Milwaukee Bucks need to prioritize adding a small-ball PF this offseason

CLEVELAND, OHIO - FEBRUARY 05: (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - FEBRUARY 05: (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

There are a few different and interesting ways that the Milwaukee Bucks could tweak their roster this offseason in terms of how they build around Giannis Antetokounmpo and their core. The unfortunate part is that they have limited avenues to acquire such talent.

Last season they went towards an approach with more shooting and ball-handling by committing to Grayson Allen as well as bringing in (back?) George Hill while jettisoning P.J. Tucker to go smaller. We saw the limitations of that approach when Khris Middleton went down and they were left without another wing-sized player in a matchup where they needed it more than ever.

It was a need that I thought they should have addressed at the trade deadline but the Bucks need to add a big-wing/small-ball power forward to their roster this offseason.

Why the Milwaukee Bucks need to prioritize adding a small-ball four this offseason.

In fairness to general manager Jon Horst, the team did try to address this issue and replace P.J. Tucker with Semi Ojeleye in the last offseason. At the time, I thought it was a nice low-risk, medium-reward pick-up but that didn’t end up materializing and Ojeleye was shipped out at the deadline.

No more half measures. They need to invest a good chunk of their (limited) resources in finding a playable, reliable role player that can fill the big-wing/small-ball four spot this season.

We saw during the championship run that when the Bucks went small with Antetokounmpo at the five and used Tucker as a power forward that could match up with opposing teams’ wings to take the defensive pressure off of Middleton that was when they had the most success.

The four-man combination of Antetokounmpo, Tucker, Middleton and Jrue Holiday posted a defensive rating of 97.5 in last year’s playoffs in nearly 400 minutes. It allowed them to be incredibly versatile in their defensive coverages more than having someone like Wesley Matthews did.

If they want to continue to be the team to beat in the East (and the league), Milwaukee needs to get back to the defensive versatility that made them so dominant during the 2021 playoffs.

If they want to go younger, an option in the draft is Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell. At 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, he has the size, mobility, and athleticism to defend multiple positions up or down the lineup. However, it’s risky business for a contender to rely on a rookie to fill such an important role right away so it’s understandable why they’d be wary of going this route.

There are a couple of interesting names in the free-agent market that would be nice additions for the Bucks as well, but specifically Taurean Prince from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He might have been too valuable to the Wolves last season that they won’t let him go (they also have his Bird rights) but he would be a great fit for this role.

Prince has had an interesting career since being taken 12th overall by the Atlanta Hawks in 2016. He never quite developed into that lottery pick draft status but carved out a role as a 3-and-D wing who was a veteran leader for the Wolves last season.

Prince doesn’t need to be a veteran leader on the Bucks, but his 3-and-D abilities would be fantastic on this team. He’s a career 37.1 percent shooter from 3 on 4.6 attempts per game and was right around that last season (37.6 percent, 3.3 attempts).

At 6-foot-7 and 218 pounds, Prince guarded guys both bigger and smaller than him with the Wolves last season, spending 45 percent of his minutes at the four and 53 percent as a small forward.

Prince is also very familiar with head coach Mike Budenholzer who he played under in his first two seasons with the Hawks. In his second season (when the Hawks were terrible), Prince averaged 14.1 points and shot 38.5 percent from 3 on 5.6 attempts per game.

A couple of other interesting free agent names to keep an eye on would be Otto Porter Jr. of the Golden State Warriors (though he probably priced himself out of the Bucks’ range if he leaves Golden State), Joe Ingles of the Portland Trail Blazers (although he is coming off of a significant injury and is in his mid-30s), as well as Thaddeus Young of the Toronto Raptors (who I wanted before the deadline and isn’t the same type of player as Prince but would fit this role well).

There are some decent names out there for the Bucks to take a run at in free agency, the draft, and in trades this offseason but we’ll see if that’s the direction they go in or how successful they’ll be in attaining any of these players.

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The Milwaukee Bucks have other areas that need to be addressed this offseason as well but adding a player who can fit this role should be at the top of their list.