Well...darn. I barely followed the Bucks all season, out of a combination of needing to focus on other things in life and a feeling of certainty that they'd be a championship contender and unconcern with the slog of the regular season (I think this sentiment was clearly shared by the team).
I firmly believe that the Milwaukee Bucks, if healthy, were the best team in the postseason this year and would have been the back to back champion. The Khris injury was heartbreaking. Taking Boston to 7 without Khris reaffirmed my belief in this team's abilities, while also cementing a fact: we aren't that good down one star. Then again, who is? Game 6 was the one we needed for the series, but we just weren't quite good enough to overcome Boston's well constructed roster, star power, savvy, and strong coaching.
If we'd made it through, I think we'd beat Miami in 5. They just match up with us so poorly. If we'd played Philly, Jrue and Wes would've locked Harden up and we would've won in 5. Boston was just constructed to beat us, and then got a lucky break when Khris got hurt (and in my opinion, another lucky break with Robert Williams getting hurt). Golden State would be an extremely difficult matchup for us, but I think we'd handle Dallas, beat Phoenix again, and outclass Memphis. It's disappointing to see a golden opportunity for another championship slip through our fingers due to bad injury luck.
With all of that said, what should we do next year to ensure another title run? I think the easy answer is to just stay the course, and I don't think that is entirely wrong. Giannis is the best player in the league, a healthy Khris is an excellent wing man, and Jrue is a great third wheel when he isn't asked to do too much. I think both those guys have enough gas in the tank for at least one more run at a championship, especially since this offseason will be much longer for both Khris and Jrue than last was. So is that it, just stay the course? No, not exactly.
Big 3 - the Warriors are probably the only team in the league that can match the Bucks Big 3, and I would probably take Milwaukee's group at this point. While it isn't a Lebron-Wade-Bosh type Big 3, there is still probably no better third wheel in the league than Jrue Holiday, and Khris holds his own against most #2's. Giannis is the best player in the league. All 3 seem to love being in Milwaukee, are great teammates, and hard workers; that is Incredibly rare.
Mike Budenholder - Is he a great coach? Probably not. Is he good enough to win a championship? Yeah, I am pretty sure he is. Bud made some moves that were great this postseason, and he made some that were bad. Most coaches do. Bud still struggles to adjust in-game, makes questionable challenge/no challenge decisions at times, and gets too stuck on playing guys who obviously don't have it going. That said, I think a lot of praise should go his way for getting a Khris-less team to 7 against Boston. I would be loathe to move on from Bud because the odds of hiring somebody who is a better coach are very slim. Just gotta hope you aren't even with your opponent on talent.
Brook Lopez - Is he a great center? Probably not. However, Brook does still have major strengths (primarily rim deterrence). He's still a monster defender around the rim and made life miserable for any Celtic who got near him in the paint. However, Brook has some major weaknesses too, which become problematic against the wrong matchup. Defensively, he has trouble on the perimeter and can't recover to the basket well (though in my opinion Bud thinks Brook is worse at this than he actually is). On offense, his 3pt shooting unfortunately seems to have taken a hit after the back surgery. Hopefully, it comes back next year. I still want Brook to be part of the Bucks, especially on his reasonable contract, but I also want the team to have a strong second option for when the opponent puts a 3pt shooting stretch big on the floor.
Pat Connaughton - To me, Pat continues to prove to be a valuable role player worthy of keeping around on a championship team. He has SG size, but the strength to play some SF, he has become a good 3pt shooter and a good cutter, and he doesn't try to play outside of his role. Those are valuable traits and we've seen him be a critical rotation piece two years in a row. I really hope the Bucks keep him around.
Jon Horst - A GM's primary task when it comes to players is getting and keeping stars. Horst has done an exceptional job of that, locking up Giannis and two other stars around him who come to work every day and get the team in position to compete for championships. He also has an eye for veteran role players who can contribute, such as Brook, Wes, Pat, Bobby, etc. However, Horst does seem almost too locked in on getting veterans, at the expense of any sort of youth, and seems to desire low ceiling steady players over low floor, high ceiling type young players at all costs. This can hurt a team in the long run, and I hope Horst starts taking a few more swings with the roster.
