The Bucks entered this season under IMMENSE pressure.
Yet, Milwaukee didn’t even pay the luxury tax to build the best possible team.
That looks especially suspect after the Bucks’ second-round flameout against the Heat.
So, in perhaps a last–ditch effort, Milwaukee is scrambling to impress Antetokounmpo. After preaching chemistry and continuity, refusing to trade players like Eric Bledsoe, the Bucks are now talking about spending more.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
ESPN Sources: MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo's 3-hour lunch with Bucks co-owner/governor Marc Lasry on Friday covered the season, how Bucks can improve roster, Lasry confirming willingness to spend into luxury tax and agreement they’ll talk again after Giannis returns from a vacation.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 14, 2020
The Bucks are committed to building and sustaining a championship roster around Antetokounmpo and are expected to be one of the busiest teams this offseason.
Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe is under contract for multiple seasons and had another standout season by earning All-Defensive team honors, but he is expected to become a potential trade candidate, sources told The Athletic.
This feels like it might be too little, too late.
And the Bucks had opportunities. They could have kept Malcolm Brogdon. Once agreeing to sign-and-trade Brogdon to the Pacers, Milwaukee probably could have generated a $10 million trade exception with only minimal disruption elsewhere on the roster. The Bucks could have flipped the picks acquired from Indiana (a 2020 first-rounder and two future second-rounders) for a current player.
The Bucks can say they didn’t trust Brogdon’s long-term health or that no good trade offers emerged for the Pacers’ picks. But it’s impossible to ignore the luxury-tax avoidance. Milwaukee also traded two first-round picks in recent years to dump salary.
If Antetokounmpo locks into a long-term contract, how could he trust the Bucks to spend big throughout the deal? They didn’t pay the luxury tax even amid this year’s high stakes. This pledge comes only with their backs against the wall.
Antetokounmpo has drawn attention for espousing loyalty to Milwaukee. But his views on loyalty are nuanced.
“As long as me and the Bucks are on the same page and we build an organization that’s all about winning and nothing more than that, I want to be here,” Antetokounmpo told me last year.
The Brogdon saga didn’t look like an organization all about winning and nothing more.
It’s not too late to make amends. But it will be challenging with only one year until Antetokounmpo’s contract expires. Milwaukee’s players had their trade values drop with the disappointing end to the season.
But a willingness to pay the luxury tax will at least open doors for upgrading the roster.