Number 2: Does anyone step up defensively?
The trade for Damian Lillard was great for the Bucks, but it didn’t come without a cost. Losing Jrue Holiday really hurts Milwaukee’s perimeter defense, as Holiday is the best in the game defending guards on the perimeter. The Bucks will need someone to step up and help fill that hole, or else they will likely end up making a trade to acquire someone who can do that.
There are a few options for players who could fill this need. Jae Crowder is one of them, as he was brought in at the trade deadline last season to be the Bucks’ new version of P.J. Tucker. Unfortunately, he did not look all that great defensively in his few months with the team last season, as he seemed a step slow and was unable to consistently defend the perimeter as he could in his prime.
With that being said, there is a chance that he returns closer to form in 2023-24 after having a full offseason with the team and being more in-game shape than he was last season (Crowder did not play in an NBA game from May 2022 until February 2023).
Another possibility is that Malik Beasley will become a solid perimeter defender for Milwaukee. Beasley signed with the Bucks on a minimum deal, and he has always been known as a bench sharpshooter. However, early indications are that he could play a bigger role than that for the Bucks this season, as he has started in preseason, and Coach Adrian Griffin has talked about him needing to take on the toughest defensive assignments this season.
Beasley has looked pretty good on defense so far in the preseason and has said that he thinks he could improve on that end now that he doesn’t need to do as much offensively. If Beasley can be an above-average defender on the wing, it would be a huge boost for this Bucks team.
Lastly, Khris Middleton, if he returns to form, is a pretty good defender. He’s never been the quickest player, but he was always a fine defender prior to his recent injuries and could get back to that level if he is back to full health. Much like Crowder and Beasley, it’s important that he can be at least decent on that end of the floor, even if he isn’t fantastic. If all three players can be solid defenders, it would give the Bucks much more flexibility on that end of the floor, knowing they have players who can hold their own on the perimeter.