Dealing with the pain of no Bucks basketball for several months
Eugene Choursoutoglou explores his thought process on who bears responsibility for Milwaukee's playoff disaster and how rocky the road is from here.
Editor’s note: The following article was written by Eugene Choursoutoglou, Gyro Step assistant producer and frequent contributor to the GSPN Substack. Follow Eugene on Twitter for more Bucks coverage during this pivotal offseason!
It’s my first time writing since the Milwaukee Bucks embarrassingly lost to the Miami Heat in 5 games in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs. This is not news obviously, but I mainly write it for me to read it. It helps me realize what happened. The Milwaukee Bucks almost got swept by the Miami Heat, in the first round of the Playoffs. In the year 2023. After one of their best regular seasons under coach Mike Budenholzer. Well, this is not something I expected to read, write, or think before the playoffs started but here we are!
It’s been almost a month since the Bucks got thrown out of the playoffs and there are still many questions among the fan base. Who was at fault? Was it coaching? Was it the players? Was it the front office? Was it everyone involved? Based on the front office reaction, coach Budenholzer had a big share of the fault. His sacking means he is no longer the coach after 5 years, and the Bucks fans will no longer have to worry about “playing random.”
Coach Bud was great. His time with the Milwaukee Bucks helped elevate the franchise into the next level and his contributions to Giannis’ evolution were crucial. Budenholzer is a Bucks legend and there is nothing that can erase his greatness. He completely transformed the team and he achieved what he was asked to do before he arrived; win a championship. In 2021, the Milwaukee Bucks became champions again after 50 years and he played a HUGE part in that unique achievement.
I’m yet to decide whether he was the main person responsible for this year’s failure. Yes, he wasn’t perfect. Yes, he failed to make quick adjustments. But he wasn’t the only problem. I understand the decision behind his sacking, as this year was a massive failure for the organization. He did have a big part of the blame, but in my eyes, what happened to the Bucks in the first round was much more complicated than just coaching.
Players have a huge part of the blame as well. Milwaukee’s roster proved insufficient, once again. Players that we thought were going to be pillars in the postseason completely vanished while some others were just disappointing. For me personally, Jrue Holiday was the biggest disappointment. He recorded a stat line of 17.8 points, 8.0 assists, and 6.6 rebounds, which in theory doesn’t seem bad. But in reality, he was nowhere near the guy we saw all season long or the seasons before. His poor shooting, his questionable shot selection, and his below average – for his standards – defense were just some of the things that made me question at times whether this was a 14-year veteran or a rookie. I love Jrue, but mentally he was never there in this series. And that’s why he’s now on a lot of Bucks fans’ trade machines.
This year’s failure is significant for another season as well. The Milwaukee Bucks will now have to take major decisions regarding the future of the team. We all expected it to happen at some point, but it came earlier than we anticipated. They now have a very old squad, some big contracts, Giannis Antetokounmpo in his prime, one first round pick that can be traded, and minimal assets in general. Giannis is 28 years old. He has officially entered his prime and the front office needs to make sure that he continues to get the help he needs and deserves around him. Under these conditions though, it’s not very easy.
I mentioned the front office and the blame it might have for the disappointing season. Jon Horst is the head of the organization and he for sure holds a big part of the blame. The paradox with him is the fact that he made all the moves we wished for. But as I mentioned before, the team proved to be insufficient. Under these circumstances we can’t help but assume that he has some big part of the blame as well. When the team wins, everyone wins, but when the team loses, everyone is at fault.
Horst is a great general manager. I trust him to be the one who manages this difficult offseason. Between finding a new coach and creating a contender with minimal assets to work with, he has a very difficult task. In Greece we have a saying that goes a little bit like this: “Good captains show their true value in rough seas.” He is the captain now and the Bucks are in very rough seas. He will either save the boat, or he will go down with it.
I don’t think I have enough words to describe the significance of this offseason for the Bucks. It’s going to be a very difficult summer. First in line has to be the new coach. The Bucks have been linked with many coaches already. Some are interesting cases and some *cough* Mark Jackson *cough* are just ridiculous. Thankfully as today’s podcast outlines, he did not make the top three candidates the Bucks are deciding from.
I’m normally an optimistic person when it comes to life and sports, but I have a message for the pessimists among us. Guys, I don’t have something to soothe your concerns. It’s going to be a wild ride. You have every reason to be worried about the future of the team, but I know Horst is going to do his best to create a competitive team. It also helps that we have Giannis Antetokounmpo with us!
Watching the playoffs unfold, I’ve got to give my respect to the Miami Heat. What they are doing without Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo is worth admiring. Maybe the Bucks should take some notes on performing consistently in the big stage. Either way, the following days and weeks are going to be very annoying, as seeing the playoffs without the Bucks in them is just depressing. The future is at stake for the Milwaukee Bucks in this offseason. We need to be patient. We need to trust.