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: Rodney Hood, Semi Ojeleye, Houston Rockets: Christian Wood
Dec 22, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports /

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

While there were some good moves, the Milwaukee Bucks also made several bad ones after their title run, a handful of which came in free agency shortly after.

First and foremost, letting P.J. Tucker go was a mistake. In a recent interview with Marc J. Spears, Tucker made it clear that he wanted to return to Milwaukee after the title run, but ownership did not want to go over the luxury tax to pay him. Tucker said that ownership essentially told him that if he found a deal from another suitor in free agency, they would match it, which he felt was rather disrespectful. So, Tucker left to sign with the rivaling Miami Heat, and his absence was felt during the season as the Bucks oftentimes lacked intensity and lineup versatility. Losing Tucker was not the ultimate reason why the Bucks lost in the postseason, but it certainly did not help, given how crucial he was in their success the year prior. Letting Tucker go does not fall solely on Horst, as it appears ownership’s fingerprints were all over the decision, but it was a bad move regardless.

With Tucker out of the picture, the Bucks tried to replace him by signing two household veterans in Semi Ojeleye and Rodney Hood. On paper, they looked like good fits, with Ojeleye potentially being able to play a big role defensively while Hood could provide a spark off the bench on the offensive side of the floor. Unfortunately, neither signing panned out as the Bucks hoped as the tandem was booted from the rotation in the regular season due to their sluggish play. Although signing the pair was low-risk given their minimum deals, neither managed to make a positive impact before being traded at the deadline in the Donte DiVincenzo deal. Horst swung and missed on both players.

While it looked solid at the time due to the team’s instability at the backup point guard position in the previous season, Milwaukee’s decision to bring back George Hill on a two-year deal proved to be disastrous. Hill put together arguably his worst season to date, having struggled to contribute consistently whatsoever. One of the main reasons why the team signed Hill was his shooting, as the guard led the league in 3-point shooting with the Bucks in 2019-20 by hitting 46 percent of his triples. Well, this past season, Hill looked like a shell of himself as he hit a mere 30.6 percent of his 3-pointers, which was a career-low. Despite playing poorly all season, Mike Budenholzer rode with Hill until the end of the line rather than playing Carter, who was far better. To make matters worse, Hill is under contract for $4 million again next season, so the Bucks are stuck with him.

Waiving DeMarcus Cousins was also a bad move by the Bucks. Despite how well he played in his limited role, the team decided to let him go to maintain flexibility leading up to the trade deadline. That flexibility led to them making the Ibaka trade, another backup center. Cousins put up better numbers with the Bucks than Ibaka did, and the latter played essentially no role in the playoffs as he logged a measly 22 minutes in 12 games. Many have argued that the Bucks would have been better off just keeping Cousins rather than trading for Ibaka, and while that is certainly debatable, letting the former go was a head-scratching move at the time, and it still is now, given that they let him go to add another center that hardly played. The cash considerations and second round picks make the trade easier to digest, but the decision-making was still relatively questionable.