Last week, we put out a mid-offseason poll about some lingering questions from the Bucks’ July, addressing their moves (or lack thereof). Thanks a lot for your responses, and now that the results are in, let’s take a look at how people are feeling about what’s been a lukewarm—though not at all bad—interim between the Mike Budenholzer and Adrian Griffin regimes.
For starters, we took the general temperature among the fanbase about what transactions GM Jon Horst actually has made thus far. Not surprisingly, people seem to be generally in favor of them, if not strongly so:
I’m perplexed that anyone would feel so strongly about what the Bucks have or have not done since July began to rate them below a C. To be clear, I don’t think this has been a gangbusters or A-worthy performance by the front office yet, so a B feels right. Frankly, I fail to see how any minimum signing could be construed as that calamitous, especially before any sneakers have hit the hardwood. The signings of Robin Lopez, Malik Beasley, and Jae Crowder have scant potential for bust but do have some potential for boom, if not a high one (especially in Lopez’s case). At the price of a minimum deal, thinking any of those moves could be damaging to the team’s title chances is a straight overreaction.
I imagine people are more dissatisfied with moves not made (at least not yet), which explains over a quarter of respondents deeming Milwaukee’s offseason as average. Certainly, the biggest question remains another ballhandler in the backcourt to complement Jrue Holiday. Perhaps if the trade market shakes loose from its current jammed-up state thanks to a couple of disgruntled guards (one of whom seems stuck and ready to precipitate yet another disaster) the Bucks could finally make a move that will energize some optimism about the roster.
In that vein, we next posed the question of just how important it is for the Bucks to make a trade before the 2023–24 regular season begins, and this one surprised me the most:
Based on social media and comment section discourse around the team, not to mention fervent Trade Machine brainstorming, I thought this number would be much higher. It seems that there’s a section of the fanbase that what’s to see how this roster fares as presently constituted, especially under a new coach’s system that we can only speculate on, and I think that’s very reasonable. Griffin’s ideal roster might look exactly like how it does today.
I suppose it might come down to one’s definition of the word “need.” Does Milwaukee absolutely need a backup point guard or a different shooting guard to win another title? I really don’t think so; recall how in 2021 they marched through the postseason with just 119 minutes of Jeff Teague. Maybe it’s a question of if Milwaukee should make a trade. That’s something I’d agree with, if only for the roster’s abundance of 6’4”–6’5” off-ball three-point shooters best played at the 2.
Speaking of, who ought to fill that role on Opening Night? With a plurality of votes, everyone’s favorite punching bag leads the field:
I get why Beasley would be a fit. He’s a more willing shooter than Allen—if a less accurate one—and in the event that Allen is traded seems like a readymade replacement in the backcourt. I think people are a bit too low on Connaughton, forgetting just how good he was against Miami back in April, not to mention in past playoff series. Maybe it’s simply because of his longtime entrenchment as a top reserve.
What I don’t really get is Beauchamp. I know there is a lot of optimism around him, which I think stems mostly from the mere fact that he’s the Bucks’ most recent first-round pick but is warranted. Right now, starting him strikes me as a risk a title contender shouldn’t take. At age 22, he’s actually had a lot less high-level experience than younger players. You could argue that the 19-year-old Chris Livingston’s one year at Kentucky is more meaningful than Marjon’s 21 games with the G League Ignite in 2021–22 and twelve games of community college.
To be blunt, he’s yet to demonstrate that he’s an NBA player. Setting aside his mixed bag in Summer League, the flashes of productivity from last season don’t even justify him entering the rotation on their surfaces. Yes, he should get a chance at proving his mettle as a contributor to a winning team, but there’s no reason he can’t do that off the bench. That’s a lower-pressure assignment that will benefit him and mitigate the growing pains he’d likely face as a starter. His idealized role on the current team is as a low-usage complementary player; whether he could ever be anything more is anyone’s guess.
Dovetailing that idea back with the trade discussion, we then posed an interesting three-choicer about appealing assets the Bucks could send out in a deal:
As a young player with likely the highest ceiling, I get why fans would want to hold onto Beauchamp. 2029 and 2030 are a long way off, so who knows where those picks would end up? That being said, no matter where they fall, the odds they draft a quality role player at one of those spots aren’t necessarily good. Take Collin Sexton, one of my favorite names that probably isn’t actually available (Utah is thin in the backcourt and I imagine wants to keep him). It’s likely that any player you draft in either of those years doesn’t have as good a career as he’s already had, and by no means has Sexton had an exceptional career, though it’s been good. There’s also a very good chance that Beauchamp is never as good as Sexton. So for the right player, I think you absolutely trade one (or even both) of these assets.
Portis is a different story. A proven regular-season guy whose postseason resume is much spottier, there’s a case to be made that Milwaukee should use his salary in a deal for someone more defensively-reliable that won’t be played off the floor by the Celtics or Heat. That being said, his rebounding and scoring versatility in a frontcourt role will be very tough to replace, especially by anyone on the current roster. If the player coming back for Portis is as good of a scorer or better and has playmaking chops, plus Middleton and Crowder prove to be sufficient as small-ball 4s, I think you reluctantly pull the trigger.
That’s my take on all these quandaries, but what about yours? If you’re not in favor of the Bucks making a trade, why? Let us know in the comments below.