1 Significant lesson the Bucks can learn from watching the Western Conference Finals

Minnesota and Dallas have something the Bucks need.
Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Five
Indiana Pacers v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Five / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

For the second consecutive season, injuries destroyed the chances of seeing the Milwaukee Bucks at full strength in the NBA Playoffs.

Injuries may have been the primary cause for Milwaukee's downfall, but make no mistake, this roster had a plethora of other issues outside of staying healthy. Now, general manager Jon Horst, who will be back after flirting with the Detroit Pistons' previously vacant president of basketball operations gig, must address these flaws.

Where should he start? Well, hopefully he and head coach Doc Rivers are watching the Western Conference Finals between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks, as following the blueprint those teams are using could be just what the Milwaukee Bucks need.

1 Significant lesson the Bucks can learn from watching the Western Conference Finals

The superstars have unsurprisingly led the way for these two teams. Anthony Edwards has stolen the show with a handful of show-stopping performances, while Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving continue to prove they are one of the most skilled duos the game has ever seen. However, neither of these teams would be in this position without two of their key role players.

For Dallas, P.J. Washington, who came over at the trade deadline, has been sensational. In his playoff debut, the forward has averaged 14.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and one steal per matchup, providing an essential boost on both sides of the basketball.

On Minnesota's end, they have Jaden McDaniels, who has been a two-way nightmare for opponents, putting up 13.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.1 blocks and a steal per game while shooting the long ball extremely well at 41.5 percent in the postseason.

Even beyond the statistical production, it's clear how important these two are by watching them on the defensive end. Both are incredibly tall and lengthy wings, Washington at 6-foot-7 and McDaniels at 6-foot-9, who give their teams a tremendous amount of versatility, switch-ability and athleticism on that side of the ball.

Both will guard whoever stands in front of them, boasting a rare ability to almost never get caught in a mismatch. This takes significant pressure off of the team's other stars, allowing them to concentrate more on other areas, such as orchestrating the offense. In an NBA that is becoming positionless, it's a blessing to have players who fit this description.

Of course, the Milwaukee Bucks didn't have much of that this past year... Or the year before that... Or the year before that. For years, this roster has longed for more tall, quick and athletic wing defenders who can make this team more versatile. In fact, this writer was calling for a Washington trade over two years ago now.

In today's NBA that is starting to primarily become dominated by youth and pure athletes, having one of the oldest rosters in the NBA like the Bucks do is not going to cut it. The Bucks desperately need to find their version of McDaniels or Washington by utilizing a lengthy, young and athletic wing who can open things up defensively.

Milwaukee has several options they can explore to fill this void.

The first one is sticking in-house.

Milwaukee has a collection of fascinating young wings in town headlined by soon-to-be sophomore Andre Jackson Jr. With his high-flying dunks, show-stopping blocks and endless hustle, he showed real glimpses this past season that he could be this Washington/McDaniels player for them, and the 6-foot-6, energetic wing might receive a larger opportunity next season.

Once thought to be an X-factor, MarJon Beauchamp didn't do much in his second season, but he's got potential. He's another uber-athletic, 6-foot-6 wing who has shown in spurts that he can provide tough defense while hitting shots. If he could build up his confidence and dial it in defensively, he has all of the makings to patch this hole for the Milwaukee Bucks.

This writer also hasn't forgotten about Chris Livingston, the final pick of last year's draft. Though he's certainly the least likely of the trio to see legitimate minutes, largely due to his age at just 20, he's got the build, height and athletic ability to earn a closer look.

For players already on the roster, it will fall more onto the shoulders of Doc Rivers to play them rather than relying on Jon Horst. Given that he came aboard mid-season during the hardest stretch of the year, it wasn't too surprising that he relied primarily on veterans and kept the young players sidelined. Now, with an entire off-season to prepare, Rivers must aim to get a better look at them next season.

If the Bucks want to explore other avenues, they will be armed with both a first and second-round pick in the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft. Prospects such as Kevin McCullar Jr. or Bobi Klintman could make for interesting additions to this roster. Of course, the team could pursue trades or aim to scoop up a free agent off the open market.

No matter what route they do take, the Milwaukee Bucks need to find their McDaniels or Washington before next season begins to keep pace in today's NBA. Inserting that player into the lineup could be the key to helping this team get back on top, allowing them to experiment with different lineups and get this defense back on the right track after an incredibly challenging year in Milwaukee.

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