Heading into last season, the Milwaukee Bucks were optimistic about improving on their 41-41 sixth place finish in the Eastern Conference in their first year under head coach Jason Kidd. However, the Bucks took a major step backward as they dealt with several injuries, finishing with a 33-59 record.
Milwaukee enters the offseason in flux as they have some good youngsters – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, John Henson, Greg Monroe, Miles Plumlee, and Michael Carter-Williams. The problem is Monroe ($17.1 million), Middleton ($15.2) and Henson ($12.2) combine to account for 48.2 percent of the projected $92.0 million salary cap. And several of Milwaukee’s key contributors are free agents or will be up for extensions.
Milwaukee had problems on both ends of the court last season, ranking in the bottom third of the league in points per game, offensive rating, and defensive rating.
Offensively, the Bucks ranked fifth in field goal percentage (46.7). They finished last in three-point attempts and makes (5.4-for 15.6) as Middleton was the only one who could spread the floor with his shooting. Milwaukee shared the ball well, averaging 23.9 assists (ninth best) though the Bucks turned the ball over 15.2 times a game or 14.2 percent of their possessions a game (both ranked in the bottom five of the league).
Defensively, Milwaukee was average in points surrendered (103.7 per game) but ranked 23rd in defensive rating (108.7). The Bucks couldn’t rebound on the defensive end, ranking 29th in the league, and their opponents had an effective shooting percentage of 51.0 – which ranked 19th.
Middleton led six players in double-figures with a career-high 18.2 points a game as he shot 44.4 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from beyond the arc. Antetokounmpo (16.9 ppg), Monroe (15.3), Parker (14.1), Carter-Williams (11.5) and Bayless (10.4) also averaged double-figures. The Bucks top four scorers were all starters, while Carter-Williams and Bayless started some games.
Milwaukee’s reserves ranked 28th in the NBA in scoring last year, producing 27. 4 points a game. Their bench ranked 29th in rebounds, 29th in efficiency, and 28th in defensive efficiency. Carter-Williams was the best scorer off the bench, averaging 11.6 points a game, and Bayless tallied 10.6 points a contest when he came off the pine. Henson and Plumlee were the Bucks’ two most effective reserves.
Bayless joins reserves O.J. Mayo, Greivis Vasquez and Steve Novak as unrestricted free agents. Plumlee is a restricted free agent while Damian Inglis and Johnny O’Bryant have non-guaranteed contracts.
Milwaukee will have between $29-34 million in salary cap space come July 1. Plumlee has said he would like to resign with the team and will likely do so. Bayless also could return. Mayo fractured his leg in March and may miss part of the upcoming season. Novak and Vasquez won’t likely return. Inglis and O’Bryant are cheap options will likely return for one more season.
Milwaukee was the youngest team in the NBA last year and perhaps the most athletic. What the Bucks need to do this offseason is improve their bench and add three-point shooters as well as bigs that can rebound.
One player who may get a shot at coming off the bench is Ronald Roberts. Roberts verbally committed to play for the Bucks’ summer league team according to Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times.
Roberts spent all season in the D-League with the Raptors 905. The 6-foot-8 forward struggled with injuries throughout the season and ultimately was shut down on March 16 due to a right knee patellar tendon strain.
The 24-year-old was impressive when he was on the court. The 2016 D-League All-Star averaged 18.1 points, 8.5 rebounds with 3.6 coming on the offensive end, and 1.5 blocks a game in 24 appearances. He shot 61.7 percent from the floor.
Roberts is very athletic, quick, and possesses a high motor. He does most of his work around and above the rim. Roberts hits the boards hard but struggles with his perimeter shooting.
Several teams were reportedly interested in Roberts.
The Bucks own three draft selections in the 2016 draft, including the No.10 overall. Milwaukee may be tempted to trade down from the No. 10 slot and could also deal one it second-round selections (No. 36 or No. 38).
If Milwaukee keeps the pick, Henry Ellenson or Jakob Poeltl are probably the favorites, but Chad Ford of ESPN believes the pick will by Dejounte Murray from Washington.
[Photo by John Raoux/Associated Press]