With the 24th selection in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks have an opportunity to add a young player on a cheap contract with the upside to become a contributor on a championship-caliber squad. That is, of course, if Milwaukee actually decides to keep the pick (but that’s a different discussion for a different day).
Whether they stay put at no. 24, trade it away altogether, or anything in between, there are a number of needs Milwaukee should look at addressing come Draft Night. That isn’t to say they should make a move solely based on need, as that’s a precarious strategy in the NBA. However, they have a number of critical holes they have to plug at some point this offseason if they want to get back to the NBA Finals.
Perhaps, Milwaukee was just one injury away from repeating as champions, but that injury did shine a light on a major weakness this squad has: Depth. The Bucks are top-heavy with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton running the show. When one of them goes down, as Middleton did, it’s very difficult for the rest of the squad to pick up the slack against very good teams such as the Boston Celtics.
That was obvious heading into the season and the roster-building route general manager Jon Horst elected to go. Let’s dive a little deeper and examine what other needs the Bucks have heading into this year’s NBA Draft.
There isn’t an existing team in today’s NBA who wouldn’t love more shooting considering how heavy the NBA has tilted toward floor-spacing and three-pointers. Unfortunately, Milwaukee is one of the most shooting-needy teams among the championship contenders.
This was never more apparent than in their second-round postseason loss to the Celtics. Milwaukee, as has happened in just about all of their recent playoff losses, couldn’t hit the water if they fell out of a boat. In seven games, they shot a horrendous 27.9 percent from the three-point line as a team (the Oklahoma City Thunder finished dead last in the regular season at 32.3 percent). This bucked a season-long trend after the Bucks knocked down 36.6 percent in the regular season and finished fifth in the NBA.
With Antetokounmpo at the center of the offense, Milwaukee had no issue creating open looks for their tertiary scorers. The issue was knocking down those shot attempts. The Bucks added Grayson Allen last summer to improve their shooting and need to find another chucker of the same caliber (Allen knocked down a career-high 40.9 percent of his threes in the regular season).
Size on the wing
Milwaukee’s lack of size on the wing was never more apparent after Middleton went down and they traveled to Boston in the second-round. The Celtics trodded out the 6-8 Jayson Tatum and 6-6 Jaylen Brown while the Bucks tried to match that with the 6-4 Allen and 6-4 Wesley Matthews. Those inches added up over the course of the series.
It’s not as if the Bucks had capable taller wings anywhere else on their roster. Pat Connaughton (6-5) is also undersized coming off the bench and Jordan Nwora wasn’t anywhere near ready to compete on the defensive end of the court.
With the Celtics going absolutely nowhere and the Miami Heat and Jimmy Butler lurking in the shadows, the Bucks have to find a way to get at least one big, capable defender on the wing this offseason. Adding a guy other than Middleton who is between 6-6 and 6-8 would greatly improve this already stout defense. It’s unclear if they’ll be able to count on Matthews drinking from the fountain of youth again next season and they need someone who can fill his shoes.
Outside of the Bucks’ big three, there’s nobody who can create their own shot on a consistent basis. That may be an unfair expectation to place on role players as that’s exactly what separates them from top-end starters, but it was a difficult pill for the Bucks to swallow as Holiday and Antetokounmpo had sky-high usage rates that made it difficult for them to sustain their high level of play on both ends of the court.
Hopefully, Bobby Portis returns and can continue improving his game to pick up some of that slack, but that won’t change the fact that the Bucks need more shot-creation somewhere on their roster. It doesn’t have to be the isolation-heavy type and could even be someone who can create quality looks for their teammates by drawing extra defensive attention and / or help. Whatever category it falls into, it must apply pressure on the defense from somewhere else besides the top of the Bucks’ depth chart.
This may be a sub-type of the shot-creation category, but it’s an important distinction. Milwaukee has one of the best rollers of all time in Antetokounmpo and not enough players who can take advantage of it. Middleton has found a way to weaponize the two-time MVP, but it’s not exactly Holiday’s strength.
Upgrading the backup point guard position could be a path toward adding someone who checks this box, but even a wing who has some handles and passing ability could do the trick. Whatever position it comes from, the Bucks need to find a way to run this offensive weapon more often in 2022-23.