With the Milwaukee Bucks facing many questions this offseason, overhauling their bench may end up being one of the most pressing.
In the aftermath of the Milwaukee Bucks‘ Conference Semi-finals exit, it didn’t take very long for a number of pressing issues to come to the fore.
Will Giannis Antetokounmpo sign the supermax, and how should the Bucks react if he doesn’t? Should Mike Budenholzer’s position as head coach be under consideration? Has the time finally come for the Bucks to move on from Eric Bledsoe?
For as vitally important as all of those questions are for Milwaukee’s present and future, the reality is they may not ultimately prove to be the key talking points that reflect the decisions the Bucks may make in the months ahead.
That’s because it’s entirely possible that, rightly or wrongly, the Bucks could opt to trust in their core and instead make changes around the margins in the hope of unlocking an extra gear.
The importance of making those changes, whether they also accompany larger change or not, should not be overlooked. One of the many things exposed by the Heat during the playoffs is that the depth the Bucks had put so much faith in throughout the season was essentially never real to begin with.
George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo certainly proved they have value and should remain at the forefront of the bench, but the picture beyond that is incredibly bleak.
Marvin Williams has already retired, and Kyle Korver may yet opt to follow him. Pat Connaughton is a free agent, and although he played frequently in the postseason, his minutes were far from positive.
Beyond that, the Bucks instantly cross over into an extended portion of their roster who were deemed to be unplayable in the postseason.
Ersan Ilyasova’s contract is non-guaranteed for next season, and Sterling Brown is a restricted free agent. Robin Lopez has a player option that may take on a different dimension given how he was deemed unnecessary for almost the entirety of the playoffs. D.J. Wilson remains under contract for one more year, but has long seemed to have no real future with the Bucks. And then there’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who played just 129 minutes in his first season with Milwaukee.
The Bucks are going to find themselves in a very tough spot with the salary cap, but the reality is they can’t afford to arrive at the same juncture next year with as few players who can be trusted to make a positive impact as they had this year.
For all that has been spoken about Budenholzer’s preference to have his rotations run a little on the deep side, Erik Spoelstra matched him on that front throughout the second round, but Miami had a major advantage in the fact that they could do that while bringing quality contributors into the game.
It’s not going to be easy for Milwaukee with the limited tools at their disposal, but Jon Horst and the front office will need to find ways to improve the roster’s depth beyond any kind of surface level regular season facade.
That will require real creativity across free agency, the draft, and potential trades, but it’s just as essential for the Bucks’ prospects of success as many of the other issues facing them in the months ahead.