better now. Hill coming back is also a feel-good story and I think he’ll have something left in the tank. Oh right, and they got Portis back for a well-below-market, team-friendly deal. That coup alone makes up for not re-signing Tucker.
Kyle: I didn’t even realize that Free Agency had started when it did. Overall I’m fine, getting Bobby back was HUGE and glad to see how much he really does love Milwaukee considering he could have gotten a worthy paycheck. It’s a bummer about PJ more because of the optics and the mention of how having his Bird Rights was going to be a huge asset and talk about making him a priority only to then U-turn on it. Hood and Ojeleye are interesting just to see what they can provide and I am both shocked and pleased about George Hill returning.
Adam: Decent with what few tools they had. Losing Tucker isn’t ideal, but I like Milwaukee taking fliers on a few younger-ish vets, a tactic that worked fairly well with Bryn Forbes and Bobby Portis. George Hill is of course the exception to that rule, but his presence can spare us of the far too fiery criticism of Bud for giving Jeff Teague spot minutes. He’s a proven Playoff performer who will get minutes. As for Hood or Ojeleye, who knows, but at this point last year everyone was praising the Torrey Craig signing and iffy on the Portis deal. Look how that turned out? These things take time.
Riley: Pending any final signings and which of the young guys end up getting voted off the island to make room for the vets, I’d give them a C+ or B-? PJ Tucker will be a sore point for awhile, especially if he looks even halfway serviceable in Miami (though I caution drawing direct conclusions there given the very particular role he fills at this point in his career), but most of the other signings have been decent. Bringing Bobby back to fill his lane off the bench is huge from both an on-court and off-court perspective, George Hill should hopefully be better than Jeff Teague, and rolling the dice via prove-it deals for Semi and Rodney isn’t a crazy idea. If they’ve got one more shadow signing out there that is just as reasonable, I’d bump that grade up a bit.
What, if anything, do you think the Bucks should have done differently?
Mitchell: It’s not my money, I would have absolutely gone and re-signed PJ Tucker to more than Miami ended up securing his services for. Yes, the tax bill would increase exponentially, both for this season and any subsequent seasons (especially if Milwaukee does right by Bobby Portis and gives him a payday next offseason), the repeater tax is a doozy, and it’s possible that Tucker’s performance totally falls off a cliff. I’d still rather have him on the bench than, say, Mamadi Diakite or Elijah Bryant, even at ten times the rate.
Gabe: I’d probably say pay up and sign PJ. It would’ve been nice to get Patty Mills as well, but we all know that with the sting of the luxury tax, that wasn’t going to happen.
Van: They just won a championship two weeks ago. I’d say the Bucks are doing just fine.
Kyle: Probably just eat the money and pay PJ but other than that, I don’t know what the Bucks could have done that they didn’t try (i.e. try signing Patty Mills)
Adam: I would’ve held a championship parade every single day since they won.
Riley: This was a silly question, I admit, but we have to adhere to the Rule of Fives, so here we are. Without knowledge of who (if anyone at all) they’ve offered the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to, I can’t cast too many stones. I wasn’t inspired by last year’s FA class either, but it all worked out in the end. When you’re up against it like we are just keeping the churn moving forward in productive ways is the name of the game.
Was there another team’s signing that made you sit up in your chair?
Mitchell: The Lakers lifted my eyebrows by trading for Russell Westbrook, and following that up by collecting a veritable who’s-who of NBA veterans. They’re old as hell, will be interesting to see how they hold up after flaming out in the first round last postseason.
Gabe: For me, it was the Nets signing Patty Mills. He’s been dangerous against the Bucks in years past, and adds an even deeper layer of offensive power to that team. The Nets still don’t really have a Giannis stopper though, so they’re essentially doubling-down on their philosophy from this season.
Van: Our neighbors to the south signed DeMar DeRozan to a 3-year deal worth a whopping $85 million. The Bucks have one of the best front offices and ownership groups in the NBA. The Bucks won a freaking championship two weeks ago yesterday. The Bulls... did that. Remember this when you tweet your disdain for anything the Bucks have done/will do.
Kyle: Philly thinking Andre Drummond is absolutely hilarious considering his and Embiid’s history and now Sixers fans will see him get empty stats and think they are an elite team.
Adam: It’s hard to care all that much when every other team is chasing Milwaukee, but Denver getting Jeff Green on a 2-year, $10M deal seemed like a solid bit of business for a team that’s trying to reload. I liked their under-the-radar moves. Clearly, my threshold for sitting up is quite low.
