It would not be that far of a stretch to say that Milwaukee Bucks general manager Jon Horst is the best executive in franchise history. Sure, his predecessor John Hammond drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo. And yes, Hammond also signed Giannis to a four-year $100 million contract extension in the final seasons of his rookie contract.
But it was Horst who created the roster that won the NBA Championship in 2021. It was Horst who signed Giannis to a supermax extension when the national media was convinced he would bolt for a bigger market. And it was Horst who has overseen the team that has the most regular season wins in the NBA over the past five seasons.
Now, in 2023, Horst looked down the barrel of the proverbial gun and did not blink. In the span of six weeks, Horst has taken a team on the brink of a blowup and returned to Championship contention. It isn’t his best offseason, but it’s close.
What Was Jon Horst’s Best Offseason for the Milwaukee Bucks?
As far as successful offseasons go, it does not get much better than the 2020 NBA offseason. While the world was on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Horst and the Bucks signed Giannis to a five-year $228 million contract extension.
It was a move that was celebrated in Milwaukee as much as it was bemoaned on the national stage. Giannis is a two-time MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and top-75 player of all time. Signing him alone would have made the offseason a success.
However, that was not all Horst did. That was also the offseason he built the 2021 NBA Champions. He traded Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and numerous first round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for Jrue Holiday.
Of course, there were some free agent signings that did not pan out (i.e. Torrey Craig), but Horst was able to turn those into a mid-season trade for PJ Tucker, whose “Dawg” mentality pushed the Bucks over the edge and into history.
Horst was not the NBA Executive of the Year that season, but perhaps he should have been.
Jon Horst Was the NBA Executive of the Year in 2019
The 2017-18 Milwaukee Bucks were the first team that Horst presided over as general manager. When head coach Jason Kidd led the team to a disappointing 23-22 start, Horst fired him. The Bucks finished the season 44-38 with Joe Prunty at the helm in the interim, but it was clear they needed a new direction.
During the 2018 offseason, Horst hired Mike Budenholzer as head coach and signed Brook Lopez in free agency. The Bucks improved to 60-22 in 2018-19, Giannis was the NBA MVP, and expectations were elevated in Milwaukee.
And of course, Horst was the NBA Executive of the Year for instrumenting such a drastic change.
This Offseason Is Not Jon Horst’s Best, But It’s Close
The 2022-23 Milwaukee Bucks ended up being another team at the crossroads. After finishing the year with the NBA’s best record, the team was embarrassed in the first round against the Miami Heat. With several players leaving in free agency, Horst had his work cut out for him.
He started by firing Coach Budenholzer and hiring Adrian Griffin. Then, when NBA free agency began, he re-signed Khris Middleton to a three-year $102 million extension. A day later, Horst convinced Brook Lopez to take less money than the Houston Rockets were offering him and inked him to two-year $48 million deal.
At that point, many fans and analysts believed Horst was done bringing back his own players. But he wasn’t!
Jae Crowder, who had been publicly critical of the role he was given after being traded to Milwaukee, was convinced to come back for one more season.
With the salary cap exceeded and the team knocking on the door of the super-tax apron, Horst then inked Robin Lopez to a veteran minimum deal, adding depth to the center position.
And then, in what could be the Crown Jewel of his Horst’s accomplishments, he signed elite shooter Malik Beasley to a one-year $2.7 million contract.
And Horst isn’t done. He still has to fill out the rest of the Bucks roster, but so far has done a better job than anyone could have possibly imagined he would.
This offseason has certainly been a Horst Masterclass. Not his best, but it’s close.