I decided to combine these two centers because they would essentially be signed for the same reason and bring many of the same things to the table, basketball-wise.
Overall, the Bucks don’t have a severe need when it comes to the center position. Brook Lopez has been terrific on both ends of the court and D.J. Wilson has brought energy, athleticism and outside shooting to the position as well off the bench.
Also, Ersan Ilyasova has the strength, defensive chops and rebounding ability to slide to the five-spot if Budenholzer wants to go small, or if Wilson and Lopez are having off-nights.
That’s not to mention that Giannis is fully capable of playing the center position as well if Budenholzer were to unleash the full-power of small-ball, something we’re likely to see more of in the playoffs.
Even Mirotic, who no one will mistake for Bill Russell in the paint, still has the size and basic defensive capability to hold down the center position without it being a disaster.
However, there are a couple of reasons why Horst and Budenholzer might think they need an extra big body on the bench come playoff time.
As it stands right now, the Toronto Raptors are the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference right now, which would mean they wouldn’t meet the Bucks in the playoffs until the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Philadelphia 76ers, though, are in a virtual tie with the Boston Celtics for the fourth seed. Regardless of if they or the Celtics are the No. 4 seed, it is possible that the Bucks see the Sixers in the Conference Semi-Finals.
Of course, that’s assuming the Bucks win their first-round matchup (not that big of an assumption) and the Sixers get by the Celtics. (A much bigger assumption.)
Embiid has been an absolute beast this year, averaging 27 points, 13 rebounds three assists and nearly two blocks a game. He is perhaps the Sixers’ most important player and the offense more often than not flows through him in the low-post.
Now, Brook Lopez is an excellent defender. I’m confident he could at least hold his own against Embiid, as in prevent from him going off and dominating the paint.
Still, you never know what can happen in any individual game, especially in the playoffs. If Lopez gets hit early with a couple fouls and has to sit out most of the game in foul trouble, what’s the Bucks’ backup plan for stopping Embiid?
Wilson is usually stout in the post, but he’s giving up a couple of inches and 20 pounds on Embiid. The same goes for Ilyasova, and I don’t see Budenholzer putting Giannis on Embiid down-low and risking his superstar getting in foul trouble.
In such a situation, it would be a luxury for the Bucks to have a veteran, large center come off the bench and bang down-low with Embiid.
Robin Lopez, like his brother Brook, is one of the few centers that can match Embiid in size and can hold his own in limited minutes.
The same goes for Marcin Gortat, who the Los Angeles Clippers recently waived. The 6’11, 240lb Polish center is a little older but has still been surprisingly effective in limited minutes with the Clippers this season.
All of this also applies to Gasol in a potential playoff matchup with the Raptors. Gasol isn’t as good as Embiid and doesn’t use the low-post as much, but adding him gives the Raptors a tougher one-two punch at center with Gasol and Ibaka.
The Bucks, having not played the Raptors with Gasol yet, and may want some more big man insurance if Gasol were to flummox them in a series.
The real question is if either center would be interested in signing with the Bucks. For one, Lopez is still part of the Chicago Bulls and statements by Lopez and the franchise have reiterated the intent for Lopez to stay in Chicago.
However, plans change and the Bulls, who are in full rebuilding mode, might not see the benefit of playing a 30-year-old center with no reason to be on the team this past season. (This logic rests on the Bulls having an actual rebuilding plan, a dangerous assumption.)
Rumors have also circulated that Golden State would be Lopez’s first choice if he were to become a free agent. But maybe Brook can convince his brother to reunite the twin towers in Milwaukee.
As for Gortat, the center is likely to have some options with potential offers from teams like the Warriors. Needless to say, the Warriors would have their pick of the litter if they were to scavenge the buyout market for a center.
They likely have more playing time to offer centers, and a better chance at a ring. But if, say, the Warriors were to sign one of Lopez or Gortat, the Bucks could swoop in and snag whoever gets left behind.
Neither player would get many minutes, as neither has the ability to stretch the floor on offense, a key trait for all of Budenholzer’s players, but they could prove useful in certain playoff series.