Milwaukee Bucks: 4 storylines to watch for over second half of season

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - MARCH 04: (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - MARCH 04: (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets: P.J. Tucker
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There’s no doubt the Milwaukee Bucks‘ 2020-21 season has been a fascinating one to watch unfold at the halfway point.

At 22-14 on the season and winners of six of their last seven games going into the break, the Bucks have certainly struggled to meet the high expectations and standards they set for themselves after the last two regular seasons. But while having been healthy, the absence of Jrue Holiday shined a light on their top-heavy roster, especially after having a five-game losing skid last month, the worst such slump in the Mike Budenholzer era.

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With all of that said, the Bucks have been consistent with going through the ups and downs that this strange season has to offer. All with know what will sharpen them and make them more adaptable in the postseason, especially after spectacularly flaming out in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year.

The tests will keep coming over the second half and we’ll soon have the answers to the pressing questions facing the Bucks ahead of the trade deadline and more in the coming weeks.

So without further ado, let’s explore some of the big storylines that we’ll be looking for as the Milwaukee Bucks ready themselves for the second half of the season.

First storyline to watch for with the Milwaukee Bucks — The trade deadline

As we’re nearly two weeks away from this year’s trade deadline, the Bucks find themselves incredibly limited in their direction.

They’re $441,539 under the hard cap due to the unlikely bonuses including in Jrue Holiday’s contract and can not take in salaries that exceed that number in a possible deal. Couple that with the very few expendable salaries they have on their books, the Bucks are very restricted in trying to find an upgrade to their roster.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped the Bucks in having interest in some of the most talked about trade targets that are available ahead of the deadline.

Milwaukee has been consistently linked with P.J Tucker dating back to the offseason and face plenty of competition with fellow contending teams after his services. Along with Tucker, the Bucks have recently been linked to Sacramento Kings forward Nemanja Bjelica.

Clearly, both Tucker and Bjelica have their uses, especially to a contending team like the Bucks. Tucker has languished away in Houston this year and there is some question as to whether he still is the Tucker of old, especially as he’s hitting just 31.4 percent from this season. Still, Tucker is the premier defensive specialist the Bucks are reportedly prioritizing at this juncture and would certainly improve Milwaukee’s defense, especially with his gifted switching abilities.

Bjelica, on the other hand, comes armed with the size and shooting the Bucks have historically added in the middle of the last two seasons.

Despite having a down shooting year in his limited 2020-21 campaign, Bjelica is coming off three straight seasons shooting over 40 percent from three between his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Sacramento Kings. Bjelica’s firepower, though, overshadows just how he would impact this Bucks team defensively, especially as they turn to different defensive coverages.

The problem that both Bjelica and Tucker pose to the Bucks is the salaries that both command in the final years of their respective deals. With Bjelica making $7.15 million and Tucker making $7.96 million, the Bucks are hard-pressed to matching those numbers without taking away at least a meaningful member of their rotation this year.

That limited flexibility will have to force the Bucks into looking for more cost-controlled players that could be of help from teams that may look to recoup draft assets. This is pure speculation here, but someone like Oklahoma City Thunder wing Kenrich Williams certainly fits the bill of someone who could help the Bucks, all while being in the first year of a three-year, $6 million deal and the next two seasons being non-guaranteed.

As much as the financial restrictions the Bucks face in potentially making a deal are front and center, their lack of enticing draft assets looms over this entire discussion due to the gigantic haul they dealt in the Jrue Holiday trade.

With all of these questions about what they will do at the trade deadline, Bucks fans can’t forget the team has had an open roster spot all season long.