Milwaukee Bucks: Jon Horst on how the team is better than last year

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 20 (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 20 (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

If you ask any team in any sport that has won a championship, they will tell you how hard it is to repeat as champions. In the NBA, we’ve most recently seen the Golden State Warriors win back-to-back championships, but that was an incredibly stacked team. The 2021-22 Milwaukee Bucks aren’t on that level of top-end talent, but general manager Jon Horst believes that this team can absolutely do it again.

Now it should come as no surprise that he thinks this year’s version of the Bucks is better than the team that won the championship, but it is interesting in the ways he feels that the team is better and how they got better. In a recent sit-down interview with The Athletic’s Eric Nehm (subscription required), Horst discussed a myriad of topics from the departure of P.J. Tucker, Bobby Portis re-signing with the team for less, and possible extensions for Donte DiVincenzo and Grayson Allen. But throughout the conversation, Horst continued to mention how the Bucks got better and why he believes they’re going to be better.

Again, a general manager saying his team is better than the year before isn’t a surprise, even if they just won a championship. Every team wants to be better than the year before, and Horst says as much right away in explaining that they didn’t have a perfect season, and there are points where they struggled.

Winning a championship shouldn’t mean a team becomes complacent, and it seems from what Horst says that they’ve embraced the mantra of getting better every day. It’s a saying that head coach Mike Budenholzer and Giannis Antetokounmpo echoed throughout the regular season and playoffs.

Why Jon Horst believes the 2021-22 Milwaukee Bucks are better than the championship-winning team a year ago

In part of the interview, Horst states that some of the reasons they let P.J. Tucker walk was because they wanted to use the resources (money) that they’d save from not retaining Tucker and put them to use in another aspect and, in his words, be better in a different way. Specifically at the offensive end, where Horst mentions being more versatile with attackers and ball handlers.

He does acknowledge that they may have lost some of the toughness that Tucker brought and his elite defense. However, the theme of being more versatile in their offense and being more diverse in how they play on offense was a common theme in discussing some of the reasons why they brought in players like Grayson Allen and George Hill.

In regards to Allen, Horst believes that he’s someone who can do many of the things they value on the court, such as handling, shooting, passing, along with his physical profile and athletic traits. He believes that Allen can play alongside the Bucks’ big three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday in multiple lineup combinations.

For Hill, of course, he is a more known commodity, but Horst believes there’s great value in Hill’s ability to play alongside Holiday on the court in two point guard lineups, adding to the potential lineup versatility that the Bucks want to create. Horst goes on to say that the backcourt combination of Holiday and Hill is the most versatile and well-suited point guard duo that they’ve had to play with Antetokounmpo and Middleton.

The topic of versatility extended to Semi Ojeleye, who Horst thinks can fit into the big man depth, something that I’ve also had concerns about. He believes that the concerns around the depth in the frontcourt are not as big of a concern because of the added versatility that Ojeleye can bring as they began to add more switching to their defensive identity, which is something I said could be a potential solution as well.

While Horst believes that the team is better this year, he is also realistic that other teams got a lot better in the offseason as well. He recognizes that other teams did a good job building their teams in the offseason, and there are no guarantees that they’ll get back to the Finals, but he believes this is the team they wanted to build around Antetokounmpo.

Like Horst, I am also rather high on the talent the Bucks added this offseason and think they’re more versatile on both ends of the floor than they were last season, but we shall see if that comes to fruition when the games matter.

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The Bucks begin training camp on Monday, September 27th and tip off their preseason schedule on October 5th against the Memphis Grizzlies.