Riley: I didn’t sit up in my chair in a “wow, they’re going to be really dangerous for a long time”, but paying Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler a combined $6 billion over the next 20 years was certainly a choice Miami made. They might be improved this year, but they feel like a team desperately trying to maintain the facade of their being a premier destination with C-level stars. A collapse in 2022 and beyond appears inevitable.
It’s way too early, but how do you think the Bucks stack up in the Eastern Conference?
Mitchell: At this point, I would still have them in the top-3 of the East. Brooklyn has more star power and reinforced themselves, and Philly should remain formidable even despite themselves, and both teams figure to win a boatload of regular season games. Still, the Bucks have a guy who can be the best player on the floor against any of them, or anyone else, and the title is theirs until someone beats them and takes it.
Gabe: I agree with Mitchell. They’re in the top three. It’s Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and Miami. I think Philadelphia is Philadelphia and Boston is Boston. The Nets and Heat have both had strong offseasons and will likely challenge the Bucks in their quest to repeat.
Van: Three? More like two. The Nets are the favorite and I won’t dispute that, but the Bucks are in the same tier. Any moves by any team (Lowry, Tucker, Mills, etc) these past two days don’t change that. Miami, Philly, etc. are beneath Milwaukee and will have to prove they can hang with the top two dogs next postseason. With two Finals studs in Giannis and Middleton (not to mention Holiday, Lopez, Portis, etc.), Milwaukee boasts a resume of recent playoff success heads above any Eastern team (including Brooklyn; last I checked James Harden still hasn’t done squat in the postseason). Miss me with all the hubbub about the Heat. Kyle Lowry is old and was injured a good chunk of last year. Tucker is old. Tyler Herro is likely not the star the casuals and ESPN wants him to be. The Sixers can’t make a conference finals and still employ Ben Simmons. I’m more scared of the Hawks—who are having a sneakily-good offseason—than either of those squads.
Kyle: I agree with Van in that they are Top two. Philly are frauds, Miami is quietly pulling a Lakers and signing old dudes, Boston exist I guess, maybe the Hawks take that next step but we just saw Milwaukee get two wins against them without Giannis. The only team hat really can beat the Bucks in a seven game series in the east is Brooklyn.
Adam: Ya, I think I’d side more with Van and Kyle in terms of a top tier. Brooklyn is the title favorite reasonably, but Milwaukee deserves to be alongside them even with the injury luck they got last season by virtue of their title. I’m not that bullish on Miami, even with a defense at the level of Milwaukee’s in last postseason (not a given), they’d have to match the OREB and other marginal advantages of the Bucks to make up for an offense that’ll look like a can of sardines most nights. Philly is an unknown till the Simmons mess is figured out but Atlanta has plenty of shotmakers for another decent postseason run.
Riley: It’ll be another season where the regular season may underwhelm us a bit. Once we are in a groove I agree we’ll be top two in the East, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we have a lumbering start out of the gate between tired stars, a bunch of new role players, and the tribulations of youth development on the back end of the rotation. We’ll probably find our way into a three-seed yet again despite the talent on-hand.
If you had one minute alone with LED, what would you say?
Mitchell: Listen, you don’t know – or care – who I am, but just don’t screw over Bobby Portis next summer. He’s a major part of the rotation, offers a skillset the Bucks need in the front court, the fan base adores him, and he took a massive risk by accepting another low salary in order to get to next offseason with his Early Bird Rights intact. You got cheap on PJ Tucker, and I’m in the minority when I say that it’s (mostly) fine and the blowback will blow over. It won’t blow over so easily if Portis doesn’t get a decent payday next summer, so...don’t get cheap on him.
Also, you can make a lot of money on championship merchandise if the Bucks win the title again, so let Jon Horst go and get the pieces to do that, maybe.
Gabe: BRING BACK THE ORANGE CHICKEN AS A PRE-GAME MEDIA MEAL.
Van: Thanks for keeping the team in Milwaukee to start, but eternal thanks for bringing the city a title. All else (Jason Kidd, Justin Zanik, etc.) is forgiven. You owe us nothing more. I’d love it if you bring us another ring, but you’ve done right by the city and its fans while owning the team. Also: build a statue for Giannis now. He’s already earned it.
Kyle: Tell Alex to stop being a bum and drop out of the Senate race, it’s a waste of time.
Adam: Any chance for a blue DiVincenzo shirsey to go on sale?
Riley: At least whip up a little pretend bonhomie when you’re in the same room together. Nothing more inspirational than two principal owners who go rigid when the other one gets on the mic in public.