Evaluating The 2021 Milwaukee Bucks

July 22nd, 2021

By Alan Lu

The Milwaukee Bucks had a long road en route to winning the NBA championship this year.  After what happened last season, they decided that changes needed to be made to fix their team.  They traded to get star point guard Jrue Holiday, and they also signed Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes in the offseason.  Midway through the year, they traded to get P.J. Tucker, and they also signed Jeff Teague.

They were able to avenge their series loss from last year by sweeping the Miami Heat this season, and they impressively dismantled a strong Brooklyn Nets team in the second round.  The Milwaukee Bucks were also able to defeat the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Plus, they received a legendary, 50-point performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo to win Game 6 and the NBA championship in the 2021 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had a legendary postseason run that was capped off by a tremendous, 50-point, 14-rebound, 5-block performance in his team’s series clinching, Game 6 win over the Phoenix Suns in the 2021 NBA Finals to help the Milwaukee Bucks win the championship.
(Photo:
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images, via Slate)

F-C Giannis Antetokounmpo
2021 (MIL): 61 GP, 28.1 PPG, 11 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.2 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 57 FG%, 30 3PT%, 69 FT%, 29.2 PER, 63 TS%, 10.2 WS, .244 WS48

He’s had a very good all-around season, and Giannis is one of the best players in the league.  He’s struggled with his jump shot at times, particularly from the outside, as well as with injuries, but Giannis is a tremendously athletic point forward that can dominate and take over games.

In the playoffs, he was dominant, as he not only was tremendous at attacking the basket to score at will, he really excelled as a facilitator, and he showed much improved free throw shooting in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.  His NBA Finals performance was legendary, and his tremendous play helped get his team the NBA championship this year.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting forward on the Milwaukee Bucks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 5 stars

Khris Middleton had a very good season, and he turned in a slew of tremendous games in the playoffs to help lead the Milwaukee Bucks to win the NBA championship over the Phoenix Suns this year.
(Photo:
Paul Sancya/Associated Press, via Arizona Sports 98.7 FM)

F Khris Middleton
2021 (MIL): 68 GP, 20.4 PPG, 6 RPG, 5.4 APG, 48 FG%, 41 3PT%, 90 FT%, 18.2 PER, 59 TS%, 6.4 WS, .135 WS48

He played very well this season, and he especially thrived as a shooter, scorer, and facilitator for his team.  He’s been a bit streaky in the playoffs, but Middleton has turned in some dominant games, as he scored 38 points to lead his team to a Game 3 win in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Middleton played like a true superstar in the playoffs.  He turned in some truly dominant games in the postseason, and his strong all-around play helped his team get the NBA championship this year.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting forward on the Milwaukee Bucks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 4 stars

G Jrue Holiday
2021 (MIL): 59 GP, 17.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 50 FG%, 39 3PT%, 79 FT%, 20 PER, 59 TS%, 6.6 WS, .165 WS48

He is a scoring point guard that was a former All-Star, and he’s had a very good, all-around season.  Holiday’s very good shooting and defensive skills proved that he was a definite upgrade over Eric Bledsoe.  He’s played very well overall.  While he was a bit up and down early in the postseason, he played much better as the playoffs progressed, as his strong scoring, team play, and defensive skills really shined to help his team win the NBA title.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starting point guard on the Milwaukee Bucks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 3.5 stars

Brook Lopez played very well in the postseason, and he excelled at making plays on both ends of the floor to help his team win an NBA championship this year.
(Photo:
Aaron Gash/Associated Press, via YourCentralValley.com)

C Brook Lopez
2021 (MIL): 70 GP, 12.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 50 FG%, 34 3PT%, 85 FT%, 15.4 PER, 61 TS%, 5.3 WS, .133 WS48

He showed a solid ability to score the basketball this past season.  He is a versatile scorer that can do so on rolls, in the post, in transition, and he also can knock down some threes.  He’s had his ups and downs this year, but he turned in terrific, 33-point game to lift his team to a Game 5 over the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

He also played much better as the playoffs wore on, and he played more assertively, as he excelled at making shots from all over the floor, as well as getting his team necessary defensive stops to help his team get the title this year.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

P.J. Tucker played solid defense, as he excelled in his role en route to the Milwaukee Bucks’ championship run this year.
(Photo:
Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports, via Rockets Wire – USA Today)

G-F P.J. Tucker
2021 (HOU/MIL): 52 GP, 3.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 37 FG%, 34 3PT%, 75 FT%, 5.5PER, 51 TS%, 1 WS, .034 WS48

He was fairly inconsistent as a shooter this year, and he didn’t look to score very often, but Tucker is a scrappy defensive specialist whose toughness, versatility, and grit allows him to defend multiple positions and the best players in games.

