The Milwaukee Bucks were hit with a reality check in round one of the playoffs this season. Although we all knew how good this team could be when healthy, it was also thought that the roster was deep enough to withstand an injury of some kind. The silver lining is that the team that upset the Bucks in the first round, the Miami Heat, now finds themselves in the NBA Finals.
Sure, the sting is less intense when the team you lose to in the playoffs goes on to do great things, but that doesn’t mean major changes shouldn’t be considered. In the days following the Game 5 loss to Miami, there was a lot of talk about what changes should be made. It should be common knowledge that Giannis Antetokounmpo is untouchable, but virtually everyone else should at least be considered as the 2023 NBA Free Agency window approaches.
The roster is in an awkward spot moving forward. The core is aging, there isn’t much youth to speak of, and eight players from last season’s team are unrestricted free agents. That’s not even counting Khris Middleton’s player-option decision and AJ Green being a restricted free agent.
The good news is Brook Lopez is the only key player that’s a true part of the 2023 NBA Free Agency class. One could argue his effectiveness overall in playoff losses the last couple of years, but he has been a crucial part of the Bucks’ starting roster since coming on board in 2018.
The rest of the free agents could be lost without losing much in terms of on-court production. Jae Crowder, Joe Ingles, Wesley Matthews, Jevon Carter, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Goran Dragic, and Meyers Leonard were virtual no-shows in the playoffs. I do expect a few of the players on this list to return, but turning over role players may not be a terrible thing after the showing against the Heat.
For the Milwaukee Bucks to make any significant changes to their roster, it must come via trade. I can’t honestly say I foresee that happening, as ownership has put a lot of faith in this core. With that said, if a trade were to happen, these are the 5 more likely Bucks to be on the move during the 2023 NBA Free Agency period.
2023 NBA Free Agency: 5 Milwaukee Bucks Most Likely on the Move
I know there are a good amount of Bucks fans that wish he would get traded, but if we are being honest, it isn’t likely to happen. It was reported that he, along with Giannis, was a part of the hiring process of new Bucks coach Adrian Griffin. Although Giannis has a louder voice, management made it obvious that Middleton’s opinion also mattered. They don’t do that unless they see him as a part of the short and long-term future.
His contract situation also makes it unlikely he will get traded. The three-time all-star is best off financially by accepting his player option, as he isn’t likely to get that much in the 2023 NBA Free Agency class. This means the Milwaukee Bucks would need to extend him before any trade, as his value to another team isn’t as high on a one-year deal. If it even got to that point, I could see the extension being more team friendly, and at that point, the Bucks are better off keeping him.
Sure, injury concerns are there, but when healthy, Middleton has still been a productive player. He has an old-man game, which has a chance to age well. If the organization can find a way to add another reliable scorer, this team is in a great spot with Middleton as the second or third option.
Grayson Allen has been a solid and productive part of the rotation since being added in 2021. He shoots the ball well (more so in the regular season), is more athletic than given credit for, and has shown the ability to create for himself off the dribble. Although he’s mainly used as a spot-up shooting option in Milwaukee, he could hold value for another team looking for another scoring option.
Allen has one year left on his deal and carries just shy of a $9,000,000 cap hit for the upcoming season. That’s a great price for a player that is capable of being the third scoring option on a competitive team. His defense may not be ideal, but he has good hands and is willing to take charges.
At that price, I think the Bucks will hold on to him unless a no-brainer offer is sent their way during the 2023 NBA Free Agency window. He is, however, one of the few solid trade chips Milwaukee has. He showed in round one last season against the Bulls how dangerous he can be and has looked great during the regular season when injuries led to more playing time for him. The main issue with him on the Bucks is there are too many options ahead of him to see the kind of production he is capable of.
3. Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday has been a fantastic part of this organization since coming over in a trade in 2020. Not only did he help end the championship drought, but he’s been a staple in the community and brought stability to a position that had plagued the Bucks for years.
Although he has been a fan favorite since arriving in Milwaukee, it’s become increasingly apparent that he isn’t what this team needs moving forward. Although he had the second-best year of his career in scoring this season (19.3 PPG), there were some major playoff struggles. This wasn’t the first time we have seen those struggles, either.
Holiday’s inability to score efficiently in the post-season has been a major reason why this franchise only has one championship with arguably their best core ever. If he were a dynamic creator like someone like Chris Paul, I think his shooting woes would be forgiven a bit. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind of point guard he is. He also isn’t the same defender he had been in seasons past. That doesn’t mean he isn’t well above average, but his showing against Jimmy Butler was less than ideal.
That last paragraph may not seem like a great sales pitch for another team, but every roster composition is different. Holiday would be a great fit on a younger team looking for leadership at the point guard position. He’s also a good enough scorer to be a shooting guard if a potential trade partner had the PG spot filled. He’s a versatile player and a great leader. His value is likely higher somewhere else than it is in Milwaukee.
As much as I hate to put MarJon Beauchamp on this list, he’s one of the top trade chips the Bucks have in this 2023 NBA Free Agency period. This team needs to get younger and more athletic, which is exactly what Beauchamp brings to the table. However, the front office has shown they prefer to push their chips in for veterans they think can make a difference come playoff time.
The rookie showed plenty of potential in year one, but it wasn’t enough to get minutes in the playoffs. He showed the ability to operate in the open court and showed a better shooting stroke than I think some were expecting. If he can improve on his 33% three-point percentage, he’ll be the type of 3-and-D player teams covet.
The 6-foot-7 forward has the size, speed, and length to guard multiple positions and looked good while slashing to the basketball on offense. He doesn’t project as a huge contributor on offense, but that could change dramatically if he develops a more consistent shot.
I hope the Bucks don’t trade away the only key, young piece they have. With that said, the front office knows the clock with this core is ticking. Did Beauchamp show enough development last season to convince the franchise to keep him? Maybe, maybe not. We also have to consider that Mike Budenholzer works better with developed talent. Adrian Griffin could be the guy to efficiently work with younger, less-proven talent and improve their games.
1. Bobby Portis
Putting a 6th Man of the Year award finalist on this list to be moved during the 2023 NBA Free Agency period may seem strange at sense, but it makes sense. Although Bobby Portis played his role extremely well during the regular season, his minutes dipped come playoff time. We know he can score and usually rebounds well, but he provides virtually nothing on defense. For a team looking for titles, the first big off the bench needs to be able to defend.
Why would a team want to trade for him, then? For starters, not every roster is constructed the same. Portis was a reserve for the Milwaukee Bucks but would likely be a starter for most other teams. He put up great offensive and rebounding numbers when he did start and doesn’t need to dominate touches to do it.
He’s also on a very team-friendly deal that pays him just shy of $12 million this coming year, $12.5 million in 24’/25′, and includes a player option for 25’/26′. That’s great value for a highly-productive reserve, not to mention a potential starter. For a team looking for a power forward who can score, he would be a great option.
The idea of moving the heart and soul of the team hurts, but seeing him relegated to the bench come playoff time isn’t great, either. Maybe that was a coach Bud thing, but it’s not likely Portis has ever been a lockdown defender. Other teams will likely find more value in him than he provides to the Bucks.
Time will tell if any of these players move during the 2023 NBA Free Agency window, but if any trades are done, it’ll most likely be players from this list. The Milwaukee Bucks roster has concerns, and their options to fix them through free agency are virtually zero. The front office will have to get creative if they want a true contender with a Giannis extension looming.
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