The Milwaukee Bucks were unable to defend their 2021 championship, getting knocked out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The knee injury to Khris Middleton proved too much to overcome as the Boston Celtics prevailed in an epic seven-game series.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, of course, continued to impress and is certain to be back with a vengeance next season, continuing to stake his claim as the best player in basketball. But as the NBA Finals commence, Milwaukee's attention has turned to the offseason.
Long-term deals for Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton must be considered, as each has a player option for next season. The Bucks also need to focus on the rapidly approaching NBA draft, where they hold the 24th overall pick.
Here's how Milwaukee could address its two biggest needs on June 23rd.
Stream NBA games LIVE on FuboTV!
Bucks' 2 biggest needs entering 2022 NBA Draft
Long-Term Center Option
Brook Lopez has been a terrific contributor during his time with the Bucks, his career revived by developing into a threatening three-point shooter and one of basketball's best paint protectors. He played a vital role in Milwaukee's championship run and is a perfect fit next to Antetokounmpo up front.
In case you needed to see it to believe it, Brooke Lopez is out here spraying 30 footers. pic.twitter.com/3Hjiq0ZydF
— Ben Taylor (@ElGee35) November 12, 2018
Still, Lopez is clearly on the downside of his career at 34, and dealt with a back injury in 2021-22 that cost him most of the regular regular season. Adding a rookie big man to develop behind him would be a worthwhile addition in the late first round.
A few of the notable names to watch are Walker Kessler, Christian Koloko and Ismael Kamagate.
Playing alongside Giannis provides a unique challenge for big men. Learning to play with a guy who requires spacing and at times rotates like a big man defensively can be difficult. The Bucks would be wise to add a player now who can be groomed for that unique role moving forward. Taking advantage of this now will give the rookie a chance to learn behind Lopez and keep the pressure low from the start.
Given the ball dominance of Antetokounmpo, having complimentary shooters who are stars in their role is incredibly important. Three-and-D players have become increasingly essential in today's NBA. The Bucks have done a solid job surrounding their superstar with talent, but there is always room for growth. There is no such thing as too much depth and this draft class has a ton of solid options on the wing.
A few names that would be great fits on the Bucks and should be available around the 24th pick are Christian Braun, EJ Liddell, MarJon Beauchamp and Jalen Williams, a breakout star at the NBA combine. Each of these players is fairly NBA-ready and projects highly in the long term.
Braun and Liddell, specifically, are guys who should be capable of playing NBA minutes as rookies, while Williams offers rare long-term upside in the late first round. These types of low-risk, high-reward selections may not win many headlines, but are still the most effective way for a veteran, expensive team like Milwaukee to build a roster.
Footage of EJ Liddell from the BDA Pro Day in Santa Barbara. The Ohio State product showed off his 7-foot wingspan and improving shooting stroke in front of a plethora of NBA decision makers. pic.twitter.com/6N3TJ4oEM6
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 26, 2022
The championship core of the Bucks still remains intact. They have no glaring weaknesses and should continue focusing on surrounding Antetokounmpo with young talent. Needless to say, Milwaukee has a lot to be excited about ahead of next season.
Look for the Bucks to find another solid rookie in the draft, one who could potentially help them win another title in 2022-23.