2021 Season Grade: C+ (C w/HOU, and B- w/MIL)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Tucker will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

Milwaukee Bucks’ center, Bobby Portis played very well this season, and he helped his team win an NBA championship this year.
(Photo:
Aaron Gash/Associated Press, via KNWA)

C Bobby Portis
2021 (MIL): 66 GP, 11.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.1 APG, 52 FG%, 47 3PT%, 74 FT%, 19.9 PER, 60 TS%, 4.8 WS, .167 WS48

He played very well this season, and he thrived as a shooter, scorer, and rebounder for his team.  Portis excelled offensively, especially in the playoffs, and he also provided his team with some much-needed energy and toughness on the court.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Portis has a player option that he can exercise for next season.

Pat Connaughton had a fairly solid season with the Milwaukee Bucks this past year.
(Photo:
Reinhold Matay/USA Today Sports, via Fansided’s Behind the Buck Pass)

G-F Pat Connaughton
2021 (MIL): 69 GP, 6.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 43 FG%, 37 3PT%, 78 FT%, 11.3 PER, 58 TS%, 3.5 WS, .108 WS48

He had a solid, all-around year in the regular season.  In the playoffs, he’s been inconsistent as a shooter, but he’s made energetic hustle plays to help his team on both ends of the floor.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Milwaukee Bucks’ sharpshooting guard, Bryn Forbes is a very good shooter that excels at knocking down shots to help NBA teams on offense.
(Photo:
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images, via SB Nation’s Pounding the Rock)

G Bryn Forbes
2021 (MIL): 70 GP, 10 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 47 FG%, 45 3PT%, 77 FT%, 12.8 PER, 63 TS%, 2.7 WS, .096 WS48

He generally excelled as a sharpshooter and as a scorer in his role for the Bucks in the regular season.  He didn’t really do much else though, and he didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well in the playoffs.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Forbes has a player option that he can exercise for next season.

Milwaukee Bucks’ point guard, Jeff Teague had a terrific Game 6 to lead his team to win the Eastern Conference Finals over the Atlanta Hawks.
(Photo:
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Behind the Buck Pass)

G Jeff Teague
2021 (BOS/MIL): 55 GP, 6.7 PPG, 2.4 APG, 1.6 RPG, 43 FG%, 44 3PT%, 85 FT%, 12.3 PER, 56 TS%, 1.6 WS, .079 WS48

He didn’t play too well for Boston, as he played in a backup point guard role and they deemed him expendable, as they traded him to another team before getting waived.  There have been concerns about his ball-stopping tendencies and streakiness as a shooter, and he didn’t defend very well, either.

He played much better for Milwaukee, as he excelled as a shooter and scorer in his role, but he has not played well in the playoffs early on.  He then had a very good Game 6 to help lead Milwaukee to an Eastern Conference Finals series win over Atlanta.

2021 Season Grade: C (D w/BOS, B- w/MIL)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Teague will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G-F Donte DiVincenzo
2021 (MIL): 66 GP, 10.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 42 FG%, 38 3PT%, 72 FT%, 13 PER, 54 TS%, 3.6 WS, .095 WS48

He played fairly well this past season, and he showed off solid all-around skills in the regular season.  He struggled to knock down shots in the playoffs though, and he ended up getting injured, as he will miss the rest of the postseason with a foot injury.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Milwaukee Bucks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G-F Elijah Bryant
2021 (MIL): 1 GP, 16 PPG, 6 RPG, 3 APG, 46 FG%, 20 3PT%, 100 FT%, 10.6 PER, 56 TS%, 0 WS, .008 WS48

He played one game in the regular season, and he put up solid counting numbers in volume.  He excelled as a scorer, facilitator, and rebounder, but he will need to improve his outside shot and defense.  In the meantime, he may have the talent to end up in his team’s rotation next season if a spot opens up for him.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Bryant’s contract is non-guaranteed for next season.

F Jordan Nwora
2021 (MIL): 30 GP, 5.7 PPG, 2 RPG, 46 FG%, 45 3PT%, 76 FT%, 16.1 PER, 59 TS%, 0.4 WS, .068 WS48

He really excelled as a shooter and rebounder this year, and he played well in limited minutes as a rookie this season.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G Sam Merrill
2021 (MIL): 30 GP, 3 PPG, 1 RPG, 44 FG%, 45 3PT%, 100 FT%, 11.9 PER, 60 TS%, 0.5 WS, .102 WS48

He really excelled as a shooter and facilitator this year, and like his fellow rookie Nwora, Merrill could be due for a rotation spot next season.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Merrill’s contract is non-guaranteed for next season.

F Thanasis Antetokounmpo
2021 (MIL): 57 GP, 2.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 49 FG%, 24 3PT%, 51 FT%, 10.3 PER, 52 TS%, 0.7 WS, .057 WS48

He was able to provide some playmaking and rebounding skills, but Thanasis seems to have helped his team’s locker room chemistry the most.  He’s Giannis’ older brother, and he was also able to provide his team with some minutes in the Eastern Conference Finals when his superstar brother was out.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

F-C Mamadi Diakite
2021 (MIL): 14 GP, 3.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 40 FG%, 13 3PT%, 79 FT%, 12.3 PER, 48 TS%, 0.3 WS, .102 WS48

He was able to provide some rebounding and interior defense to his team, but he struggled to knock down shots, especially from beyond the arc, and he also didn’t seem to play well in limited minutes in the playoffs.

