The past three seasons have been a roller coaster for the Milwaukee Bucks. After unexpectedly making the playoffs as a plucky sixth seed in 2015, they brought in Greg Monroe to help push them closer to the top of the Eastern Conference. The 2016 season was without a disappointment as the Bucks missed the postseason as the lockdown defense that made them successful the previous year imploded. This year Milwaukee started off slowly, but finished with a fury and were back in the playoffs. Logic would suggest that a team whose best player is just 22 and still ascending would be a fixture in the playoffs for years to come, but before we can etch the Bucks playoff aspirations in stone they have three major choices to make going into the offseason.
- Jabari Parker’s extension:
After suffering his second ACL tear in his brief NBA career Jabari Parker’s future with the Bucks has more questions than answers. If you asked a casual observer in January if Milwaukee should extend Parker’s contract when he was cramming dunks like these on a nightly basis they would have said yes without hesitation. Parker looked fully recovered from his first ACL tear and was budding into the offensive superstar he was touted as dating back to his days at Simeon High School in Chicago. Less than six months later he is staring down the barrel of his second ACL rehab and set to be a restricted free agent come the summer of 2018. The Bucks have the option to sign him to an extension before the season all the way up until Halloween. The issue remains that they would likely be committing upwards of 20 million dollars to a player that has yet to play an entire season. Giving up on Parker feels like a rush to judgment, but whoever the new GM is will have to make a choice about how to proceed with the former second overall selection.
- Whether or not to re-sign Tony Snell
Much to the surprise of many people around the league, myself included, Tony Snell performed very well for the Bucks this season. He spent most of the season as a starter and his defense was instrumental in the Bucks making a leap from 21st in team defense up to 13th. He provided much needed for spacing, playing the quintessential 3-and-D role for Milwaukee all year. Snell is a restricted free agent this summer and will likely draw interest from other contenders because of his positional versatility and shooting prowess. The Bucks have the option to match any offer Snell receives, but there is the possibility that they get outbid for him given the market for players with his skills. Either way the decision the new front office make on Snell will likely be the first domino to fall this offseason.
- What kind of free agents to pursue?
There are two very distinct paths that the new GM could take here. The first is to continue to sign mid-level free agents and role players in order to build around Giannis. This would allow the Bucks to maintain cap flexibility in the future with the Parker extension looming and a loaded free agency class in 2018. The downside to this is clearly that they would have less talent in the near future, and considering their inconsistencies during the last three seasons could hurt them as a perennial playoff team. The other option is to take a hard run at veterans like Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry and bolster the roster for the immediate future. Adding an All-Star caliber point guard like Paul or Lowry would be a shot in the arm for team that lacked any semblance of offensive creation when Giannis struggled or was not on the floor. There are both financial and chemistry repercussions to pursuing players like this. They would both command max contracts, and seeing as they are both north of 30 years old that would be an awful lot of cash to be shelling out to players who may be out of their primes. With that being said the Bucks are opening a new stadium and the best way to keep that arena filled is to put a great product on the floor, something that both Paul or Lowry would help them do. The other issue comes with on-court chemistry. Both players, especially Paul, are used to being the engine that drive their team’s offense and would control the ball a fair amount. This would limit Giannis’ touches offensively, a concept that feels almost blasphemous to think about. The other issue is that it could stunt the growth of rookie Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon thrived throughout the season, receiving heavy minutes and finding his role alongside Giannis as a playmaker and spot up shooter. Bringing in a veteran point guard would certainly cut his minutes and that could damage what appears to be the beginning of bright career. The decision on whether or not to push their chips to the center of the table and make a run at dethroning LeBron James in the East is the defining puzzle for the future GM of the Milwaukee Bucks.