As Giannis Antetokounmpo was becoming into his own, the Bucks could never find the right center to put next to him to help result in more wins. Then came the summer of 2018, when the Bucks took a risk on a center who’s game was not lining up with the way the NBA was heading. That was Brook Lopez, a now fan-favorite among Bucks fans.
Lopez developed his game into being able to shoot the three ball consistently and become a great rim protector next to the team’s superstar, even forming a nickname “Splash Mountain” due to his love for Disney World. Since then the Milwaukee bucks center position has been a staple for the last few years, resulting in a record of 213-96 not including their record this season and an NBA championship!
Unfortunately, last season Lopez battled a back injury that forced him to miss time from October all the way to March. He did rejoin the team for last season’s playoff run but truly was not fully himself.
After the discouraging back injury, age creeping up on Lopez (34), and his contract expiring after this season there began some questions of what does the future hold for the team’s center position.
Lopez did wipe away many of those concerns this season, as he has converted his game even more this season into becoming a even more dominant rim protector for the Bucks. Sitting second in the NBA with 2.5 blocks per game. Not to mention he’s averaging his most points (14.7) and rebounds (6.3) as a Buck, as well as three point percentage (38.9%).
While the Bucks will be riding Lopez’s best season as a Buck hopefully to another championship, there still remains his impending free agency after this season.
The Bucks will most likely sign Lopez to a short-term deal to remain with this team but the team still needs to start planning for who will be starting next to Giannis after Lopez. As, Lopez unfortunately will decline eventually with his age only increasing.
The Mayor of Milwaukee
Luckily, the Bucks were able to bring back the “Mayor of Milwaukee” Bobby Portis to a 4 year/48.5 million dollar contract with a player option for the fourth year. Portis, should be a leading candidate for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award this season, as he is averaging 14.4 points a game and 10.1 rebounds a game. Portis also, is tied for third in the entire league with 29 double-doubles this season.
Portis, is an instant contributor for the team off the bench and brings an incredible amount of energy which can lift the team on any given night. The only worry long-term is if this team is better suited for him to continue to come off the bench or be the future center of the Bucks?
There is no question he could be the future starting center, as he has served as the starter before and played very well, especially last season when he started for Lopez the majority of the season.
Plan of Action
In reality though, the best plan of action for now and the long run should be to look into bringing in a younger center this off-season.
The first problem with being able to bring in a young center this off-season is the Bucks do not own a 1st round draft pick until 2028, and then there is the main priority of the team’s free agency which is bringing back Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez.
The Bucks could look into continuing to develop the second year center out of Seton Hall, Sandro Mamukelashvili or “Mamu”. Mamu has showed promise especially when he plays for the team’s G-League team where he dominates on the offensive end and shows many playmaking skills. The only problem is the best type of center to start next to Giannis has seemed to be someone who can be defensive minded but also able to still put the ball in the hole.
The Bucks could use some of the second round picks they covet over the next few years to find that someone but the chances of finding that type of player in the second round is very low.
The Dream at Center
The dream scenario for Bucks fans should and would be, bringing in Indiana Pacers Center, Myles Turner. Turner is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and at is 26 years old is having a career year. Turner is averaging a career high 17 points a game, a career high 7.8 rebounds a game, a career high 39.6% from the three-point line. Not to mention he is also averaging 2.4 blocks a game this season and averages 2.3 blocks a game for his career! With Turner imagine a younger, more athletic, better defending Brook Lopez. Lopez does have a better offensive game but Turner can still score the ball very well.
Fans can dream as Turner is most likely not a feasible option because if this team does want to bring back both Middleton and Lopez realistically, there would be no money remaining to distribute to Turner.
The most likely scenario is, the Bucks will try to find a center through the draft, take a chance on a cheap option in free agency, or give the rains to Bobby or Mamu.
The unfortunate truth for many Bucks fans is the best move for the center position long-term would be to either let Brook Lopez walk this summer which would free up space to bring in Myles Turner. Or, even try to do a sign and trade with Turner involved. No Bucks fan wants to say goodbye to Lopez as he has been a fan-favorite, and a dominate force for the team especially this season. But, the reality is he is going to be 35 this summer and Turner will only be 27 this summer.
The importance of maximizing the franchise’s superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo, for as long as we possibly can is still the biggest, most important action for this team. If the team can not find a young future replacement for Lopez, truly the Bucks need to look at Turner this summer as the Bucks future center. With continuing to leave Bobby Portis as the great sixth-man player he has been for this team!