Even with a victory over the Toronto Raptors Monday night, the Milwaukee Bucks were officially eliminated from the playoffs as the Philadelphia 76ers clinched the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
I was definitely all for the Bucks making the postseason and I thought they were going to for sure once they acquired Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh in a trade with the Golden State Warriors. However, Milwaukee could not win the necessary games down the stretch to get the job done, even though they had a very favorable schedule to do so.
The Bucks must now look towards next season and general manager John Hammond must figure out a way to get Milwaukee over the hump. The team is right there, but they still need a few additional pieces in order to compete with the best teams in the East. Here are five moves the Bucks must make in order to be successful next season.
#5 Bulk up Ekpe Udoh
This is not exactly a move that needs to be made, but it is still something that must be done for the Bucks to succeed next season. Udoh has the potential to be an outstanding player, as he already proved in his short time with Milwaukee. He has skill around the basket and dominates as a shot blocker. Milwaukee must now get Udoh in the weight room and bulk him up so he gets stronger. This will allow him to have the strength and ability to take on big forwards in the paint.
#4 Lock up Monta Ellis
Ellis has one more year on his contract and a player option for 2013. It is imperative the Bucks figure out a way to lock him down for the next few years if they want to be successful. Ellis currently has an average salary of $11,166,667 per year which means Milwaukee will have to pay at least that much in order to keep him around. However, he will probably require more than that as his offensive statistics rank in the top tier among NBA players.
#3 Bring in a true center
Milwaukee used Drew Gooden as their center for a majority of the season after Andrew Bogut went down with a season-ending ankle injury. Considering the Bucks traded away Bogut, they currently do not have a true center. Larry Sanders is the only player listed as a center on the team and he is not ready to start yet. Milwaukee could get away with Gooden continuing to play center but it would be much better if they had someone who is meant to play the position, can start games and can make a difference in the paint.
#2 Bring in a scorer
The Bucks brought in Ellis, who is a phenomenal offensive machine, but they still need another player that can score at will. Ellis plays as a shooting guard but would be better suited as a point guard. Whether it is a shooting guard or a center, Milwaukee desperately needs someone who can put up points while still converting a respectable percentage form the field. Brandon Jennings can score points but his shooting percentage is atrocious considering how many shots he takes per game. If the Bucks need to trade Jennings to acquire a scorer then so be it, as long as they are able to lock down Ellis.
#1 Re-sign Ersan Ilyasova
This is by far the No. 1 move the Bucks must make in the offseason to be successful. Ersan Ilyasova is a free agent and has already stated he is going to go wherever the most money is. The good thing for Milwaukee is their owner, Senator Herb Kohl, is loaded with money. Now he must spend it if he wants to keep a competitive team on the court. The Bucks have the capability of being an outstanding team if they keep the proven pieces together and add some key additions to the puzzle. Ilyasova is a big reason why Milwaukee was in a lot of their games last season and they must acknowledge that by signing him to a long-term deal.