After Disappointing Playoff Exit, Bucks Enter Confusing Offseason
The Milwaukee Bucks have become a juggernaut of the NBA.
Over the past two years, they have become an elite offensive and defensive team – top 5 in both categories. They have boasted All-Stars, MVPs, Defensive Players of the Year, Coach of the Years, and All-Defense Team players. They were built to be an unstoppable force in the postseason.
Yet, in two consecutive postseason appearances, they failed to replicate their regular season success. Last year, it was to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors, this year, it was to the Miami Heat.
How does one team look so unbeatable during the regular season yet gets so badly outperformed when it counts?
“Well, the 4½-month layoff for our team wasn’t any different than any of the other teams that came here to Orlando to compete and try and be the last team standing,” Coach Mike Budenholzer said following his team’s Game 5 elimination. “We had a heck of a year, through March 11, a lot of good things, a lot of positives and when we had our moments here in Orlando. Ultimately, we weren’t able to get it done. Everybody’s dealing with the same circumstances.”
The Bucks need answers – now more than ever.
Their consecutive playoff collapses have been simply inexcusable and for a small market team, their inability to close the deal or win when it matters most may very well cost them a heavy price sooner rather than later.
Reports inside the bubble suggested that it’s an “open secret” that Giannis Antetokounmpo is eying the Miami Heat and the Toronto Raptors as free agent destinations next summer. The Greek Freak, can obviously put all of these rumours to rest quite easily by signing the super-max with the Bucks this offseason.
“It’s not happening. That’s not happening,” commented Antetokounmpo after Game 5 on potentially asking for a trade this Fall. “Some see a wall and go in [another direction]. I plow through it. We just have to get better as a team, individually and get right back at it next season.”
The key here is, Antetokounmpo has not openly shown any interest in the super-max, a question that will continue to loom through the NBA offseason. If Antetokounmpo doesn’t end up signing the super-max, a concept which time and time again has failed to serve its main purpose of limiting player movement, what should the Bucks do?
Do they look to move Giannis?
If there is no long term commitment from quite possibly the greatest player in franchise history – still young and very much in his prime for that matter – should the Bucks strongly consider moving Giannis in order to not lose everything the following offseason?
Consider this. The New Orleans Pelicans essentially got half way through their rebuild considering everything they received for one final season of Anthony Davis, so what should that tell the Bucks? There will certainly be a ton of interest and an abundance of suitors for Giannis if he is made available. Hell, the Golden State Warriors are as out there as possible on their desire to acquire the reigning MVP.
So what should the move be?
Trading Antetokounmpo a year before his impending free agency will surely spark plenty of outcry from Bucks faithful. They have already been forced to watch Malcolm Brogdon flourish down in Indiana after the Bucks refused to pay the young guard. Granted, paying for Brogdon ultimately couldn’t really happen when you realize that Khris Middleton deserved his money and the Bucks were mindful of the cap for when Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent.
The point is, the Bucks essentially let big opportunities slip and this latest opportunity may force shockwaves around the league.
But what if the Bucks choose to hold onto Giannis if he doesn’t sign the super-max?
Winning in this league is hard and if anyone knows that, it’s the Bucks. They may have come far too close to the pinnacle to give up now. Talents like Antetokounmpo doesn’t come around often, especially for a small market that won’t ever compete with the likes of Los Angeles and Miami on the free agent market. If the Bucks go all in this upcoming year, you cannot blame them, and if they choose to, it starts by making a push for Chris Paul.
It’s time for the Bucks to bet on themselves and put all of the marbles out on the table in order to convince Giannis that they plan to compete for years to come.
Eric Bledsoe, an All-Defensive team point guard, has been outplayed numerous times in the postseason, and the star duo of Antetokounmpo and Middleton has proven to not be enough. With the Oklahoma City Thunder pondering a rebuild, now may be the time to roll the dice and upgrade Bledsoe for a Paul, who is coming off a year in which he played himself right back into MVP conversation.
If Giannis doesn’t sign on for the super-max, the Bucks will have a franchise altering decision to make – are they all in, or are they ready to pull the curtain?
This will be the decision that will ultimately change the entire landscape of the NBA.