Last year, the Milwaukee Bucks became just the sixth NBA top seed to get upset by a No. 8 seed in the opening round of the playoffs. As a result, the Bucks made a change at head coach as rookie Adrian Griffin took over for the fired Mike Budenholzer. Still, the Bucks project to be one of the best teams in the league as their Big 3 remains intact, and they have one of the best starting units.
2023-24 NBA Power Rankings Offseason Edition: No. 2 Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee has dominated the NBA Central division for the last five seasons while earning the Eastern Conference’s top seed three times. Since the 2018-19 season, the Bucks have picked up an NBA-best 271 victories. But the Bucks have only one championship in their only trip to the finals to show for their work.
Milwaukee went 58-24 in 2o22-23, earning the top spot in the Eastern Conference, one game better than the Boston Celtics. However, the Bucks didn’t look like the fourth-rated defense in their five-game first-round loss to the eighth-seed Miami Heat, as they allowed a playoff-high 124 points a game.
Milwaukee didn’t do a lot this season. But the Bucks did what they had to as they re-signed Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton to keep the starting unit together. The Bucks also re-signed A.J. Green, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, and Jae Crowder while inking free agents Malik Beasley and Robin Lopez to deals. Additionally, they traded for Andre Jackson Jr., a second-round selection, and selected Chris Livingston with the last pick in this past June’s draft.
Best Offseason Decision: Re-Signing Brook Lopez
Milwaukee had two essential decisions this summer. One involved Middleton after he declined his player option, and the other was on Lopez, an unrestricted free agent. The Bucks kept both players. While they did the right thing in both situations, I like the decision to keep Lopez more.
Middleton is an elite shooter and scorer. But his defense has fallen off a little, and he is 32 years old and coming off a severe injury. Middleton struggled last year in his 33 appearances after returning from a right knee injury and had a surgical procedure on his right knee following the Bucks playoff exit. He is expected to be ready by training camp, but there is concern that he won’t be the player he has been in recent years. Middleton signed a three-year, $93 million contract this summer, with 2025-26 being a player option.
Meanwhile, Lopez was runner-up to Jaren Jackson Jr. in the 2022-23 Defensive Player of the Year voting. Overall, Lopez had one of his finer seasons in recent years and put up a career-high shooting slash line of .531/.374/.784. He is 35 but has been dependable, playing 68+ games in eight of the last nine seasons. Plus, Lopez’s deal is only worth $48 million over two seasons, with next year’s being $2 million less than the $25 million he is making this year.
Worst Offseason Decision: Not Finding A Legitimate Backup Point Guard
Milwaukee lost veteran Jevon Carter to the Bulls in free agency and didn’t find a replacement to backup starting point guard Jrue Holiday. Carter isn’t capable of being an everyday starter. But the 28-year-old veteran is an outstanding defender, nearly a career 40% 3-point shooter, and doesn’t turn the ball over. Thus making him the perfect backup point guard.
So, who will the Bucks turn to run the team when Holiday takes a break? Milwaukee has a lot of players who can initiate the offense and are good passers. But a point guard is the floor general, and there is not one of those among their current options.
Beasley is their best option as a backup lead guard. However, he is better suited for the off-guard position, though he has considerable experience at the one. Beasley is a player who can provide instant offense, though he is not a great defender or a facilitator.
Jackson is an option. Jackson, a fantastic defender, handled point guard duties with the Connecticut Huskies, though he is not a true one. Plus, the 21-year-old struggled with his ball-handling during summer league action. Jackson doled out 12 assists and committed 18 turnovers in five games in Vegas.
TyTy Washington is on a two-way contract, so he will likely see some time off the bench for the Bucks — as long as he remains on a two-way deal –he is allowed to be active for 50 games. Washington is a true point guard who appeared in 31 games, including two starts, for the Houston Rockets last season. However, he did struggle on both ends of the floor, particularly with his shooting.
What’s Next? Head to Training Camp
Milwaukee is set for training camp. The Bucks have 21 players under contract, with 15 on fully guaranteed standard agreements. They also have all three of their two-way spots accounted for.