On paper, the Milwaukee Bucks have had a decent history of development with their young players. Pundits point to their decision to draft Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th overall pick. Antetokounmpo has since developed into one of the best players in the NBA, becoming the league’s MVP in 2019 and 2020 and leading the Bucks to their first championship in 50 years in 2021. Even Khris Middleton, who came to Milwaukee as a throw-in in the trade for Brandon Knight, has since become a bonafide star in this league.
But anyone paying attention will tell you that the team is falling behind its counterparts in this regard. None of the young players the coaching staff has developed in the past five years are on the roster today, and none of the young pieces still aboard are showing any growth.
Former Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon is now with the Celtics. Donte DiVincenzo is now a key piece for the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Jordan Nwora is enjoying increased opportunities with the Indiana Pacers. Even Sandro Mamukelashvili ended up starting at center for the San Antonio Spurs to end the season.
Don’t forget, the Bucks in past seasons have essentially mortgaged their draft capital for the foreseeable for the likes of Jrue Holiday and Jae Crowder. They simply don’t have the assets to move around to get better pieces on the roster anymore. As a result, they have very few options to try and improve their roster for next season.
And that means developing from within isn’t just the best option — it’s the only option.
Why the Bucks need to go all-in on player development next season
The Bucks are currently over the salary cap, so they are limited in their ability to sign free agents. Other teams around the league know this well; by developing young players, any front office can add talent to their roster without having to spend a lot of money. Developing younger players allows teams to avoid having to trade away draft picks or young players in order to acquire veterans.
The Bucks also have young guys who are already willing to put in the work to carve out a place for themselves in this league. At one point, the Bucks seemed to have a solid youth movement locked up for the foreseeable future with guys like Nwora and Mamukelashvili. With those pieces snipped away, there’s a lot riding on the development of Marjon — and for that matter, guys like A.J. Green, too.