In a summer where the landscape of the NBA has been drastically overhauled, the Bucks look strikingly familiar. Everyone wants their team to make a splash in the unsure waters of free agency and few fan bases are content with just a steady ship. But Milwaukee’s should be.
The Bucks are returning all but one cog that churned out its best season in 30-odd years. Milwaukee’s 60 wins was the best mark in the league, as was its net rating of 8.6. They boast the MVP, the Coach of the Year, two All-Stars, and two defensive first team selections. Coach Bud, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe–the players receiving those accolades–are all returning.
On top of that, three-bombing Brook Lopez re-signed with the Bucks for a very reasonable amount as did George Hill whose steady hand proved invaluable in the playoffs. A trio of young players returning to the team–D.J. Wilson, Sterling Brown and Donte DiVincenzo–can be expected to make a leap as well.
In addendum to returning most of its core, the Bucks inked Wesley Matthews to a tasty veteran-minimum deal and brought in Brook’s brother Robin Lopez to fill the holes at back up center and mascot-tormentor. NBA’s greatest prognosticator also puts Milwaukee on the shortlist for the still-useful sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
The one major piece Milwaukee let go was former Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon. While the 50-40-90 club member will be missed, the Bucks even managed to turn that loss into a few assets. Nikola Mirotic is also gone–somewhat inexplicably setting sail for the EuroLeague–but he never proved to be the potent scorer Milwaukee had hoped for.
There’s nothing sexy about any of these moves. There are no All-NBA names in the mix and there’s nothing radically changing the Bucks’ essential makeup. They’re returning nearly the entire roster of the NBA’s best regular season team and when you’re already in the lead, holding serve is the best thing you can do. They’ve made small, pragmatic moves and could still have more to make.
If Milwaukee had even appeared to be in the discussion to land the major free agents like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard or Kemba Walker, maybe there’d be room for disappointment. In reality, Milwaukee as a city lacks the allure of Los Angeles or New York. The Bucks have a 24-year-old-MVP as its centerpiece and a two-time Coach of the Year at its helm. The Bucks were two wins away from the NBA Finals. In this case, a boring offseason is a good offseason.
Bucks Twitter of course can debate the merits of signing Middleton to a near-max contract or argue the false dichotomy of bringing back Bledsoe versus Brogdon. Regardless, Milwaukee’s generational superstar is still growing as a player and leader. The team will have another season’s worth of experience in the Budenholzer system. The Association is as wide-open as it’s ever been and the Bucks are basically running back the team with its best record. Maybe we should just take the evergreen advice of that other Wisconsin-sports MVP and R-E-L-A-X.