A league-high 60 regular-season wins, an NBA-best +8.6 regular-season net rating and a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals – the Milwaukee Bucks were well on their way to one of their most dominating campaigns in franchise history before ultimately succumbing to the Toronto Raptors in six games. Still, 2018-19 really can’t be seen as anything other than a success for the Bucks, who proved without a shadow of a doubt that they are set to be a force in the NBA for years to come. This stumble will only motivate them, and their overall dominance throughout the league year shows how scary of a team Milwaukee is forming. Plus, they have that Giannis Antetokounmpo guy locked up for at least the next three years (and probably longer than that), so that helps, too. Being able to build around a transcendent talent like that who’s already in the fold should have the Bucks among the NBA’s elite for a good long while.
For Milwaukee, this summer will be mostly about tightening up the edges of their rotation, getting a few important free agents re-signed and setting themselves up for another huge campaign in 2019-20, which will be doubly important since Antetokounmpo is going to be extension-eligible in the summer of 2020.
Nevertheless, the Bucks should take a beat and be proud of what they accomplished in 2018-19 before they start to think about this offseason. It may have ended in humbling defeat, but overall, this season felt like Milwaukee’s arrival to the big-boy table; the best is surely yet to come for this new era of Bucks basketball.
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
Giannis Antetokounmpo: $25,842,697
Eric Bledsoe: $15,625,000
Tony Snell: $11,392,857
Ersan Ilyasova: $7,000,000
DJ Wilson: $2,961,120
Donte DiVincenzo: $2,909,640
NON-GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
George Hill: $18,000,000
- Contract guaranteed for $1,000,000
Pat Connaughton: $1,723,050
Sterling Brown: $1,618,520
Khris Middleton: Player Option
Malcolm Brogdon: Restricted
Milwaukee’s top priority this summer should be to get Khris Middleton – the one-time All-Star and the team’s second-best player – re-signed for the long haul. Middleton has a player option on his deal for next year, one that he is almost sure to decline since it’s worth merely $13 million – a number he will without a doubt exceed on the first year of his next contract. Thanks to his size, shooting touch and scoring ability, Middleton plays a great second fiddle to Antetokounmpo, so the Bucks will likely do everything in their power to keep him this offseason.
Besides getting Middleton back on their books, Milwaukee will have one more free agency to deal with this summer: Malcolm Brogdon’s. The third-year ball-handler has proven he can play either guard role wonderfully, is an elite outside shooter (Brogdon is 40.8 percent from three for his career) and an important member of the locker room. Coming off the most productive season of his career, averaging 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, Brogdon should earn a hefty contract this summer from the Bucks, who will use his Bird Rights to go over the cap to get him locked up long term.
Milwaukee should also think about trying to offload Tony Snell’s contract this summer. Although he was a solid rotational piece during the regular season, paying someone who played 28 minutes all playoffs over $11 million next year is a bit pricey. With that said, Snell was a decent contributor during the season, so his contract is not an albatross to the point it will sink the Bucks in any way. That money can simply be used in a better way, so trading Snell should be very much in consideration for Milwaukee.
The Bucks will also have decisions to make on Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic, both of whom started various games during Milwaukee’s deep playoff run. The Bucks probably want the former back much more urgently than the latter, which is a good thing since – due to the nature of his non-Bird Rights – Milwaukee will need cap space to re-sign Lopez, especially after the productive season he posted. To get that cap space, the Bucks will have to renounce Mirotic’s rights and let him walk, an exchange Milwaukee probably sees as very much worthwhile.
More than anything, Milwaukee has to focus on setting the team up for another strong, drama-free campaign in 2019-20, since Antetokounmpo can be extended the summer after that, and they don’t want a New Orleans Pelicans-Anthony Davis situation to arise with their Greek superstar. Following up an extremely impressive 2018-19 year with a similarly successful 2019-20 likely gets Antetokounmpo to agree to an extension without question, especially when numbers like this…
So the Bucks just have to not rock the boat too much and things should be fine between the two parties, which will lead to many more deep playoff runs to come.
POTENTIAL FREE AGENT TARGETS
Marcus Morris: Milwaukee could need a new candidate capable of starting at power forward if they lose Mirotic. Morris would be a cheap, reliable option.
JaMychal Green: Another good option to replace Mirotic, since Green can space the floor from the outside like the European big man did for Milwaukee.
Reggie Bullock: If there’s one thing elite, established teams could always use more of, it’s shooting. That’s especially the case for a Milwaukee team led by a star who struggles from the outside. Bullock is one of the best shooters set to be available this summer.
Wayne Ellington: Another similar option is Ellington. Either he or Bullock could help cover for Snell’s absence if the swingman does get dealt.
Trevor Ariza: Someone who could fill a void either at the 3 or the 4, Ariza’s positional versatility could come in handy for Milwaukee, who could have two rotation spots to fill this offseason.
Ed Davis: If, for whatever reason, the Bucks do lose Lopez this summer, they’re going to need to find a cheap, low-usage option to replace him. Davis would be a great candidate for that role. He may not space the floor like Lopez, but he could provide similar defensive play, and be an upgrade on the glass.
Dewayne Dedmon: If Milwaukee prefers a floor-spacing shot-blocker closer to Lopez’s ilk, Dedmon would be a fantastic option.
POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS
The Bucks won 60 games in the regular season and were merely two victories short of reaching the NBA Finals. For that reason, they really have no reason to be aggressive on the trade market since rocking the boat would probably just present unnecessary risks heading into a very important campaign.
Unless the perfect deal falls into their laps, we expect Milwaukee to stay relatively quiet this summer when it comes to trades.
2019 DRAFT ASSETS
Milwaukee owns the No. 30 pick of the 2019 draft’s first round.
They do not own a second-rounder, as the one they were supposed to have now belongs to the Sacramento Kings.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.