For years the Milwaukee Bucks have circled the 2020 offseason as the critical one in determining the direction of the franchise moving forward.
With back-to-back MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo eligible to sign a supermax contract extension it's hard to focus your attention in any other direction. Despite that rather large cloud hanging over the team and city, reality is, the Bucks once again flamed out of the playoffs earlier than expected, dropping their second round series to the Miami Heat in five games.
Suffocated offensively and exposed defensively, the Bucks postseason exit was eerily similar to the one from a season ago against the Toronto Raptors.
While an Antetokounmpo signature would signal this offseason a home run regardless of any other moves, heading back to the well for a third time with a similar roster would appear an ill-advised move, so let's take a look at some of the options the Bucks could potentially take a look at in free agency.
Milwaukee free agents
The Bucks have Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, George Hill and Eric Bledsoe locked up on long term deals, meaning the core of their roster will stay in tact unless they hit the trade table.
The main unrestricted free agent decision from their 2019-20 roster will surround what they do with Pat Connaughton who will come off of the books after an impressive two seasons with the franchise. Connaughton has been an every night player under Mike Budenholzer, averaging 18.6 minutes on the wing in 67 appearances last season.
Earning just $1.6 million per season on his last deal, Connaughton certainly deserves a salary bump, which could pry him away from returning to Fiserv Forum.
Veteran sharpshooter, Kyle Korver is seemingly set to lace up his sneakers once again, with the Bucks likely able to retain the services of the 39-year-old.
Robin Lopez ($5 million) and Wesley Matthews ($2 million) each have player options for 2021, with the latter particularly important to the Bucks after staring in place of Malcolm Brogdon and regularly taking the responsibility of defending the oppositions best wing.
Sterling Brown is set for restricted free agency and after struggling to crack the Bucks rotation last season and his future in Milwaukee is set to be determined by outside interest.
Set for restricted free agency, Zach Lowe's latest report suggests the Bucks "love" the Serbian guard.
Given Milwaukee's tight cap situation, a sign-and-trade would be the method of striking this deal, with the only question remaining whether or not the Bucks have the required assets to appease the Sacramento Kings.
A sweet shooter with capable playmaking ability, Bogdanovic would give Milwaukee a third dynamic scoring option alongside Antetokoumpo and Middleton. According to Cleaning the Glass, Bogdanovic split his time between the two and three positions last season, but in lineups next to the two Bucks All-Stars, there is certainly an opportunity to slide Bogdanovic to the nominal point guard spot to add versatility on both ends.
Given the nature of restricted free agency, this deal would have some serious hurdles to clear before it could be achieved, but the Bucks interest in the 28-year-old is obvious.
Recently asked by Sportando if he would prioritise winning over money, Danilo Gallanari responded, "Yes. At this time, yes. I'm not 20 anymore."
That comment alone was enough to send fans of contending teams to their respective cap sheets, desperately trying to find a way to fit the 32-year-old on to their roster.
Averaging 18.7 points while connecting on 40 percent of his triples last season, Gallanari was one of only ten players to top 18-plus points on shooting 40 percent or better from 3. Another member of that group was Milwaukee All-Star, Middleton.
Pairing two elite scoring threats from the outside with Antetokounmpo is a mouth watering prospect, with the possibility of also unleashing the MVP at the five in small ball lineups coming into play.
According to Cleaning the Glass, Antetokoumpo spent 11 percent of his minutes at centre last season. In those minutes the Bucks held a NET rating of +17.5 and a DEF rating of 98.5. In the postseason, the retiring Marvin Williams was often the player alongside Antetokounmpo in those 'small' lineups, and while Williams was servicable in those stretches, Gallanari is unquestionably a major upgrade.
The Bucks could potentially sign Gallanari using the mid-level exception, though, there will be no shortage of suitors.
There is going to be a theme with all of these targets: they can shoot the ball from the outside.
Harris and his dynamic scoring ability on the perimeter will also be in high demand, with the 29-year-old hitting the market after four seasons with the Nets where he drilled 43 percent of his 1371 attempts from long range.
|Name||3P% Regular Season||3P% vs. Miami 2nd Round|
|Khris Middleton||41.5%||33.3% (-8.2%_|
|George Hill||46.0%||33.3% (-12.7%)|
|Wesley Matthews||36.4%||33.3% (-3.1%)|
|Eric Bledsoe||34.4%||21.4% (-13.0%)|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||30.4%||21.4% (-9.0%)|
|Marvin Williams||30.8%||20.0% (-10.8%)|
The numbers in the above graph don't paint a pretty picture for the Bucks rotation in the playoffs, and if you dare to look back to the numbers from the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals you will find a similar tale.
Harris connected on 44.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot opportunites in 2020 and playing beside Antetokoumpo and Middleton, those chances will come often. While the Bucks floundered in only making 28 percent of their wide open 3-point attempts against Miami in the second round, Harris knocked down a staggering 53.9 percent of his 115 wide open threes.
If Matthews declined his player option to sign a bigger deal elsewhere, Harris could possibly slide into the starting lineup for Budenholzer, though, he would be an excellent fit in any role with the Bucks.
What is Davis Bertans best known for?
You guessed it....shooting.
Again, the idea around playing Antetokounmpo at the five is for defensive versatility, but Milwaukee also need to find a way to loosen the shackles with their half-court offence which can occasionally get bogged down. A limitation of the Bucks ability to do so has been a lack of genuine elite shooting with the opposition far too willing to take their chances on Milwaukee misfiring from deep.
Bertans not only hit 42.7 percent of his 8.7 triples per game, but 433 of his 471 attempts came from above the break and he actually hit 18 of his 24 attempts from beyond 30-feet.
Talk about floor spacing.
The Budenholzer connection
Mike Budenholzer has always been known as a players coach and someone who has a tremdous relationship with his roster.
On the current squad, Kyle Korver and Ersan Ilyasova are players that played under Budenholzer in Atlanta, while he had already formed a relationship with George Hill from his time with the San Antonio Spurs.
Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague both formed integral parts of Budenholzer's terrific Atlanta squads, and Millsap in particular could be a player to watch.
While not as intriguing as any of the above mentioned players, Millsap is still capable of playing solid defence and providing stable offence at times, with a price tag that is likely to be easy to absorb in Milwaukee's tight financial situation.
Teague is less likely, though, this could be determined by what decisions the Bucks make at the trade table.
- D.J. Augustin - A solid veteran point guard who could become attractive if their is a change with Bledsoe or HIll.
- Jordan Clarkson - Somehow, Clarkson is still just 28 years old. Averaged 15.6 points in Utah in just over 20 minutes per appearance while knocking down 36 percent of his outside attempts. Milwuakee have lacked an explosive scorer off the bench for years and could be intrigued by Clarkson's streaky bucket getting.
- Jae Crowder - Crowder ultimately came back to earth shooting from the outside in the NBA Finals, but his defensive ability is still the key here. A solid veteran who will likely cost too much but would be a nice replacement for Matthews if he seeks opportunities elsewhere.
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