Bobby Portis - I know a lot of Bucks fans were wild about Bobby this year, but I was not. His defense in my opinion was overrated (I think this was proven correct in the playoffs) and I was worried about another Nets-series type disappearance (which we basically got against Boston). Bobby's best skill is 3pt shooting, which he is legitimately elite at for a big. Besides that though, he does hardly anything well. People constantly bemoan our lack of switching defense when we play "small" with Bobby and Giannis, but in my opinion, Bobby sucks at switching, which is why we don't do it. Problem is, he sucks at many aspect of defense. However, as a role player, he is solid. I just don't think he's the answer as the complement to Brook; instead, he needs to be one of four in a big man rotation.
Grayson Allen - I know he disappeared completely in the Boston series; he was an absolute trainwreck of lost confidence, fear, and an absurd amount of minutes. It is easy to see why Memphis' front office traded him to force Taylor Jenkins to stop playing him. With that said though, he was fantastic against Chicago (Bryn Forbes vibes anyone?). That is generally all you can ask out of a medium-contract role player in my opinion; to be good sometimes. There is no expectation from me that Grayson is good all the time. If we had Khris against Boston, he could've played every last one of the Grayson minutes, as Boston was just a terrible matchup for him. I'm fine with Grayson being back next year.
Wes Matthews - Basically a discount version of PJ Tucker at a discounted price. I like having Wes on the team, as he works hard and can defend 2's and 3's. As part of a bench rotation with Pat and Grayson, I'm pretty happy with him. As a starter, he's more problematic than Tucker because he can't defend as many positions and can't rebound as well, and is somehow even worse at scoring. However, I'd love to see the Bucks bring Wes back on something like a small 2 year contract.
Jevon Carter - I Really like Carter. He was one of my favorite backup PGs in the league before we got him (Steve Nash has no idea how to use defensive players and he was a steal), and I loved watching him play for the Bucks. Bud benching him against Boston was understandable, as Boston's length really affected Carter, who was scared to shoot in my opinion. However, he was still our best backup point guard and should have kept playing. Now, he will almost definitely leave, which is hugely disappointing to me.
Serge Ibaka - See everything I said about Jevon, but change it to center. I think Ibaka was insurance for Brook and another option to use against Embiid, when Horst got scared about Harden making Philly the top challenger in the East. I'd love to bring Ibaka back as the backup center, but I doubt he has any interest.
George Hill - He seems to exist to cause postseason misery for Milwaukee at this point. He was abysmal on offense against Boston and needs to never play for Milwaukee again. It's a shame, but he hasn't been good since the 2018-19 playoffs.
Jordan Nwora - Please trade him already, he stinks.
Completely wasted 2-way and end of the roster spots. Please utilize the entire roster. We have to little talent discovery and don't even bother to try most of the time, which really stings when competitors like Miami and Toronto are finding a gem every year.
I think the Bucks have two primary personnel needs, which I really hope get addressed in the offseason, and one primary coaching need. A fourth need might come on the bench if the assistant coaches get jobs elsewhere. We'd be really thin on the bench in that scenario.
Scoring guard/wing - The Bucks need Somebody who can create a shot for themself and others when it isn't Giannis or Khris doing it. That was completely exposed against Boston, as every single Buck player besides those two was utterly incapable of shot creation. Horst has built an excellent 3&D type roster, which generally works great around the Big 3, but this year exposed the need to have one more guy who can reliably create against playoff caliber defense. I'd prefer it to be a guard, since Khris and Giannis are both wings/forwards.
Stretch defender - Essentially, PJ Tucker. Somebody who can replace Brook in the lineup when an opponent goes small, can guard an opposing stretch big on the perimeter or can guard an opposing big wing/forward, and who can allow Giannis to continue to play the "power forward" role, instead of the center role. PJ Tucker would've been ideal for this, Grant Williams is ideal, but there are some other guys who can do it as well. That's not actually what Tucker usually did last year for the Bucks, but it would've been. This guy really needs to also be able to shoot 3's, otherwise he's pretty redundant on offense. I would love to see Giannis, Brook, Bobby, and Stretch Defender X as the Bucks four main bigs next year. The other nice thing about this is that he's be able to play with any of Giannis, Brook, or Lopez.
Learn how to play more than one style in a game - If leaving Grant Williams open isn't working, then figure out how to do something else. If George Hill can't hit the broad side of a barn, get him out and do something different. I think the Bucks were exceedingly limited in terms of personnel against Boston, but in-game adjustments are always helpful in the postseason, and are the one area where I really worry about Bud compared to his biggest rivals in the coming seasons: Spoelstra and Udoka.
Thanks for reading my rambling on the Bucks! Had to get that out to cope with the disappointment of going home in the second round with a title-worthy team. What are your thoughts?