The Milwaukee Bucks season unfortunately ended this past Sunday in a tough seven game series against the Boston Celtics. There is a lot to try and process and I’m sure it will feel like a missed opportunity, especially with Khris Middleton’s injury. For Jon Horst, he has a busy summer ahead to try and re-tool to get the roster that’s needed to win another championship. Here are some of the things he will need to do to achieve that.
Pay Bobby Portis Jr.
Bobby Portis signing in 2020 was a master stroke by Jon Horst. Portis’ firepower off the bench and hustle quickly made him a fan favorite and his contributions were especially vital in the Eastern Conference Finals and the NBA finals after seeing little minutes in the second round. It was expected last offseason that Bobby was going to get a large payday as a reward for his stellar pay whether it was with Milwaukee or anyone else. Much to the shock and delight of fans, Portis not only stayed another season in Milwaukee, but at a much lower salary than was expected. There’s the belief this deal was a gentleman’s agreement to make the roster construction work and then he will get paid the next offseason when he opts out. Now, Portis again proved his worth to the team this season filling in very well while Brook Lopez was out with back surgery. With Portis now having early Bird rights; his love for Milwaukee, and the fans love him, it is time to properly pay Bobby and have him be a part of the core.
Add a ballhandler/playmaker
My biggest concern for the Bucks as the season went on was who would facilitate the offense. George Hill has battled various injuries that had him out while Milwaukee tried using a rotation of guys from Javonte Smart to Lindell Wigginton and Georgios Kalatzakis. One of the biggest issues for Milwaukee in the Celtics series was the halfcourt offense, and even though three-point shooting was the biggest culprit, there were too many times that things looked stagnant and the ball wasn’t moving. Milwaukee was hoping Hill could be that option, but they need to go back to the drawing board and find that player. A player like Patty Mills would be nice, but the vet minimum options are likely not the most appealing. Still, Horst has to try.
Find Brook Lopez’s successor
I was very skeptical of how Brook Lopez would look on his return from back surgery. Lopez’s importance was very vital to Milwaukee’s zone drop scheme but also team rebounding. The Bucks were able to get by thanks to Giannis and Bobby, but Lopez did look good in the playoffs. Still, this is someone who is approaching his mid-30s and in the last year of his contract. Finding someone who can be the future replacement whether in 2023 or beyond should be on Horst’s radar.
Keep your draft picks
When trading for Jrue Holiday, the Bucks punted on the future to try and win now. That successfully happened, but it has left them with very few draft picks, particularly in the first round. Because of the Stepien Rule (a team cannot trade first round picks in consecutive years), the Bucks do get to keep their draft pick this year and that pick will be at 24. The Bucks cannot trade that pick until after their selection, and that first round pick could be used as a trade piece for another player to help Milwaukee win now, but I don’t believe the Bucks should do that. As Camden mentioned in his fanpost, you need to find players who are acquired cheaply and vastly outperform their cap hit. Draft picks would enable Milwaukee to have that low cost on a long-term option. While the Bucks haven’t had the best output in terms of drafting players, that shouldn’t mean it’s not possible for them to draft someone that can help right away. The Bucks should keep the draft pick and get the best player available or the one that is NBA ready, no need to get the raw unproven prospect. Use the G-league, non-guaranteed and second round picks for those opportunities.
Take a break and get healthy
The biggest thing Milwaukee has to do is enjoy a relaxing offseason and get as healthy as possible. Due to the late start of the 2020-21 season, Milwaukee didn’t end their season until July and started this season in October only giving them about two months of an offseason. Throw in the Olympics for Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Jordan Nwora, and that can contribute to tired legs. A little R&R can help the body and mind for Milwaukee to get back to its best next season.