It may seem weird for a team that just won a championship less than a calendar year ago to be taking notes from other teams, but if the Milwaukee Bucks want to remain at the top and continue to compete for a championship, then it wouldn’t hurt to see what made the two teams in the 2022 NBA Finals successful.
The cliche is that the NBA “is a copycat league” and I’m sure all of the teams on the outside looking in for the Finals are trying to see if there’s any way they can replicate or take a page from the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors. That should include the Bucks, who pushed the Celtics to seven games without Khris Middleton but had some flaws exposed in the process.
As Brad Pitt portraying Billy Beane in Moneyball famously said, “adapt or die.”
What lessons can the Milwaukee Bucks learn from the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors?
Perhaps the most significant overall lesson is the value of drafting well and nailing your picks when you get them. Yes, the Celtics and Warriors benefitted from good lottery luck and were also not very good for a period and were able to draft players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jonathan Kuminga, and so on.
But they also were able to nail later picks and turn them into productive players. Jordan Poole (28th overall, 2019), Kevon Looney (30th overall, 2015), Robert Williams (27th overall, 2018), Grant Williams (22nd, 2019), and Payton Pritchard (26th overall, 2020) are all examples of guys who have made an impact in these playoffs that helped their respective team reach the Finals.
Milwaukee had zero draft picks not named Giannis Antetokounmpo play a meaningful minute past the first round of last year’s playoffs. Donte DiVincenzo would have changed that if he hadn’t gotten hurt but one isn’t really any better.
There are different ways to build your roster. The Bucks have succeeded in getting value out of cheaper deals and then keeping those guys around (Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis). But they’ve swung and missed on some draft picks that could have helped in the years where they fell short of their ultimate goal.
We can play the “what if” game all day, but having someone like John Collins, Jarrett Allen, or OG Anunoby would have certainly helped more than DJ Wilson. How about Domantas Sabonis or even Taurean Prince instead of Thon Maker?
Of course, we can only go off of the timeline that we live in and in the timeline, the Bucks ended up winning a championship and very well could win more in the coming years. All I’m saying is that you’re seeing the benefit of keeping your draft picks and hitting on them even if they’re well outside of the lottery. Hence why I want Milwaukee to use the 24th overall pick this year.
Anyway, the other lesson that the Bucks can learn is one that many (including myself) have mentioned before and it’s adding more wing-sized players that can defend multiple positions.
Milwaukee won’t add players at the caliber of Tatum or Brown, but getting guys who can fill roles like Grant Williams, Otto Porter Jr., Andrew Wiggins, and Andre Iguodala do for their teams. Both teams have multiple guys they can throw against an opposing team’s best wing player and the Bucks just didn’t have enough of those guys behind Khris Middleton.
Out of the guys I mentioned, it might only be realistic to find someone like Porter Jr. (and it could even be him if the stars align this offseason) but adding guys who you’d classify as small-ball power forwards should be the priority this offseason if these Finals are any indication. Many smart teams are trending in this direction and there will be guys that the Bucks can afford available to them.
Milwaukee won its championship with toughness, defense, and having a generational superstar on its roster. It wouldn’t hurt to take a piece from the finalists this year and add it to what made them successful last season.
There should be plenty of opportunity for the Milwaukee Bucks to improve their roster around the big three this offseason and it will be interesting to see which direction they go in to build the roster.