Key Offseason Looms for Bucks After Eastern Conference Finals Collapse

Despite once holding a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bucks now find themselves heading into a key offseason for their franchise.

That’s because Milwaukee dropped four straight games to the Toronto Raptors, with¬†Giannis Antetokounmpo, the MVP favorite and contender for Defensive Player of the Year, failing to match up with Toronto star Kawhi Leonard in the final four contests.

Check out the numbers below…

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Playoff Splits Points FG % Assists Rebounds Basketball-Reference.com Game Score
First 11 Games 27.4 51.3 4.6 12.2 23.3
Final Four Games 20.5 43.5 5.5 12.5 15.2

 

…Including this telling comparison of their head-to-head stats.

Head-to-Head Comparison (ECF Games 3-6) Points FG % Assists Rebounds Basketball-Reference.com Game Score
Giannis Antetokounmpo 20.5 43.5 5.5 12.5 15.2
Kawhi Leonard 29.3 43.5 5.5 10.0 24.1

 

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It was a bitter end to a magical season for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, who must now prepare for the 2019-20 season as they try to build off their deep postseason run.

And with the league reportedly projecting the 2019-20 salary cap to be $109 million — and the luxury tax to be $132 million — Milwaukee’s roster could get expensive quickly.

According to Spotrac, the team is projected to have a little less than $9 million in 2019-20 cap space (unless Khris Middleton declines his $13 million player option). The Bucks can free up $17 million in additional space if they waive George Hill’s partially guaranteed contract by July 2, which they’ll have to do if they want to keep the trio of Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez from hitting free agency.

Those three players were instrumental in the Bucks recording 60 regular season wins and securing the top seed in the East as they combined for 46.4 points and 6.2 made 3-pointers per game. Middleton and Lopez made the most triples per contest for the team, while Brogdon was the team’s most efficient shooter when adjusting for qualified players.

He also accomplished the 50/40/90 shooting split, something only seven other players have done since the NBA introduced the 3-point shot. That list features Stephen Curry, Larry Bird, Mark Price, Kevin Durant, Steve Nash, Reggie Miller and Dirk Nowitzki.

As hinted at earlier, Middleton will be an unrestricted free agent looking for a big payday. At 27, he’s entering his prime as a strong perimeter scorer and defender, and his market will be solid, especially if some of the top teams with salary space strike out on marquee free agents. The Bucks hold his Bird rights and can go over the salary cap if they want to keep him, but it’ll come at a hefty cost. Middleton has seven years of service time, putting him in the middle tier when it comes to what his maximum salary contract could look like.

Brogdon is a restricted free agent and should draw interest from many teams. Not only is he a combo guard who’s an efficient scorer, but he’s a strong defender as well. The Bucks also have his Bird rights, so keep an eye on Milwaukee’s decision regarding Brogdon this offseason.

Lopez is the wild card of the group. As a 3-point shooting center who also recorded 2.2 blocks per contest, he provides a unique two-way skillset in an NBA centered around floor spacing. Because the Bucks signed Lopez as a free agent last summer, they cannot go over the salary cap to bring him back, meaning they’ll have to sign him before Middleton and Brogdon if they want him back — and if Milwaukee can get Lopez to return on the same dollar value from last season ($3.3 million), the franchise could potentially avoid the luxury tax.

Milwaukee will also have to make decisions on Tony Snell and Ersan Ilyasova. Both players contributed during the regular season, but Snell fell out of the rotation in the playoffs, and Ilyasova struggled to replicate his regular season shooting during the postseason.

Tony Snell’s Splits Minutes Points FG % 3-point % Assists Rebounds
Regular Season 17.6 6.0 45.2 39.7 0.9 2.1
Playoffs 3.1 0.6 33.3 50.0 0.0 0.2

 

Ersan Ilyasova’s Splits Minutes Points FG % 3-point % Assists Rebounds
Regular Season 18.4 6.8 43.8 36.3 0.8 4.5
Playoffs 18.1 6.8 43.2 30.0 1.4 4.7

 

Snell’s average cap number over the next two seasons comes out to around $12 million per year, while Ilyasova is at $7 million per season. If the Bucks wanted to free up cap space by trading one of the aforementioned players, they have the last pick in the first round that they could attach as a potential asset in any trades.

For what it’s worth, Antetokounmpo wants everyone back.

“I don’t promise we’re gonna get 61 next year,” Antetokounmpo told reporters Monday. “But we’re gonna put ourselves in a place to be a championship-contending team for many more years to come. And there’s not a lot of teams that can say that in the league.”

With the 24-year-old superstar finally arriving this postseason, the Bucks have a reason to spend money if it means keeping a championship-caliber core together. Considering that Antetokounmpo can accept the “super max” contract next offseason, it’s important for the team to make quality moves this offseason and build on the past season’s playoff run to further cement a long-term commitment to the Greek Freak.

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