Milwaukee Bucks

Bucks offseason outlook: Milwaukee must find right coach for Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (Getty Images)

Big issue 1: What a mess. If there is something good that came out of the seven-game series loss to a shorthanded Celtics team, one that was far less talented than the Bucks, it's that it set into stark relief just how poorly coached and developed this team has been over the last few years. Job No. 1 as the Bucks head into their new downtown arena will be to change that, and dramatically.

It will start with replacing interim head coach Joe Prunty, a holdover from Jason Kidd's staff. Former Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has gained traction as the likely next coach of this team, and the hire would make sense - the Bucks need to be organized, and Budenholzer can bring some order to this chaos. They need a modern offense that does a better job of creating open looks for shooters, a development plan to better nudge their young players toward their potential and a defense that takes better advantage of their size and athleticism.

Mostly, though, they need to do a better job of putting Giannis Antetokounmpo into a superstar role, getting the offense running through him, drawing up plays to create mismatches for him and establishing options when he faces double teams and other junk defenses. The Bucks just don't do that consistently now, and it hurts both Antetokounmpo and the team.

It could be Budenholzer who fixes this stuff. It could be ex-Grizzlies coach David Fizdale or ex-Cavs coach David Blatt. The Bucks, with as much talent on the roster as they have, should have their pick among available coaches. It's an attractive job. They need a coach who can bring some order to their style of play.

Big issue 2: There were three role players who seemed to have the bottom fall out during the course of the 2017-18 season, and rebuilding at least two of those players' confidence will go a long way toward getting the Bucks to break out of their underachieving rut.

The most likely to bounce back are Thon Maker and Tony Snell. Maker seemed to lose the confidence of Kidd during the season, and he was replaced in the rotation by Tyler Zeller. But Maker is only 21 and still has upside, especially as a shot-blocker and defensive presence. He was thrust back into the rotation when John Henson was hurt in the postseason, and though he made his share of mental mistakes, he played well. His physical skills make him worth continued development.

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Snell had a good year overall as a 3-point shooter (40.3 percent), but had slumps in February and April, and saw his total attempts per game drop from 4.4 to 3.6 (and just 3.2 per game from Feb. 4 on). The Bucks' offense overemphasizes midrange shots, and getting a coach who runs an offense that better sets up 3-point shooters should only help Snell. He certainly ought to hope so.

A longshot to return to form is point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who missed much of the year with an ankle injury and was not very effective (4.3 points in 18.7 minutes per game) when he did play. With two years and $19 million left on his deal, the Bucks are very much hoping for a bounce-back from Dellavedova, though he showed few signs that he was ready to come back strong.

Free-agent outlook: Jabari Parker was not entirely his old self in his 31 games after coming back from a second ACL injury. But he averaged 12.6 points on 48.2 percent shooting, and in the playoffs, he was surprisingly effective off the bench after two dud games to open the series - he had 13.6 points on 49.1 percent shooting in the final five games.

Now, Parker is a restricted free agent, and the Bucks will face a choice. When healthy, Parker has looked his best as a bench player, and having him on the floor with Antetokounmpo just has not worked very well in recent years. But Parker will not want to sign on for a bench role, and he's going to want more money than your typical sixth man warrants - despite his obvious history as an injury risk.

If another team is willing to gamble on Parker, the Bucks could lose the former No. 2 pick in the draft for no return at all. Or they could lock themselves into a big contract for Parker, despite the risk of injury and the fact that he doesn't fit well with the guy who may be the best player in franchise history. Keeping a player with that many red flags just to maintain organizational pride doesn't seem like a risk worth taking.

The best outcome for the Bucks would be a general lack of interest in Parker on the market. That's a possibility. That way, the Bucks could re-sign him for the qualifying offer, a one-year deal worth $7.4 million.

It might be beneficial for both sides - Parker would have the ability to rebuild his value and hit the market as an unrestricted free agent in 2019, and the Bucks would keep Parker for another year on a relatively reasonable contract.

The young folks: Sterling Brown, a second-rounder the Bucks bought from the Sixers last summer, proved to be a useful contributor this season, getting into 54 games, including four starts. Brown is a 6-6 guard capable of evolving into an excellent 3-point shooter and, with a 6-10 wingspan, an ideal 3-and-D wing. He was a 45.1 percent 3-point shooter at SMU, though he struggled in the G-League, at 29.4 percent.

The promise shown by Brown has helped dampen the disappointment in the Bucks' 2017 first-rounder, D.J. Wilson, who appeared in 22 games, averaging 3.2 minutes. Wilson is a 6-10 forward who did not look NBA-ready in his limited chances.

The Bucks own the No. 17 pick in this year's draft.

Wait till next year: The Bucks are a better team than they showed this year, and 44 wins should go down as a disappointment. Still, they reached the postseason for the third time in four years, and they have established a talent level that should put them in the upper half of the East postseason seeds.

They need a coach to get the talent ironed out, and that will be the challenge of this offseason.

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