3 disastrous mistakes the Bucks must avoid making this summer

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 18 (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 18 (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Bucks: Brook Lopez, Miami Heat: Gabe Vincent
Apr 22, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

2. Let go of the wrong players

This point ties directly into the point of keeping Giannis happy. He is one of the best players in the universe, but he alone is not enough to win it all. The Bucks need capable pieces around their franchise player, and in the past, those players have been Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Brook Lopez, among others. Two of those players are up for extensions, and seven of the Bucks’ supporting pieces are entering free agency.

The last time the Bucks had a disappointing postseason, they went and traded for Jrue Holiday, which turned out to be a game-changer. Now, ironically because of that very trade, they can’t pull off a similar move. They don’t have any valuable trade assets or the cap space to get a new star player to join forces with Giannis. In other words, the Bucks don’t have the option to majorly retool their roster without giving up some of their competitiveness. So, their only option is to work with what they already have and improve their bench where it is possible.

That means the organization will have to decide who they keep around and who they let go. Making the right moves here is crucial because it will not only shape the next season but also the future beyond that.

Let’s start with Brook Lopez, whose extension should be an easy choice for the Bucks. Lopez had an amazing season, especially defensively. He has been their anchor and proved to be durable despite his age. Extending him will be expensive, but it is a no-brainer. This has to happen.

Another thing that has to happen is figuring out the Khris Middleton dilemma. Middleton has a $40 million player option coming up and three choices: leave, opt in and work out a new extension, or opt-out and negotiate a new contract with the Bucks. One thing here is clear. At this point in his career, that is too much money, and he will not get that much from any other team. He would have many suitors, though, who would be willing to still pay handsomely, and that makes it difficult for the Bucks.

If Middleton wants to stay, which they should definitely encourage, they’ll have to pay him. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Subscription required) put it, “Milwaukee cannot afford to not bring [Middleton] back.” He is part of what they have built around Giannis, which would be incredibly difficult to replace, even if he is not the Khris Middleton from two years ago.

So, while players like Jae Crowder, Goran Dragic, and Wesley Matthews are expendable, Lopez and Middleton are not at the moment. Blowing up their core just won’t pay off right now, but if keeping everyone around ends in another disappointing season, it is a real option next year.