Bucks

Crowder, Bucks Look to Erase Perceived Disconnect

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When the Bucks acquired Jae Crowder last year at the NBA Trade Deadline, it was viewed as the missing piece to another potential championship run.

But things didn’t remotely go that way for either side.

The Bucks were bounced in the first round by the eight-seeded Miami Heat despite having the NBA’s best regular-season record. Jimmy Butler torched the Bucks and Crowder appeared a step slow. Crowder hardly played in Games 4 & 5 and seemed to be hampered by a back injury.

It led Crowder to publicly say he wasn’t sure why he was brought to Milwaukee.

The two sides were clearly frustrated. Part of the reason was obviously the disappointment of an early playoff exit. But Crowder was brought back and GM Jon Horst was able to get him to return on a veteran-minimum contract.

That’s a bit of a surprise.

Many will look at the Bucks running it back as questionable. But with what was available on the market and the Bucks’ cap situation, Horst did really well.

It’s somewhat of a coup for Horst. With Brook Lopez signing for $24 million per year, the Bucks lost their $5 million taxpayer mid-level exception (TPMLE) it could offer free agents. To get Crowder on the minimum is a no-lose situation really, especially with the frustrating end to the year. Also, the deal keeps the Bucks out of the second-level tax apron. Crowder being a 10-year veteran actually nets him $3.2 million, but it only counts as $2 million against the cap.

Bucks want to give Crowder another shot

Horst decided to part ways with coach Mike Budenholzer following the upset. The Bucks did have a title run in 2021, but despite being the East’s top seed three times under Budenholzer, the Bucks never made the NBA Finals in any of those years and reached the Eastern Conference Finals just once.

The Bucks now have a fresh face leading the team in Adrian Griffin. Despite a bit of a frustrating run much of his first season in Milwaukee, Crowder still views the Bucks as a contender. The Bucks are running it back hoping a new voice can return the Bucks to the glory Bud provided in 2021. The playoffs were very uneven for Budenholzer with the Bucks. Can Griffin, with a stocked roster of vets, infuse a new voice to bring the Bucks another championship?

The last two postseasons, the Bucks have faced injuries to their top two stars— Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. It’s easy to see why the Bucks would choose to keep the core together. They just want to be healthy at the right time as Crowder played just 10 games in Milwaukee with Giannis and Middleton and Lopez played just 195 total minutes (149 in the regular season46 in the playoffs) alongside both Giannis and Jrue Holiday last season.

Normal offseason should help Crowder

The Bucks parted with five second-round picks for Crowder— they undoubtedly wanted to retain him for that reason alone. The Bucks also, though, think Crowder has something left in the tank. The 33-year-old showed some flashes in the regular season.

In limited time, Crowder averaged 6.9 points per game and shot 43.6% from three in less than 19 minutes per game. Pretty nice numbers for the regular season. He had a 24-point performance vs. Memphis and 19 vs. Washington and in both games, canned 4-of-5 three-point attempts.

Despite acquiring Crowder at the deadline, it never seemed like he completely got his legs under him. While Crowder supposedly worked with a trainer and masseuse out while sitting out as the Suns sought a trade of the veteran, it’s not the same. He played only 18 games with the Bucks and, as mentioned, just 10 regular-season games with Giannis.

With intensity ratcheted up in the playoffs, Crowder seemed very out of shape. He made just 3-of-13 shots and played a total of 41 minutes.

The Bucks likely want to see what the Marquette product can do with the squad with a full camp under his belt. There are some questions about fit with Crowder. Is he still a wing who can guard an opponent’s best player? Is he more an undersized four at this point?

Regardless, the Bucks feel he can be a pivotal piece in another championship-or-bust season.

Bucks, Crowder looking for redemption

While Crowder seemed hampered late in the season, the Bucks made a no-brainer decision in re-signing him for the minimum. The Marquette alum is still a strong veteran presence who has seen it all. Despite struggling to find time and a groove in the playoffs, both he and the Bucks decided to give it another shot.

If Crowder can gel with the Bucks’ core in the playoffs, sweet redemption awaits in the 2023-24 season.

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About Mitchell Skurzewski

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