The Milwaukee Bucks fell to the Miami Heat after just playing just five games in the postseason, sullying their 58-24 record and their top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged 23.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 0.7 blocks per game in their First Round loss while dealing with an ailing back, wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was pre-injury.
Furthermore, his ugly free-throw demons reared their heads in Game 5, as he went 10-23 from the free-throw line in a two-point loss. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that all Antetokounmpo had to do was be better from the free-throw line to at least extend the series. Shooting 45.2 percent from the charity stripe throughout the series, Giannis clearly has at least one area of his game to work on this offseason if he wants to remain in the conversation for best player in the league.
That said — despite expected discourse about whether or not Giannis and the Bucks had a failed season because they failed to reach and win the NBA Finals — it’s clear that they’re a team with at the very least a playoff-caliber roster.
If they want to be a championship-caliber team, they need to add players that can play better defense against the star wings of the league. But until that time, the Bucks need to look ahead at their impending free agents, determining which of them should be brought back and why.
4 best players Bucks must re-sign in 2023 NBA free agency
Brook Lopez, who came in second in Defensive Player of the Year voting for the 2022-23 season, still doesn’t seem to get enough credit for what he brings to a team.
Toughness, size, awareness, the desire to alter as many shots as possible, an elite block rate, as well as the ability to stretch the floor out to 3-point range. The Milwaukee Bucks would have a hard time finding another player with his combination of experience and skill. Furthermore, considering the importance of chemistry and continuity for NBA teams during their championship journeys, there’s no way to believe the Bucks won’t be worse off with Lopez leaving in free agency.
That said, Lopez should be their top priority this offseason.
Lopez has played for Milwaukee for the past five seasons and was one of the most productive players during their First Round loss to the Miami Heat.
The 34-year-old played and started in all five contests, averaging 19.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 58.2 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. He also helped nullify Heat star big man Bam Adebayo, who averaged 17.4 points per game but on just 46.3 percent shooting from the field, far below his 54.0 percent mark for the 2022-23 regular season.
The story with Joe Ingles, who the Milwaukee Bucks signed to a one-year, $6.5 million contract last offseason, is much simpler.
With a player that’s not only a terror on their way to the rim but capable of spreading the ball around, having a player of Ingles’ shooting caliber is like the cherry on top for an offense. A career 40.8 percent shooter from 3-point range, Ingles made 40.9 percent of his 3-point attempts last season for the Bucks. That mark was the third-best among the team’s rotation players, with both of the rotation players ahead of him in that category — Jae Crowder and Jevon Carter — also expected to become free agents this offseason as well.
That said, Crowder is a career 34.8 percent shooter from deep. Carter plays in the backcourt, giving them similar but different impacts on offense. Especially with Ingles more draw bigger players or even weakside shot-blockers away from the rim.
Though the season couldn’t have ended how Ingles expected, the Bucks should try to bring him back for at least one more season.
Speaking of Jae Crowder, a veteran forward with a defensive-minded reputation, trading five second-round picks for a player only to let them walk away in free agency is a foolish business move.
Not believing that the Milwaukee Bucks would be that foolish, Crowder is one of the players that Bucks fans shouldn’t just want to return but should expect to. Multiple veteran teams will want to add Crowder and his 3-and-D potential to their roster or rotation and, as Crowder has played on eight teams throughout his career, the soon-to-be 33-year-old could certainly end up playing elsewhere moving forward.
However, aside from Marjon Beauchamp, none of the players on their roster seems ready to replicate the role that Crowder was expected to play for the Bucks during their championship run.
To that point, with Crowder listed at 235 pounds to Beauchamp’s 199 pounds, the Washington native will need to bulk up substantially to deal with the Jimmy Butler’s and LeBron James’ of the world.
That said, Beauchamp may never naturally get to that size, let alone doing it in one offseason. Bringing back Crowder for at least a year — a la Joe Ingles — would be wise for the Bucks.
25-year-old Lindell Wigginton has only ever played for the Milwaukee Bucks in his short NBA career, signing a two-way contract with the Bucks last season and signing a two-way contract with them this season as well.
However, while Wigginton is somewhat being treated like a run-of-the-mill player, it’s clear that Iowa State product has some real game. A 6-foot-2 point guard creating his own buckets, Wigginton averaged 21.0 points, 6.0 assists and 1.0 block per game in the final two contests of the regular season, shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three (on 7.0 attempts per game) in those games.
He also notably tallied 18 points, eight assists, and one steal on 7-15 shooting in the final game of his rookie season.
Though such a small sample size is nothing to lose your head over, it’s worth noting how Wigginton plays when given the opportunity. Especially if the Bucks don’t bring back Jevon Carter, a defensive-minded point guard that has played on four teams throughout his career and made just $2.3 million for the Bucks last season.
A deal that Wigginton might just jump at, considering that he has yet to sign anything other than a training camp (Exhibit 10) or two-way contract in the NBA.
By the way, for what it’s worth, Wigginton averaged 22.3 points, 6.0 assists, and 1.0 steal per game in the G League this season, shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from 3. From college to the G League to the pros, Wigginton has shown he has game.
He might be a proverbial diamond in the rough for the Bucks, but they won’t know until they give him the chance.
The post 4 best players Bucks must re-sign in 2023 NBA free agency appeared first on ClutchPoints.