The Milwaukee Bucks’ playmaking and offensive versatility were limited throughout the postseason and it may be time to adhere to a previous philosophy.
Let’s go back to when the Milwaukee Bucks selected Donte DiVincenzo with the 17th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
When talking to the media and introducing DiVincenzo to Milwaukee a couple of days after the draft, general manager Jon Horst explained the selection and the skills that made the Villanova product an alluring prospect to the Bucks:
“Donte was a guy that when we went through our process, not only this season but last season, the video work we’ve done, bringing him here to Milwaukee, there were a number of things that stood out to us about him.
Obviously on the floor, the skill-set he has. He can pass, handle and shoot. He’s a very good athlete. He has positional size, and he’s a great competitor as [Coach] Bud has mentioned.
Recognizing DiVincenzo’s promising mix of on-ball skills and albeit inconsistent shooting has certainly worked toward the the 23-year-old becoming a solid rotation piece following the end to his sophomore season. But it was certainly an ethos the Bucks adhered to upon Budenholzer’s arrival and throughout their run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2018-19 season.
At their zenith, the crew of creators and lead ball handlers like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, George Hill and Khris Middleton gave the Bucks plenty of hubs and players to play through to set the tone of their read-and-react system under Bud. And while the Bucks’ leading pieces garnered all of the attention, the air of unpredictability suited them well.
Brogdon’s departure last offseason tested the Bucks in this regard and they did their best to fill in the gaps with shooting and defending with the likes of Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews. And the front office’s bet that the emergence of DiVincenzo would help fill the void of Brogdon’s exit paid off, even if DiVincenzo only ironed out his personal playoff struggles when it was too late.
But when it came down to it and they endured through their most recent playoff collapse, the Bucks’ inability to create adequate offense for extended stretches was entirely predictable.
Suddenly, players that were luxuries such as Hill had to step up as Bledsoe’s offensive ineffectiveness sunk further than what we’ve seen in the playoffs historically. Antetokounmpo struggled to break through those same walls that have contained him against bad playoff matchups for the Bucks. And as the Heat stymied the Bucks into an early playoff exit, they repeatedly forced the ball into the hands of Bucks players who were far from equipped to make plays, whether it was Matthews or Pat Connaughton.
For as much as the Bucks had found their balance on both ends of the floor, how quickly their offensive spark was dulled in their playoff collapse was led on by their lack of having multiple reliable playmakers on the floor. The fact that Budenholzer further hamstrung the team by playing lineups that were incredibly light on playmaking and without Antetokounmpo and Middleton during the biggest moments of their season set them up to fail.
That combination of Budenholzer’s playoff failings and the Bucks’ overall roster composition exposed the Bucks’ fatal flaws. And while the decision to part with Brogdon last summer veers into other topics and territory, the snug, multi-dimensional skill set he provided to the Bucks was missed right at the worst time.
From that standpoint, it should come as no surprise that the Bucks are already linked to potential solutions to this current problem, most notably with future Hall of Fame guard Chris Paul. That pathway to a deal for Paul isn’t paved smoothly, but someone of Paul’s stature and creativity would certainly be a boon to a Bucks offense that has had trouble finding solutions when their plan A has been taken away.
But having multiple skilled threats on the floor will go a long way in the Bucks’ offensive system being played as it is established under Budenholzer. Among all of their pressing issues they’ll have to address this offseason, they’ll have to find a solution or make the necessary adjustments to take their offense to the next level.