Bucks Fans Worried About the Wrong Numbers


Giannis Antetokounmpo is 28 years old.

He’s a two-time MVP, one-time champion, one-time DPOY and seven-time All-Star. It seems like a forgone conclusion that those totals will grow, but by how much?

How many titles can he win? How many should he win? How many MVPs can he win? How many should he have already?

It’s all a numbers game. Lately, Bucks fans have become frantically obsessed with those numbers. The first-round exit to the Miami Heat in this year’s playoffs has caused a lot of worry. For a fan base worried about numbers, there’s unfortunately one number that never stops increasing regardless of the result— age.

Antetokounmpo is under contract through the 2024-25 season, with a player option for 2025-26. By the end of the player option — if he doesn’t sign an extension this fall — the Greek Freak will be 31 years old, which means he will still be in the prime of his career. The problem is that the rest of the current Bucks won’t be quite as young.

Should the Bucks commit to Middleton long term?

Khris Middleton has a player option worth $40 million that he can exercise this summer. Assuming he does, the three-time all-star will enter his 11th season in Milwaukee.

Should he decline it, the Bucks will almost certainly look to re-sign the soon-to-be 32-year-old . They are not in a cap position to lose him.

By the end of Antetokounmpo’s contract, Middleton will be 35. While it’s true that injuries played an instrumental role in Middleton’s perceived dropoff over the last season, a decrease in his scoring average from 20 points per game to 15 can’t be ignored. There are worries that Middleton simply won’t be a sustainable second option for much longer.

The Bucks have to do what must be done to deliver as many championship-contending seasons as possible while they have Antetokounmpo. General manager Jon Horst made it clear that he is not afraid to make tough decisions when he dismissed head coach Mike Budenholzer. Coach Bud helped deliver the first championship to Milwaukee in 50 years, and he coached the Bucks to the best record in the league three times in five years.

And yet, he was let go.

Sometimes, tough decisions are necessary in order to win, and the Bucks will face a flurry of tough decisions in the coming years.

Circling back to Middleton, Milwaukee shouldn’t look to part ways with the veteran wing. He has been there alongside Antetokounmpo every step of the way and is one of the all-time greatest Bucks himself. A pair of 33-point showings in the playoffs this year proved he is far from done.

Still, $40 million is a lot for a 32-year-old with lingering injury problems. So if the Bucks move forward with Middleton long term, both sides will have to agree upon a reasonable contract.

Can Holiday still be a championship point guard?

Middleton isn’t the only Buck whose age is a concern. Jrue Holiday’s 33rd birthday is approaching, and with the veteran point guard having said he intends to retire at the end of his contract in 2024-25, it seems like the Bucks will need to find their point guard of the future.

If Holiday truly intends to retire in two years, the Bucks need to make a decision now. Holiday will lose his trade value if the Bucks wait any longer to deal him, but with an expiring career, what could they get for him anyway?

Likely not another star. The teams who would want Holiday are contenders, but not many contenders can take on a $36 million cap hit next season.  And, I have my doubts that the Bucks could get a player better than Holiday anyway.

A lot of fans have floated the idea of trading for Damian Lillard. That won’t be happening unless Lillard demands a trade, which has always been unlikely.

A trade involving Middleton or Holiday is possible, but why would Portland — a team that missed the playoffs this year — trade for anything besides young talent and draft picks— two things the Bucks have almost none of.

If Milwaukee is going to move Holiday, it would likely have to be for picks. But why trade your all-star point guard for picks? That would make it nearly impossible to compete for titles in the upcoming season, so Holiday should stay too.

Splash Mountain reigns over Milwaukee

The final piece of the Bucks’ core four is Brook Lopez, whose career year in 2022-23 just landed him a spot on first team all-defense. I think it is nearly certain that the Bucks will re-sign Lopez, the only question is for how much and how long.

A pay raise for Lopez isn’t out of the question. Even at 35 years old, Lopez’s two-way impact has proven invaluable to Milwaukee. Assuming they retain Lopez, the Bucks should offer him a contract worth $20 million a year for two seasons, that way the big man’s contract will expire at the same time as Holiday’s.

Then, if a 37-year-old Lopez in 2025 decides to join Holiday in retirement, the Bucks will have nearly $60 million in available cap space freed up just in time to approach some big-name All-Stars to join Antetokounmpo is the second leg of his prime.

With the Core Four intact, how will Milwaukee get younger?

The Bucks are old and they are only getting older. Their bench is comprised of veterans. Free agents Joe Ingles and Wesley Matthews and 35 and 36 years old, respectively. Even Pat Connaughton is 30 now. The Bucks entire 15-man roster (not including the two-way players) only has one player under the age of 27: rookie MarJon Beauchamp, who is 22 years old.

Beauchamp provides a nice transition into my next point: the Bucks have very few picks.

Last season, the former G-League Ignite standout was the first player taken in the first round by Milwaukee and kept on the roster since 2018. This season, the Bucks once again are without a first-round pick, so how do they get younger?

Milwaukee certainly can’t just keep signing a few 35-year-olds every offseason and expect to contend for the next five to ten years. No, the Bucks need to find a way to get some youth and they need to do it quickly.

There’s always the possibility of trading valuable bench pieces like Bobby Portis for picks, although that would be a wildly unpopular move with the Bucks faithful.

If they keep Holiday and Lopez through 2024-25, and commit to Middleton long term (why take unnecessary risks and move proven winners), how do the Bucks get good young players?

They wait.

First of all, they should invest in developing the young players they do have, like Beauchamp and rookie sharpshooter, AJ Green. Assuming those guys aren’t enough to carry the future of the Bucks, you have to look for some younger players in free agency this summer. Letting veterans like Ingles and Matthews walk in free agency will allow Milwaukee to pursue younger replacements that will be viable options for longer.

As for the starting core, the Bucks might have to wait a couple of years to replace them with more youth, and that’s a good thing.

It’s important that Milwaukee get younger so that it can compete for as long as possible with Antetokounmpo, but it’s equally important that they don’t rush that process. There’s been a lot of talk about moving Holiday or Middleton this offseason, and while it’s possible that that happens, it would be a mistake (unless the deal was too good to pass on).

Middleton, Holiday and Lopez are Bucks for life— let them retire as Bucks. And when they do, Antetokounmpo will still be in his prime, and the Bucks will have a lot of money to seek out young stars to aid in their pursuit of as many championships as possible.

Changes absolutely need to be made this offseason, and they have already begun with the search for a new head coach. But I don’t believe those changes should break up the core four for at least two more years. These guys can still compete for titles.

In a game that’s all about numbers, let’s let the days add up and wait it out for just a little while longer.

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About Ben McCormick

Ben McCormick is a sports writer from North Carolina. He has run independent blogs and begun writing for The Lead in 2023. He writes for The Daily Tar Heel as well, where he has worked since September of 2022.

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