NBA

4 needs for the Milwaukee Bucks ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft

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With the 24th selection in the 2022 NBA draft, the Milwaukee Bucks have the opportunity to add a young player on a cheap deal with the benefit of becoming a contributor to a championship-caliber team. That is, of course, if Milwaukee actually decides to keep the pick (but that’s a different discussion for a different day).

Let them stay put, no. 24, fully trade it, or anything in between, there are a number of needs Milwaukee should consider addressing on Draft Night. That’s not to say they should act purely on a need basis, as that’s a precarious strategy in the NBA. However, they have a number of critical holes they need to fill at some point this offseason if they are to return to the NBA Finals.

Maybe Milwaukee was just one injury away from repeating themselves as champions, but that injury exposed a major weakness of this team: depth. The Bucks are heavyweight with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton running the show. When one of them goes down, like Middleton did, it’s very difficult for the rest of the team to take over against very good teams like the Boston Celtics.

It was evident as the season approached and roster building road general manager Jon Horst opted to go with it. Let’s dive a little deeper and look at what else the Bucks need ahead of this year’s NBA Draft.

Shooting

There isn’t an existing team in the NBA today that wouldn’t love more shots given the NBA’s weight to ground spacing and three-pointers. Unfortunately, Milwaukee is one of the neediest teams among championship contenders.

Never was that more evident than in their second-round playoff loss to the Celtics. Milwaukee, as has happened in nearly all of their recent playoff losses, couldn’t hit the water if he fell out of a boat. In seven games, they shot a horrible 27.9% from the three-point line as a team (the Oklahoma City Thunder finished dead last in the regular season at 32.3%). It bucked a season trend after the Bucks knocked down 36.6% in the regular season and finished fifth in the NBA.

With Antetokounmpo at the center of the attack, Milwaukee had no problem creating open looks for their tertiary scorers. The problem was knocking down those shot attempts. The Bucks added Grayson Allen last summer to improve their shooting and need to find another chucker of the same caliber (Allen knocked down a career-high 40.9% of his three in the regular season).

Size on the wing

Milwaukee’s lack of size on the wing was never more apparent after Middleton fell and they went to Boston in the second round. The Celtics beat Jayson Tatum 6-8 and Jaylen Brown 6-6 while the Bucks tried to match that with Allen 6-4 and Wesley Matthews 6-4. Those thumbs have accrued over the streak.

It’s not like the Bucks have more capable wings anywhere else on their roster. Pat Connaughton (6-5) is also undersized coming off the bench and Jordan Nwora was completely unprepared to compete on the defensive side of the court.

With the Celtics going absolutely nowhere and the Miami Heat and Jimmy Butler lurking in the shadows, the Bucks need to find a way to have at least one big, capable defender on the wing this offseason. Adding a guy other than Middleton who is between 6-6 and 6-8 would greatly improve this already solid defense. It’s unclear if they can count on Matthews to drink from the fountain of youth again next season and they need someone who can fill his shoes.

Plan creation

Outside of the Bucks’ big three, no one can consistently create their own shot. It may be an unfair expectation to place on actors as that’s exactly what separates them from top-flight starters, but it was a tough pill for the Bucks to swallow as Holiday and Antetokounmpo had rates of exorbitant usage which made them difficult. to maintain their high level of play on both sides of the pitch.

Hopefully Bobby Portis comes back and can continue to improve his game to take some of that slack, but that won’t change the fact that the Bucks need more shot-making somewhere on their roster. He doesn’t have to be the isolation heavy type and could even be someone who can create quality looks for his teammates by attracting extra attention and/or defensive help. Whichever category he falls into, he needs to apply pressure on the defense from somewhere other than the top of the Bucks’ depth chart.

Pick-and-roll navigation

It may be a subtype of the blueprinting category, but it’s an important distinction. Milwaukee has one of the best rollers of all time in Antetokounmpo and not enough players who can take advantage of that. Middleton has found a way to weaponize the double MVP, but that’s not exactly Holiday’s strength.

Upgrading the backup playmaker position could be a route to adding someone who ticks that box, but even a wing that has grips and passing ability could do the trick. Whatever position it comes from, the Bucks need to find a way to use this offensive weapon more often in 2022-23.

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