The Milwaukee Bucks entered the 2023-24 NBA season with high hopes and aspirations. Armed with a roster brimming with talent and the desire to reclaim their position at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Bucks seemed poised for a deep playoff run. However, despite their regular-season prowess, the postseason told a different story. The Bucks fell short in the playoffs, leaving fans and analysts alike pondering what went wrong. More importantly, now they are thinking about what needs to be done to bounce back stronger next season. In light of their early exit, it's clear that strategic changes are necessary. As such, a few key trades could make all the difference.

Reflecting on the Bucks 2023 season

The 2023–24 season for the Milwaukee Bucks was marked by major changes. Head coach Mike Budenholzer was fired on May 4, 2023, after five years, including a 2021 NBA Finals win. His dismissal followed a disappointing first-round playoff exit to the Miami Heat. On June 5, 2023, Adrian Griffin was appointed as the new head coach. A blockbuster trade on September 27, 2023, brought seven-time All-Star Damian Lillard to Milwaukee, with Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, and a 2029 first-round pick going to Portland. Meanwhile, Grayson Allen, Jusuf Nurkić, Nassir Little, and Keon Johnson went to Phoenix.

Damian Lillard alongside Doc Rivers with the Bucks and Pacers logos in the background, injury

Despite holding a 30–13 record, second-best in the Eastern Conference and NBA, Griffin was dismissed on January 23, 2024. Doc Rivers replaced him three days later. The Bucks secured their eighth consecutive playoff berth on April 7, 2024, thanks to losses by the Miami Heat and victories by the Orlando Magic. However, a calf injury sidelined Giannis Antetokounmpo for the first-round playoff matchup against the Pacers. Damian Lillard also missed games due to injury. The short-handed Bucks were eliminated by the Pacers in six games. This marked their second consecutive first-round upset.

Here we will look at the three trades that the Milwaukee Bucks must make after their disappointing 2023-24 NBA season.

Trading for Toumani Camara

Milwaukee's asset pool is notably depleted, limiting its trade options. Sure, they could offer a 2031 first-round pick. However, using it for this trade would be excessive. Given the mixed results from the initial Lillard season, the front office will likely be cautious with such a valuable asset.

Instead, the Bucks could consider a package involving MarJon Beauchamp, AJ Green, Andre Jackson Jr., and another draft pick. This combination could potentially secure Toumani Camara.

He brings a valuable skill set. Camara can defend positions 1 through 4 and possibly even take on small-ball center roles. His offensive game is still developing, and he showed promise by hitting 42.9 percent of his three-pointers on 2.5 attempts per game post-All-Star break. Additionally, Camara's contract is extremely team-friendly. This can keep him under control for the next three seasons at less than $2.3 million annually.

At the very least, Camara embodies the defensive versatility the Bucks need to target in their trade pursuits. His ability to guard multiple positions and contribute offensively in a developing role makes him a worthwhile investment.

Portland Trail Blazers forward Toumani Camara (33) dribbles the ball against Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) during the first quarter at State Farm Arena
Jordan Godfree-USA TODAY Sports

Adding Dorian Finney-Smith

Ideally, the Bucks would enhance their defense without sacrificing offensive capability. However, given their limited trade assets, acquiring a two-way player may be unrealistic. A more attainable target could be a reliable three-and-D wing. They need someone who can effectively shift defensively and make enough catch-and-shoot threes to keep defenses honest.

Dorian Finney-Smith fits this mold well. Yes,m his three-point shooting has dipped to 34.3 percent over the past two seasons. Still, he previously shot 38.9 percent over the three seasons before that. If he can regain his shooting form, Finney-Smith could be a valuable addition to the Bucks' late-game rotation.

Trading for Finney-Smith would likely require most of Milwaukee's remaining trade assets. Of course, investing heavily in a 30-plus non-star player carries risks. However, his defensive capabilities and potential offensive contributions align well with the Bucks' needs.

Acquiring Alex Caruso

Alex Caruso's trade value may be higher than what the Bucks can offer. That said, it's worth exploring. Even if Milwaukee can't meet the asking price, initiating talks and pushing the Chicago Bulls to set a high bar is a strategy worth pursuing.

Caruso would significantly bolster Milwaukee's backcourt defense. He can address one of their major weaknesses. His $9.9 million salary for the next season is a bargain considering his impact, making him an attractive target.

Caruso excels in blending his skills with those of star players. He can provide defensive grit without disrupting offensive flow. His motor runs at full throttle, and he's shooting a career-high 40.8 percent from three-point range this season. Caruso's sharp playmaking abilities make him a secondary creator, and his hustle adds value in rebounding and transition play.

His glue-guy attributes could be exactly what the Bucks need, too. By offering their best possible package, Milwaukee can at least challenge the Bulls to consider parting with Caruso.

Looking Ahead

The Milwaukee Bucks' disappointing playoff exit has underscored the need for strategic changes. By targeting Toumani Camara, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Alex Caruso, the Bucks can address key weaknesses and enhance their roster's versatility and defensive capabilities. Each of these players brings unique strengths that could complement the existing core of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. Acquiring any of them could set the stage for a stronger playoff push next season.