At the conclusion of the 2019-2020 NBA season, the Milwaukee Bucks had a record of 56-17 which placed them atop the Eastern Conference and 1st in the league by a fair margin. Unfortunately, for the second consecutive season, the Bucks have failed to live up to expectations in the playoffs, falling to Miami in the second round. Milwaukee will now set their sights on what could be their most important and impactful offseason yet. The Bucks are at a crossroads and their future will depends on if they can extend or retain their franchise player, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Speculation surrounding Antetokounmpo’s future has been growing all season and is now peaking with the reining MVP up for a supermax extension this offseason. If the front office can’t improve the roster around Giannis and convince him to stay, then the future success of this franchise is in serious doubt. While their main focus this offseason will be to sign Giannis to an extension, the Bucks will also have to prioritise using their limited assets to improve their roster to a championship level.
Currently, the Milwaukee Bucks have eight players with guaranteed contracts for the 2020-2021 NBA season. Ersan Ilyasova has non-guaranteed salary which projects to become fully guaranteed shortly. The Bucks currently have two players with options going into this offseason. Robin Lopez has a $5 million player option which I expect him to opt into. Despite a decline in his overall stats since joining the Bucks last offseason, Lopez seems to have seriously enjoyed his time in Milwaukee. He is able to play and train with his brother and has become an integral part of Milwaukee’s locker room, developing a strong relationship with star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo. While possible, it is unlikely that Lopez would be able to attract a better contract and I cannot imagine him being any happier in any other organisation. Wesley Matthews also has a player option valued at $2.7 million which could see him enter free agency. Matthews started every game for the Bucks this season and became a key member of their defensive line-up. After a successful season in Milwaukee and in a weaker free agency class, Matthews is sure to draw a more lucrative contract whether it be with the Bucks or another organisation. Sterling Brown will become a restricted free agent along with two-way players, Frank Mason and Cameron Reynolds. The Bucks will also have several rotation players entering unrestricted free agency in Pat Connaughton and Kyle Korver. The Bucks project to have the $5.7 million taxpayer mid-level exception.
Depth Chart –
The Milwaukee Bucks are entering free agency with $114 million committed to only eight players and will therefore have no cap room available to them. Their main focus will be on retaining their restricted free agents as well as bringing back unrestricted free agent, Pat Connaughton. Without having any cap room, it will be near impossible to go after any unrestricted free agents, so it is very likely the Bucks will run the team back. They can use their mid-level exception to bring back a player like Pat Connaughton or Wesley Matthews. If they choose to bring back Connaughton as I suspect they will, then they can fill the remainder of their roster with key veteran specialists such as Kyle Korver. Currently, I see the Bucks as a championship contending team and they can stay this way regardless of what happens in free agency. While it would be idea to improve their roster surrounding Giannis, there are very limited ways they can do this. If they are willing, the Bucks can explore trade possibilities for Eric Bledsoe and his large contract. Bledsoe has been a solid player for the Bucks but has struggled in playoffs in recent years and therefore has fallen into numerous trade rumours over the past few months. If the Bucks were to move on from Bledsoe, they should look to obtain a proven playoff performer that they can depend on in crunch time. A trade for Jrue Holiday could be interesting, or even for a player like Derrick Rose who the Pistons would be willing to move away from.
The Milwaukee Bucks will have the 24th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Bucks look very likely to draft with this pick due to their high salary but could potentially look to include it in an Eric Bledsoe trade if they do explore it as mentioned earlier in this article. While there is no defined top talent in this draft, there are a number of players that can be developed into consistent role players and even starters for playoff teams to select from. With the 24th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, if they choose to use it, the Milwaukee Bucks should look to take Saddiq Bey, a 6’8” small forward out of Villanova. Bey is a scrappy, high-energy and confident forward who can knock down a shot while being a versatile defender. If Wesley Matthews chooses to decline his option and enter free agency, Bey could be a perfect replacement to back up Khris Middleton and provide a spark off the bench on both ends of the floor. While Bey does have some struggles with athleticism and shot creation, he could still fit in well playing off the ball and a 3 and D player for the Bucks.
The Milwaukee Bucks will enter the 2020 offseason with a lot of eyes on them and their star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Regardless of Antetokounmpo’s decision, the Bucks still need to make smart decisions to improve their supporting cast through the draft, trades and veteran signings. While Eric Bledsoe could be involved in an important trade to bring in a proven playoff competitor, the Bucks will, for the most part, look very similar to the season just past. All of their focus will be on keeping their star player happy, making a championship run and setting themselves up for success in the future, with or without Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Projected Depth Chart 2020/21 Season –
Players IN: Saddiq Bey
Players OUT: Wesley Matthews, Marvin Williams
Potential Trade Piece: Eric Bledsoe