Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NBA. Each week we ask questions of the most plugged-in Milwaukee Bucks fans and fans across the country.
The day before this year’s free agency pandemonium began, we checked in with you with two questions about how GM Jon Horst and the organization should approach things transactionally-speaking. After barely 48 hours, we have a good idea of how the Bucks’ brain trust conceives of next season’s roster.
First up was a pretty broad question, simply asking if the team needed to add talent in order to compete for their second ring in three seasons in 2022–23. Overwhelmingly, readers answered in the affirmative:
If you ask me, Milwaukee did indeed add talent to next year’s squad while mostly re-signing players who were already on the roster. As of now, 13 of the 15 Bucks (plus two-way player Sandro Mamukelashvili) who finished out the year with the team are still Bucks, with only Jordan Nwora (restricted free agent) and Serge Ibaka (unrestricted) not under contract for the upcoming season. While either could return theoretically and the Bucks can carry up to 20 players on their roster in the offseason, I’d bet against both of them being back.
Replacing them are first-round pick MarJon Beauchamp and newly-signed Aussie forward Joe Ingles. We don’t yet know what the former will be but even turing 35 in October and recovering from a torn ACL last Janurary, I’d say Ingles ups the Bucks’ talent level a solid amount over last year’s. When healthy, he fits a positional need as a large wing to spell Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, but his skillset benefits the team even more. Ingles proved to not only be a lethal three-point shooter in his career (entirely spent with Utah) at 40.8%, but also took on playmaking responsibilities often when the Jazz’s primary ballhandlers sat out. From 2017–2021 he averaged 5.1 APG against 2.0 TPG, so he’s great at setting up teammates and in the pick & roll. Despite his lack of athleticism, he gets his fair share of boards and was a good defender on one of the NBA’s best units for much of that period. How much of that will return once he’s healthy is an open question but with Beauchamp’s possibly already NBA-caliber defense, I’d say Milwaukee improved in that area overall.
Like Adam said on Wednesday, I don’t think they necessarily needed to add talent in the wake of the second-round exit to Boston, because the fact is they took that team to 7 games and were ahead three times during that series. All without their second-most critical offensive and postseason player in Middleton. Some recency bias is at play here in these results for sure, but I think most Bucks fans recognize that the roster was good enough to win another title or at least make the NBA Finals, scenarios which would seem to have been likely with a healthy Middleton. Personally, I voted that they should add, if only because to compete for a ring, you have to keep improving your depth as players age and the league changes.
Since the Bucks used their entire mid-level exception, their only other way to fill out the roster would be with minimum-level free agents. They still could change things up with a trade, however. While Grayson Allen and George Hill are likelier trade candidates and could bring back salary up to $16.9m if sent out, perhaps the Bucks’ best trade asset might be center Brook Lopez. Coming off back surgery, the big man looked as good as ever defensively down the stretch and in the postseason, but with one year left on his contract at age 34, some fans think now is the time to move him for new pieces. These voices appear to be in the minority, though:
I’m among the 62% of fans who think he should stay in Milwaukee next year too. While yes, combining him with either or both of Allen and Hill would allow for a pretty sizeable salary to come in, hopefully along with the requisite talent. Moreover, if last year taught me anything it’s that what Lopez does for this team defensively is nigh-impossible to replace. Coach Mike Budenholzer tailors his base defensive scheme around Lopez’s all-world rim protection and we see year after year how opponents of all sizes get stymied by him when trying to get to the basket. I’m very skeptical that any center the Bucks could acquire if they sent Lopez out could be as effective, even ones with their own sterling defensive reputations. Unlike in years gone by, now when Lopez isn’t on the floor Bud moves away from the drop-zone to more blitzing or high-hedging pick & roll defense and it’s just simply not as good a look. Plus, during Milwaukee’s title run, Lopez showed some solid on-ball defensive chops even on players as small as Chris Paul. With a new center or by moving one Giannis or Bobby Portis to that role full-time, the defense as a whole would need a bit of an overhaul, so why go away from something that works and won a title less than 12 months ago?
Thanks for your responses. Check back for more surveys as the offseason goes on.
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