Grading Jon Horst’s moves for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021-22

Mar 16, 2022; Sacramento, California, USA: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2022; Sacramento, California, USA: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Jevon Carter, Bobby Portis, Wesley Matthews, Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown, Payton Pritchard
May 1, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Grading Jon Horst’s moves for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021-22: The good

Despite having limited financial flexibility and limited draft assets, the Milwaukee Bucks still made some good moves since winning the title.

Arguably their best move was being able to retain Bobby Portis, who returned to Milwaukee on an incredibly team-friendly two-year deal worth $8.9 million. That contract proved to be arguably the most valuable one in the league this past season, given that Portis stepped into the starting lineup in Brook Lopez’s absence for a majority of the season and put up some excellent numbers. With an expanded opportunity, Portis had a career year, averaging career highs in nearly every statistical category. Being able to retain the fan favorite on such a team-friendly contract was undeniably a great move by the front office.

Despite his shortcomings in this past playoff run, the Grayson Allen trade was also a great move for the Bucks. Horst managed to find Milwaukee a new starting shooting guard for a small asking price of Sam Merrill, who hardly played during his rookie year, and two future second round picks. On top of that, the team inked Allen to a team-friendly two-year deal worth $18.7 million, which proved to be huge as Allen thrived as a starter, having put up the best numbers of his NBA career. Allen looks like he can be a long-term fit with the Bucks, but if things do not pan out for whatever reason, they have him signed to a rather tradeable contract. This trade will likely tie into the Bucks’ draft night deal where they traded the 31st overall pick to the Indiana Pacers for picks No. 54 and No. 60, along with two additional second round picks, so that will fall into this category as well.

The Bucks also made some in-season moves to help retool the roster as Horst was always active in trying to patch up some holes. The signing of DeMarcus Cousins was a great move as the Bucks needed center depth in Brook Lopez’s absence and the former All-Star was the best name on the market at the time. Cousins played great for the Bucks in a backup role on a non-guaranteed deal, which made it shocking when the front office decided to waive him before his contract would have been guaranteed. There will be more on that decision in just a moment, but the initial signing was a quality move.

Around the same time that they added Cousins, Horst called up an old friend in Wesley Matthews, who was signed to a non-guaranteed deal. The team waived Georgios Kalaitzakis, the 60th pick in the 2021 draft, to make room for Matthews, and it proved to be a good move as the guard played a significant role for the Bucks, with his importance increasing as the year went on. The swingman eventually got his deal guaranteed, which was a no-brainer, and he became Milwaukee’s starting shooting guard down the stretch and into the playoffs, having played a key role. Considering that Matthews was just sitting at home before being signed, the forward proved to be a hidden gem and a great mid-season signing by Horst.

Two other quality in-season moves included adding both DeAndre’ Bembry and Jevon Carter, who were both waived by the Brooklyn Nets. Bembry was a quality pickup for the Bucks as he provided more depth on the wing and played some reputable defense. Unfortunately, his time in Milwaukee did not last long as Bembry suffered a devastating knee injury after just eight games, which led to him being waived. Despite the injury, the signing was a solid move. At first, the addition of Carter was glossed over, largely because many fans were let down after the team missed out on adding Goran Dragic, who they were pursuing. However, Carter quickly proved to be a seamless fit as he provided reputable defense and electric shooting in the second unit.

Elsewhere, the Bucks made some smaller moves over the past year that fall into this category as they are understandable. Re-signing Thanasis Antetokounmpo to a team-friendly two-year deal worth $3.6 million was a feasible move in free agency, given his locker room presence and ties to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Elsewhere, drafting Sandro Mamukelashvili and Georgios Kalaitzakis in the second round were fine moves, as Mamukelashvili showed glimpses of potential during his rookie season and could be a piece worth developing. Although the Bucks waived Kalaitzakis to make room for Matthews, taking him with the final pick of the draft was fine. Finally, the Bucks brought in both Luca Vildoza and Rayjon Tucker late in the season on cheap deals, and they will have non-guaranteed deals for next season, meaning there was little risk in bringing them in.