The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions!
After losing the first two games of the 2021 NBA Finals, the Bucks won four straight to defeat the Phoenix Suns and earn the franchise's first title since 1971.
While the Bucks will be celebrating this victory for a long time to come, another important offseason awaits.
The 2021 NBA Draft
Picks: No. 31
Prospects to target: Miles McBride (West Virginia), Sharife Cooper (Auburn), Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois)
The Bucks would have selected 24th overall in this draft, but they no longer own their pick.
In the deal that sent DJ Augustin and DJ Wilson to the Rockets for P.J. Tucker and Rodions Kurucs at this season's trade deadline, Milwaukee sent its 2021 first-round pick in exchange for Houston's 2021 second-round pick.
Luckily for the Bucks, the pick they received will be the very first pick of the second round (No. 31 overall) as a result of the Rockets finishing in last place in the league.
For a team coming off of its first NBA title since 1971, Milwaukee could approach this pick in two different ways. It could look to select an older player who may be able to contribute immediately (if they strike a diamond in the rough) or it could go with a young project who can slowly develop in hopes that one day, they may be able to play a role in a title run.
I like the Bucks targeting a backup guard in this draft, and some older options would include West Virginia guard Miles McBride, Auburn guard Sharife Cooper or Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu. For younger options, Alabama guard Josh Primo, VCU guard Nah'Shon "Bones" Hyland or Arizona State guard Josh Christopher would all make great selections.
- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)
Upcoming free agents
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez are each under contract for at least another two seasons, but the Bucks could lose some of their depth this offseason.
P.J. Tucker, Jeff Teague, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Alex Toupane will each be unrestricted free agents at the season's end, while Justin Jackson will be a restricted free agent.
Additionally, Bobby Portis ($3.8 million) and Bryn Forbes ($2.5 million) each have a player option in their contracts for the 2021-22 season.
While Teague, Thanasis, Toupane and Jackson didn't have a big role on this Bucks team, Tucker, Portis and Forbes did. Tucker was one of Milwaukee's better perimeter defenders, Portis led the way in scoring off the bench during the regular season with 11.4 points per game and Forbes knocked down a team-high 154 3-pointers during the regular season, doing so at a career-best 45.2 percent clip.
There will likely be interest in Tucker around the league, and there's reason to believe both Portis and Forbes will opt out of their player options.
|Unrestricted Free Agent(s)||Restricted Free Agent(s)||Player Option(s)|
|P.J. Tucker||Justin Jackson||Bobby Portis|
|Jeff Teague||Bryn Forbes|
According to RealGM's Keith Smith, the maximum amount of cap space the Bucks can create in the offseason is $1.7 million.
- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)
What will it take to repeat?
The Bucks went all-in and it paid off.
Last offseason, they parted ways with essentially all of their draft capital for the foreseeable future to acquire Holiday, who provided a dynamic that the team had been missing in years past. And while the price wasn't as steep, the same could be said for Tucker, who also made this team more playoff-ready than in years past.
But future assets don't win championships, players do.
Now that they've gotten their first taste of what winning big feels like, don't expect this group to be content by any means. The chase to win another begins right away.
As hard as it was to win their first, things will only get harder moving forward.
Antetokounmpo has already made a long-term commitment to the franchise, and this title all but ensures he'll be a Buck for life. The deals of Holiday and Middleton ensure that this Big 3 remains intact for the foreseeable future as well, but titles are won in the margins.
How can they improve to prepare for another run in 2022?
The return of Donte DiVincenzo, who essentially missed the entirety of the playoff run with an ankle injury, will almost be like a free agent acquisition as he adds another dynamic that the team has sorely missed. This also emphasizes the importance of retaining P.J. Tucker, Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes, though his role was minimal in the Finals.
From there, are there any answers not currently on the roster? The Bucks can get value at the No. 31 pick and after winning, Milwaukee will be an extremely attractive destination for free agents, an important note for a team that will lack cap space.
The options are laid out for them pretty plainly, but in search of a second consecutive title, the Bucks will have to do a bit more than just run it back.
- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)
One key stat
There are only three players in NBA history who have won an MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year award: Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and now Antetokounmpo. Whereas Olajuwon was 31 years old and Jordan was 28 years old when they achieved the trifecta, Antetokounmpo won't turn 27 until Dec. 6, 2021.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.