Ideally, it wouldn’t have quite ended like this. While the run would never have been perfect, you could quite reasonably argue that this Milwaukee Bucks team was in a good spot to repeat as NBA champions. Giannis Antetokounmpo remained the best player in the league, Brook Lopez had returned from back surgery and looked as good as you could hope, Jrue Holiday had a strong close to the year, the supporting squad looked solid enough, etc etc etc etc.
The overriding feeling I have this morning is one of plain disappointment, not anger. We’ll spend a good amount of the coming months wondering whether it’d all be different if Our Savior, Jevon Carter, played for 15 minutes, but after splitting the series openers 1-1 and failing to create much positive offense at all, on some level we knew how this was going to go. It is actually amazing they put themselves into a position to advance at all in spite of how tough a going it had been most nights against the Celtics. But again, that just adds to a sense of disappointment, not anger that we blew it.
My great concern revolves around the cold logic of the passage of time in the NBA. As seasons go by, your best players get another year older and often make even more money; this is how things work. Teams are then confronted with the puzzle of how to find enough production from the rest of the roster on increasingly finite cap resources to keep the juggernaut moving forward. Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Jrue are set to make a combined ~$115 million next year which, again, is how this works; but that reality means any year that doesn’t pay off in at least a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals (if not the whole shebang) is concerning. Yes, Giannis will continue to be an all-time great for a long time to come, but even then he’ll be 31-32 years old by the time Khris and Jrue’s contracts have run their course. His PRIME prime years are now, so a miss is a real shame.
So now the task of figuring out where to go from here falls out of the players and coaches hands and into Jon Horst’s. He’ll have plenty of work to do between the 24th pick in the draft (we can all assume this person is getting traded on draft night, right?) and a good chunk of the better part of our rotation potentially hitting free agency between Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. After last year’s title our great follow-up signings were Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye, so here’s to hoping we can snag a veteran or two who don’t already have both their feet firmly planted in the land of those about to be outside of the league.
As ever, if you’re angry or upset or even more disappointed than me, just give it a few weeks. Like me, you could skip watching the rest of the playoffs entirely and get away from the game for a bit. Once the dust has settled, the rhythm of the offseason takes over and we can start planting our optimism anew like fans have done since time immemorial. It’s a bitter pill to swallow now, yes, and yet we’ll find a way to carry on. We always do.
Log this one under “Milwaukee is the worst jump-shooting team to have ever played playoff professional basketball”. Last season was really the only time I can remember us bucking the trend of decent regular season three point percentages crashing through the core of the Earth, and that was mostly on the back of Pat Connaughton going on a crazy heater. Would love to hear others’ working theories on why it is our 35-37% three point shooters become 5-10% guys when the games really count.
The Celtics wore out the great Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, and they did it with defense (Boston Globe)
There will be a tendency to see the absence of Khris Middleton as the most meaningful reason why the Bucks turned into a pumpkin, and there is a huge dollop of Daisy in that. Unfortunately, I am here to ask that we also credit Boston’s defense with a role in all that, too. Giannis did get hammered every time down as is normally the case, and their ability as a whole unit to recover to shooters in a flash went a very long way to baiting Wes Matthews — who absolutely knows better (I hope) — into pump faking and driving into the teeth of a defense that made Antetokounmpo work for all his paint points. Two great defenses were out there, and much to our chagrin theirs was better than ours.
The Bucks’ Static Offense Is The Playoffs’ Biggest Wild Card (FiveThirtyEight)
IT SURE WAS! FiveThirtyEight is here to give you a chance to dissect the pain and agony of watching the basketball equivalent of a Great War-era tank/tractor offense.
NBA Offseason Guide 2022: How the Milwaukee Bucks should approach the offseason (ESPN+ - Paywalled)
Sorry, I know I try to avoid paywalled stuff as often as possible. The cliff notes version goes:
- “...if [Pat & Bobby] defect, the $6.4 million tax midlevel and the veteran minimum exception are the lone resources to replace them in free agency.”
- Bobby will now be eligible to sign a two-year (minimum) deal with a starting salary of $10.9 million since we have his early Bird rights; the Bucks have Pat’s full Bird rights and thus can sign him for up to 30% of the cap (lol)
- Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez are extension eligible
- Thanasis has to make a call on his player option by June 19th
Happy to convey any other info if you’ve general questions — as always, we’ll have a similar piece out in the coming days to help you prep for the offseason.
Damian Lillard picks Giannis Antetokounmpo as the player he’d choose to help him get to the Finals (Yahoo)
Jon Heist... it’s time to live up to that nickname yet again. Get it done. (Warning: That Yahoo page is awful; just a random collection of not-loading tweets; skip it unless you want to burn your eyes this morning).
Fan Post of the Week
Fittingly, we’ve nothing new to report on this front this week. Something about hoping the team can find a way through to the ECF took up all of our collective time and energy.
Know Your Enemy
The NBA CBA & salary cap
The Social Media Section
My advice: If you’re not already on social media, you can skip it this week. Seasons ending are usually the worst time of year on there. Instead, enjoy this fitting gif:
Also, it was Alex’s fault we lost the series. I’m sorry, but those are the rules.
— Alex Lasry (@AlexLasryWI) May 1, 2022
From what I gather, the NBA lottery is on Tuesday, so there’s to watch if you want some offseason action. Otherwise, we’re in a holding pattern between now and June when free agency and the draft hit.
Thanks again for all the fun we’ve had at the site this year! It didn’t end like we wanted, but more often than not that’s how the cookie crumbles. Here’s to the offseason and the year to come.