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Was the Milwaukee Bucks’ Playoff Crashout a Fluke or an Omen?

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
After a stunning postseason exit against the Heat, Milwaukee will be under pressure to make changes over the summer — but a Bucks offseason of overreaction could ruin a good thing

The Milwaukee Bucks didn’t just lose in the first round in one of the great NBA Playoff upsets ever after being -1200 betting favorites to advance at the outset. The league’s best regular season team thanks to 58 wins lost in five games to Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat, a demoralizing defeat that might just force a franchise to examine everything.

Milwaukee led Game 4 by 11 points going into the fourth quarter and Game 5 by 16 heading into the final 12 minutes; unfortunately, offensive ineptitude ensued, accentuated by the hobbled Giannis Antetokounmpo missing 13 of his 23 free throws in Game 5.

Overall, head coach Mike Budenholzer’s decision-making over the last few nights — that included not having Brook Lopez in on the final play of regulation Wednesday when Butler’s miracle layup tied it with 0.5 seconds left, then not calling timeout AND leaving the ball in Grayson Allen’s hands during the final seconds of overtime — could cost him his job despite winning a title just two years ago.

So, after this incredible playoff exit, how much change needs to come during this Bucks offseason? Will this be viewed as a fluke or a call for an overhaul?

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The Bucks already have the eighth-highest total guaranteed salary volume in the NBA on the books for 2023-24, but have plenty of very important decisions to make regarding how their roster looks over the next few years that will spanning the prime of 28-year-old Giannis’ career.

Here’s what general manager Jon Horst has to deal with in this upcoming Bucks offseason:

  • Khris Middleton has a $40.4 million player option next season, and management has to decide whether he’s the right long-term running mate for Antetokounmpo. Injuries limited the 31-year-old to 33 regular season games — 14 of them off the bench— and he was not good, averaging 15-5-4 on 43.6% from the field and 31.5% from three. Middleton put up strong numbers against Miami, however: 23.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 6.2 assists on 46.5% from the field and 40.6% from three.
  • Lopez was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year and is a free agent this summer. How much will he cost, and what number would be prohibitive to bring him back?
  • Jrue Holiday has a guaranteed year left on his deal at $36.1 million before a 2024-2025 player option comes up at $38.6 million. If they don’t think the 32-year-old is the long-term answer at point guard, would it be wise to trade him this offseason?
  • A lot of quality role players will also be hitting the open market, not including Allen, who has one year and $8.5 million left on his deal and may want an offseason extension. Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, and Wesley Matthews will be unrestricted free agents, and Jevon Carter outplayed his $2.2 million player option.

Could the Bucks run it back next season and internally think they’ll be fine with Giannis and Middleton healthy for a full season and Lopez re-signed with a well-deserved raise? Of course they could. Could Coach Bud get a vote of confidence and return next season, though perhaps on the hot seat? Absolutely.

But Milwaukee could also look at the drubbing Miami just gave it and say the Greek Freak deserves a roster that deserves an overhaul — one that could bring the team significant change headed into 2023-24.

The way they answer this question will have an unquestionably huge impact on not just their franchise star’s athletic peak, but the broader trajectory of the franchise amid the shifting sands of hoops.

Click here for the full list of Milwaukee Bucks free agents set to hit the open market this summer.

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