There were some concerns that the Bucks were losing some offensive talent when they basically let Malcolm Brogdon walk in the 2019 offseason, but they’ve built some good depth at several positions.
Giannis is obviously their go-to offensive threat. While he has some holes in his offensive game, specifically pulling up from mid-range or deep, he’s tough to stop as it is, especially in transition when he’s headed straight to the basket like a high-speed locomotive. His combination of speed and strength make him a rarity at his position, so stopping him from penetrating into the lane for fast-break buckets and dunks is usually something that takes two players and you pretty much have to make that a priority once he gets on the perimeter.
When Giannis does get doubled, the Bucks have several other options. Eric Bledsoe does a good job of setting up the offense, but he also assesses the defense and will kick it into high gear and look to attack and get to the basket if he sees a mismatch.
He is best penetrating and working around the rim. He may be a bit undersized at 6-1, but he has the muscle to make up for that, which allows him to bully other point guards as he’s able to get into the paint. Bledsoe does have his faults, though. When he tried to be a jump shooter, that doesn’t work well with his skill set. He’s a good distributor, but he sometimes makes bad decisions. If he drives not knowing what he’s going to do, he sometimes forces passes that are turned into turnovers, although he’s shown improvement in this area.
One of the unsung heroes on the Bucks’ roster is Khris Middleton. He was just locked up to a long-term contract, and it’s clear why. While there is no doubt this is Giannis’ team, they become that more dangerous with Middleton. They were the league’s best offense this past season, with a ton of that credit due to Middleton, who had to step up as the number one option when Giannis was injured, and he was also a facilitator when George Hill was out for some time.
Middleton, often mentioned as a 3&D player, is so much more than that. He is so much more versatile offensively than he was years ago. He can still shoot from long range, but he’s also able to take his defender off the dribble, and has the size at 6-7 to have his way inside.
The two biggest issues for Bledsoe and Middleton lately have been their tendency to fade in important playoffs series. Two years ago, it was Bledsoe, who tried to engage in a personal battle with Terry Rozier and let Rozier get the better of him on a few occasions. Last year, it was Middleton against the Raptors. If both players are playing solid basketball alongside Giannis. They are tough to stop.
Milwaukee has done a good job of surrounding that trio with solid role players who offer complementary skills. Brook Lopez has an inside-out game, and while inconsistent, Wesley Matthews is capable of providing an offensive spark. Off the bench, the Bucks have a capable scoring duo of George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo.
Hill is a playoff-tested veteran, who not only makes the smart decisions offensively, but he can also create offense. He can drive, as has always been part of his skill set, but he was deadly from beyond the arch last season for the Bucks.
DiVincenzo had a nice sophomore campaign, and he was asked to play a bigger role when other players were injured. He averaged 9.4 points per game, but he was on quite a tear before play was suspended.
Ersan Ilyasova has been another player that has been asked to step into the starting lineup and play a bigger role at times. Off the bench, he’s capable of knocking down three-pointers, as is Kyle Korver, and Robin Lopez gives the Bucks a rim runner who can clean up on the boards and put shots back up. To round it all out, Pat Connaughton adds a dynamic scorer and the Bucks are still unsure what they’ll be getting with their signing of Marvin Williams.
Perhaps the best thing about the way Milwaukee’s roster was built was that they have a number of solid two-way players and they do not feature too many one-trick ponies.
Bledsoe is a bulldog of a defender at point guard, and despite the height disparity with many other point guards, he loves the challenge. He’ll muscle players as soon as they cross the timeline and try to get them to pass or force them into bad shots.
Khris Middleton may not get the respect he deserves, but he was locking players down on defense well before he became an All-Star. His size gives him the versatility to defend multiple positions, which can also be said of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who can defend out on the perimeter and be a presence near the basket.
Brook Lopez is a rim protector down in the paint, and having Robin Lopez come off the bench able to play in the same defensive role is a luxury for the Bucks. When Eric Bledsoe heads to the paint, George Hill is also a more than capable defender.
Mike Budenholzer is yet another NBA coach who is part of Gregg Popovich’s coaching tree. Budenholzer had the luxury of working with Popovich in a system that was known for competing for championships and has had a winning culture for decades.
When he was hired by the Bucks, some of the reasons why he was selected were that he could teach and he could build a winning culture. That was proven to be true almost instantly.
Aside from that, Budenholzer seems to have the ability to instill confidence in his players. Where they are now, with the confidence to think they can beat anyone, is a far cry from the pre-Budenholzer days. He’s also been able to adapt well. Losing Malcolm Brogdon was tough, but Budenholzer countered by leaning on Donte DiVincenzo, who seemed to believe in himself with the confidence shown him and has stepped up in situations where the team needs him.
The Bucks have to be looked at as a favorite to get to the NBA Finals. They’ve been built well, have the right coach in place, and they have extended the players that are very important to their success.
If they can fill out their roster with some solid role players, it would take some major bad luck to keep them from being favorites to make another deep run into the playoffs and possibly the NBA Finals.
Milwaukee Bucks Roster FAQ
Can the Bucks keep Giannis in Milwaukee by extending him to the supermax?
Giannis has remained loyal to the team that drafted him, but he’ll be looking for a large contract extension, especially after the Bucks committed about $35 million a year to Khris Middleton. He’ll be eligible for the supermax, but that’s only if he stays with the Bucks, and that’s a significant difference compared to what he would make anywhere else. It would mean a five-year salary averaging around $50 million. But committing so much of the cap to two players would mean Milwaukee would have to operate over the cap and the tax apron.
That said, Giannis apparently wants to win rings so if Milwaukee shows they can do that with this roster, which would go a long way to keeping him in Wisconsin. While passing up the supermax in exchange for possibly a deal in a bigger market with superstar teammates may be hard to do, Kawhi Leonard showed that money isn’t everything. Gut feeling here is that he stays in Milwaukee.
Can Bledsoe and Middleton stay consistent through a playoff run to have a realistic shot at a title or will Giannis have to carry the team again?
Bledsoe has still had his bouts with inconsistency last season. Luckily for the Bucks, his backup, George Hill, is a playoff-tested veteran who can bring it on both sides of the floor. Middleton seems to have taken several positive steps forward, and he has had to really step up in Giannis’ absence, and the signs point to him being able to perform in big games.
Will Bucks bring back Pat Connaughton and Kyle Korver or will they look to replace them with lower-cost options ?
Connaughton will likely be the priority this offseason. The Bucks like the versatility he provides. However, if the asking price is too high, they’ve shown the ability to adapt and add players that fit the team. While it’s nice to have a sharpshooter like Korver, he’ll be a low-priority player, and as an aging specialist, they’d probably bring him back on a minimum contract. Sterling Brown’s time in Milwaukee can also be nearing an end. He took a step back last season and is likely not progressing like the team would hope.
Will the Bucks also be forced to look for replacements for Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez prior to the start of the season?
A lot depends on their market value entering free agency. Matthews was signed in hopes of replacing some of what Brogdon provided, but he was hardly a Brogdon replacement. He’s also still very inconsistent. I have a hard time seeing him getting value above what his player option is worth. I also have to think Lopez would take the option to continue to play for a contender and alongside his brother. It’s clear Budenholzer values him, so I expect him to stick around.
Is Donte DiVincenzo the future starter at shooting guard?
Even if Wesley Matthews returns, I think DiVincenzo becomes the starter at the two. He’s far more consistent, and he offers a different skill set. He took a big step forward in his sophomore campaign. Given a minutes bump as a starter, he can easily be a double-digit nightly performer, and his career progression in Milwaukee has to be exciting for Bucks fans.