This offseason looms large for the Milwaukee Bucks after a disappointing playoff finish for the second straight year, but bench depth is a pressing need that may fly under the radar for those expecting larger moves.
Following the Milwaukee Bucks‘ embarrassing collapse in the second round against the Miami Heat, there are a lot of questions the organization must now address heading into the offseason.
Many fans and pundits alike have called for a coaching change following a series where Mike Budenholzer got thoroughly outmatched and outclassed by Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, marking the latest entry in Budenholzer’s dismal playoff resume.
For now, though, the Bucks organization has stated that Budenholzer’s job is safe, which turns eyes to the roster itself. Chris Paul, Jrue Holiday, and Mike Conley are all names that have been floated around as trade targets for Milwaukee, as it has grown abundantly clear Eric Bledsoe’s days in Milwaukee are numbered following yet another miserable playoff performance.
Perhaps lost in the discourse, though, is just how badly the Bucks need to upgrade their bench unit this offseason. It’s something site co-expert Adam McGee also touched on a couple of days ago. The starting group was still strong in 2019-2020, despite the loss of Malcolm Brogdon, and may have even fit better together following his departure. However, the Bucks only received picks as compensation and did not utilize any of them to upgrade their actual roster for this season.
With Milwaukee’s aging roster in desperate need of young talent, using the first round pick they received from the Pacers may prove to be the right move, but it also makes the upcoming draft all the more critical. The Bucks have a shaky draft history under the current Horst regime thus far, with Sterling Brown and D.J. Wilson effectively busts at this point, and the jury still very much out on Donte DiVincenzo.
If the Bucks do not choose to use the pick to upgrade their roster, they will need to get creative in trades and free agency to find bench contributors that can offer more in the playoffs.
As currently constructed, the Bucks’ playoff bench rotation from this season included George Hill, Marvin Williams, Donte DiVincenzo, Kyle Korver, and Pat Connaughton. That’s a deeper rotation than most coaches would go, and the lack of depth and contributions from this group only compounded the issues with Coach Bud’s rotation management.
Two of the three highest-paid bench players, Ersan Ilyasova and Robin Lopez, found themselves completely out of the playoff rotation this year. It was puzzling at the time why the Bucks would go out and spend their room exception on a center like RoLo when the roster had other more glaring holes, but it’s even stranger now seeing that he couldn’t even carve out a role in the playoff rotation.
Connaughton proved to be a negative bench contributor in the playoffs and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Marvin Williams announced his retirement following the Miami series, and Kyle Korver is reportedly mulling retirement as well.
Ilyasova’s deal is non-guaranteed for next season, so he likely won’t be back unless there are plans to use his $7 million contract as a trade filler. Robin Lopez and Wes Matthews both have player options that they can choose to opt in or out of for next year.
If the Bucks do decide to make a major trade to upgrade their point guard position, you have to assume George Hill will have to be dealt at minimum due to both his value and contract size for salary matching purposes. DiVincenzo would most likely have to be dealt as well given that he is the only young player of value the Bucks can offer teams outside of picks.
That leaves very few options left from last year’s already underwhelming bench. There’s no reason to believe Sterling Brown will be brought back, and D.J. Wilson’s $4.5 million deal should be worth nothing more than potential trade filler.
But what went wrong with the Bucks’ bench this year, especially in the playoffs? And how can Horst and the front office prevent the same mistakes from happening again?