Predicted finish: 1st in the East (1st in the Central, 3rd in the power rankings)
Last seasons conference finish: 1st
Well, the Milwaukee Bucks got Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign on the dotted line before the season and that’s all that really matters if we’re honest. The two-time defending MVP and also reigning defensive player of the year committed to Milwaukee and the Bucks for the next four years plus a player option and that’s something that is an inarguable win any way you look at it. Beyond that though, the team made a series of changes around Giannis to upgrade their team. Jrue Holiday is in for Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and a Sam Presti’s helping of draft picks along with free agents Bobby Portis, Brynn Forbes and DJ Augustin. The question is now that Giannis is locked up, are those new faces plus Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Co. enough to help this franchise go somewhere it hasn’t since the 70’s.
The big question for the franchise: Is Jrue Holiday enough to push the Bucks over the top?
The Bucks sacrificed depth this offseason for increased talent and the result will be fascinating. By any metric, Holiday is a big upgrade over Bledsoe and Hill assuming health. What’s interesting though is his best traits don’t really answer the Bucks playoff half court woes of the last two seasons. It seems as though above all else, this franchise is betting on Holiday’s upgrade over Bledsoe to combine with steps taken by Giannis and Middleton being enough. Whether that’ll play out is anyone’s guess but for me, I remain skeptical. Middleton has yet to show me the playoff pedigree his game suggests he could one day have and I’m not sure if Giannis will ever be the creator in the half court some hope him to be. Without those two taking that step, I just am not sure if Holiday’s upgrade is enough.
One move I want to see them make: Improve the bench depth
Last season one of Milwaukee’s strengths was depth and we saw what that got them. So, they jettisoned most of it away for Holiday and though I get the idea of the move and respect the decision to pull the trigger, I’m worried about how a Portis, Forbes, Augustin, DiVincenzo, Connaugton bench will hold up over the course of a full season. They feel a piece or two short on the bench and with all their assets currently or at some point going to wear New Orleans Pelicans jerseys, I’m not sure how they fix it. All I know is the depth of this team is to put it nicely worrisome heading into a season it feels like it could matter more than ever.
Offseason Grade: B
Signing Giannis and bringing in Holiday were big wins for them. However, losing out on Bogdan Bogdanovic hurts, especially because they still don’t even really have depth even despite the added cap space they got from that deal falling through. Their free agency was meh, the Holiday trade felt like a big over pay but you know what? They get a B minimum because Giannis signed on the dotted line.
Young player I’m excited for: Donte DiVincenzo
DiVincenzo feels like a more consistent jumper away from really being something and it can’t be overstated how much the Bucks need that to come this season. With depth being a hole on this team, DiVincenzo taking that step would be a crucial development in their championship pursuit, especially as someone who could factor in large on the Giannis at centre lineups.
The Bucks peak feels higher to me today than it did when their season ended in the Bubble so that has to be seen as positive. However, with their lack of depth, their floor is very quietly lower with how much they’re relying on Holiday’s health and a bench full of inconsistent players. At their best, this very well could be the biggest threat to the Lakers. If they don’t hit that best though, which is what I think is more likely, it will be a long and difficult offseason for the Bucks regardless of the fact the Giannis elephant won’t be in the room anymore.