2021 Season Grade: C-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Diakite’s contract is non-guaranteed for next season.

G-F Axel Toupane (Two-Way)
2021 (MIL): 8 GP, 1.8 PPG, 36 FG%, 50 3PT%, 71 FT%, 9 PER, 50 TS%, 0.1 WS, .097 WS48

He defended fairly well, but he struggled to score efficiently, as he didn’t take nearly enough threes, and he didn’t get enough assists on offense, either.

2021 Season Grade: C-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

F Justin Jackson (Two-Way)
2021 (OKC/MIL): 34 GP, 7.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 40 FG%, 31 3PT%, 84 FT%, 9.5 PER, 50 TS%, 0.2 WS, .018 WS48

He passed the ball well, but he didn’t really do much else well at the NBA level, and his play was disappointing in general this year.

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Back end roster player, possible back end of the rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Head Coach:
Mike Budenholzer
2021 (MIL): 46-26, 16-7 in the playoffs, won the NBA championship
Coaching Career: 375-262, 48-39 in his playoff career, 1 NBA title with the 2021 Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks’ head coach, Mike Budenholzer did a great job of coaching his team, and he helped lead his team to win the NBA title this year.
(Photo:
Justin Casterline/Getty Images, via Defector)

Though his team didn’t win as many regular season games, Budenholzer has coached very well in the postseason.  He has went through failures in past postseasons where he didn’t adjust, and now he’s had to adapt, which made him all the better for it.

In the playoffs, he showed the willingness to adjust, to go small, to use switching defenses more so than before.  He was able to incorporate more modern tactics into his coaching schemes in this postseason run to adapt different opponents.  He deployed his roster to the fullest and best of its abilities. 

Against Brooklyn, he employed more of a switching scheme on defense to adjust to them.  Against Phoenix, they went away from the switching, but they also used Giannis at the five in critical moments.  They would fight through screens against the Suns, and they would use Jrue Holiday to defend and shut down either Chris Paul or Devin Booker, whichever player was doing the best. 

This proved to be an incredibly effective strategy, as Holiday’s strong defensive skills helped shut down Phoenix in crunch time in the latter games of the 2021 NBA Finals, and Budenholzer’s smart tactics helped him win a championship this year.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 4 stars

Milwaukee Bucks’ superstar forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points in a career defining Game 6 of the NBA Finals to lead his team to win the game and to get the NBA championship.
(Source: YouTube/No Dunks Inc.)

A Brief Summary of the 2020-21 Milwaukee Bucks’ Season:

The Milwaukee Bucks played their best basketball in the playoffs.  They had an impressive seven game series win over the Brooklyn Nets in the second round.  They managed to stave off an upset-minded Atlanta Hawks team to win in the Eastern Conference Finals.  Plus, they also came back down from an 0-2 deficit to win four straight in the NBA Finals to defeat the Phoenix Suns and to win the NBA championship.

The 2020-21 Milwaukee Bucks’ Season Grade: A

The Milwaukee Bucks’ Projected 2021-22 NBA Rotation:

Projected Starters:
C Brook Lopez
F Giannis Antetokounmpo
F Khris Middleton
G P.J. Tucker
G Jrue Holiday

Key Reserves:
G Donte DiVincenzo
G Pat Connaughton

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
F Jordan Nwora
G-F Sam Merrill

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
G-F Elijah Bryant
F Thanasis Antetokounmpo
The 31st Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
F-C Mamadi Diakite

Impending Restricted Free Agents:
F Thanasis Antetokounmpo – Expected Back

Impending Unrestricted Free Agents:
G-F P.J. Tucker – Expected to be Back
G Jeff Teague – Not Expected Back

Players with an Impending Player Option:
F-C Bobby Portis – Not Expected Back
G Bryn Forbes – Not Expected Back

The Bucks will likely try to bring both Portis and Forbes back, but Portis and Forbes may opt to cash out and hit free agency instead, especially with both players having played so well this past season.

Projected Players Cut From Next Season’s Roster:
F Justin Jackson (Two-Way)
G-F Axel Toupane (Two-Way)

Projected Offseason Plan for the Milwaukee Bucks:
They don’t project to have cap space next year.  If they win the NBA title this year, they’ll likely try to run basically the whole squad back.  If they fall short, they may consider adding more reinforcements to boost their offense, and they may consider making some tweaks to bolster their bench depth all-around.

In the draft, they will likely take the best player available that could perhaps step into a rotation role right away.

The 2022 Milwaukee Bucks’ Expected Win-Loss Record, and Projected 2022 Season Finish:
50-32, 3rd in the Eastern Conference in 2022

Expected 2022 Season Outcome: 
The Milwaukee Bucks will likely finish near the top of the standings, but they may save some of their energy this time around for the playoffs, as they have done this past season. They will likely have a strong title defense, and they could repeat as champions next year.

I primarily went to Basketball-Reference and No Trade Clause for research purposes. For more information on my ratings scale and how I rate NBA players and coaches, you can find it here. Thanks for reading.

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