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Bucks can build on best season for two decades but faces many important decisions in a franchise-changing summer



When Giannis Antetokounmpo stormed out of the press conference after the Milwaukee Bucks 100-94 loss to Toronto Raptors in Game 6 in the Eastern Conference Final, it was hard not to feel that the season ended in failure. How strange for a team that before the season had not won a single playoff series for almost 20 years, and were only small favorites to win their own division.

However, that feeling was a testament to the success of Bucks this season. From the opening of a brand new arena to the roster designed by GM Jon Horst, to the offensive and defense systems implemented by the main tracks Mike Budenholzer and Giannis & # 39; development in an MVP candidate, everything fits together to perfection.

They ended up with the best regular season record in the league of 60-22, boasting the best defense and the best net rating, only lost consecutive games once and won a historic 45 game with two digits ̵

1; more double-digit wins than 17 teams had completely. After many years of not knowing what kind of performance you should come from Bucks on a given night, they were so good at times during the regular season that covering games became boring.

And in a city and state dominated by baseball and football, this group restored Bucks as a cultural force in the city. Thousands of people gathered outside the Fiserv Forum to party and watch playoff games – both at home and away – on giant screens, while Brewers and Packers players were the ones in the crowd who supported their accompanying Wisconsin athletes.

After their regular season and early playoff dominance, which included going up 2-0 in the ECF, four just lost out in front of the finals were a failure. There is no other way around it. At the same time, this was the best season for the franchise for two decades and far more successful than anyone could have imagined back in October. Both can be true and both are important to the future of the team.

For many years, Bucks & branding and marketing push have been about hope and build for the future. Now the future has come. They have a brand new building, a top five player in Giannis and turned into a legitimate title competitor this season. But as they enter into which characters to be a fascinating summer, they have some important decisions to make not only to maintain their status but to take the next step and win a championship.

Save for Giannis and Eric Bledsoe, four of the six players who started games for them in the playoffs are set to freemasons. Khris Middleton (if he assumes he chooses), Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic are all limitless, while Malcolm Brogdon will be a limited free agent. Meanwhile, George Hill has a $ 18 million next season guarantee and there's no way to pay him that kind of money no matter how important he became to the team in the post season.

In a perfect world, Bucks wished they could just go back with the same group, but they didn't want the money to do it – in no small part because they jumped the gun and blew Bledsoe for a four year , $ 70 million extension earlier this season.

At that time, Bledsoe was in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career, and it was not hard to argue that he was Bucks second best player. He once again floated in the playoffs and was bent down the line in the team's main game. Bledsoe is still important for what Bucks does and he will be helpful next season, but there must be some concern in the team's front office about his inability to help the team in the back season and how it limits their championship attempts. But the deal is signed and there is no one to take it back. Now, Bucks must find out what they want to do.

First of all, they must rewrite Khris Middleton no matter how much it costs them. Those who cover Bucks consistently tell you that it will cause Bucks Twitter – a low-key bunch – but the team really has no other choice. Middleton is a classic very good but not great player. He averaged 18.3 points, six rebounds and 4.3 assists, while shooting 37.8 percent from 3 on his way to his first All-Star appearance in the regular season, but may be striped and disappeared at times during the playoffs . It is understandable that people would be unfortunate in paying him maximum money, but letting him go, leaving Bucks in an even worse position. They have no room to replace him, and even if they did, it would be difficult to find a true upgrade.

Next there is Malcolm Brogdon conundrum. Like Middleton, Bucks can be forced into the difficult position to overpay to keep an important but unspecified player. Brogdon is a limited free agent, and his performance this season may result in a team with the hatch room throwing a monster giving way – both because they want Brogdon for themselves and because they know how much matching it can hurt Bucks . Brogdon was just the eighth player in the NBA story to join the 50-40-90 club, and was perhaps the most consistent member of the support in the off season when he returned from injury. His versatility at both ends is the key to Bucks, and there is no doubt that they would love to have him for the future. But at what price?

And what to do with Brook Lopez? It did not take long for the veteran center to establish itself as the best free agent signature of the summer – at least in terms of production in relation to cost. He was not Bucks best player, but apart from Giannis, he could have been their most important in how he allowed them to play. His will and ability to raise 28-foot 3s as a center helped open up all sorts of space for Giannis to operate inside, and he was a field defense at the other end. The bad news for Bucks is that he might have been too good to sign, and another entertaining team might just like to bring Lopez's defense-changing shootout to their side. According to an ESPN report, re-signing Lopez is a "priority" for the team, but again, at what price? Can the knowledge of Bucks & # 39; system and the ability to start a warring team convince him to take less money to stay in Milwaukee? Should it? We'll find out soon enough.

As for Mirotic, he seemed to be a rental all the time, and his poor shooting in ECF – 16.9 percent from 3, which made him bow to all Game 6 – did not help his case. He could be a potential feedback option, even though something had to come through with a combination of Middleton, Brogdon and Lopez.

Giannis & apos; fast-approaching free agency . By making First-Team All-NBA this season, he is entitled to sign a five-year, $ 247 million extension next summer, which would be the richest contract in the NBA history. It seems impossible to pass whatever the circumstances, but a final runner next season will make it even harder. Therefore, Bucks seams this summer – not just for their hopes of beating next season, but for years down the line.


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