The Bucks' No. 1 need this offseason - and it's not shooting

By Andrew Hanlon

The Milwaukee Bucks had an amazing season last year. They went from 15 wins and the worst record in the league to 41 wins and the sixth seed in the playoffs.
They fought back from down 3-0 in the first round against the Chicago Bulls to at least force a game six with two incredibly entertaining victories, including a buzzer-beater.

Unfortunately, what they did last year was easier than what comes next. It's one thing to go from a terrible team to a mediocre team. It's another thing completely, however, to go from a good team to a great one. 

Ask the Atlanta Hawks  - they have made the playoffs every year since the 2007-08 season without advancing to the Eastern Conference finals until now. They spent seven years trying to make the leap from decent team to contender, and some may argue they still haven't.
Or, ask the Clippers - they just beat the defending champions in an epic seven-game series and they can't even make this leap.

The Bucks aren't getting there now. Milwaukee is too young, too inexperienced and not talented enough. But there are a few things it can do to take at least another step forward. The Bucks need to improve within - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams and Milwaukees' young core needs to get better every offseason. They can start with some outside shooting.

A healthy Jabari Parker would help as well. Milwaukee will essentially be getting an extra draft pick this year with Parker returning from an ACL injury, and what amounted to a redshirt season for someone as talented as Parker might be a blessing in disguise for him.

The Bucks also need to keep Khris Middleton, because some team is going to sign the 23-year-old to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent. Milwaukee needs to match at all costs. With a core of players on rookie deals and the NBA's salary cap set to jump to possibly more than $100 million by 2017-18, money shouldn't be much of an issue for Milwaukee at this point.

And, as everyone knows, bringing in some more outside shooting will help an offense that lacks any perimeter firepower outside of Middleton, the only Buck to shoot more than 40 percent from three this past season. Some additional rebounding would help as well.

But the most important thing Milwaukee needs to do this offseason is to find a player who can create his own shot. According to NBA.com, the Bucks ranked 27th out of 30 teams in unassisted two-point field goal percentage, and 24th in unassisted three-point field goal percentage. That means that unless Milwaukee made a pass that lead to a shot, the Bucks probably were not scoring. 

Granted, the Bucks were also fifth in the league in assist percentage at 62.7 percent, which is a good thing. Teams who can move the ball well are finding success in the NBA now, thanks to the San Antonio model. But the Bucks were also 22nd in the league in scoring during the regular season and dead last in the playoffs, so there's clearly something missing, and that something is a player who can create his own shot when things break down. Giannis is still completely out of control at times off the dribble, Carter-Williams can't shoot so defenses sag off of him denying him the drive, Middleton isn't athletic or quick enough to beat most defenders one-on-one, and Milwaukee doesn't have a go-to scorer in the post.

Antetokounmpo's development and Parker's return should help in this department, but Milwaukee can't count on Giannis to lead an offense yet, and Parker is basically a rookie again coming off a major knee injury. Neither of the Bucks franchise players are ready to take control of an offense when it's needed at this point. Ideally, a player like Toronto's Lou Williams, who is a free agent this offseason, would become a priority for Milwaukee. Williams could be instant offense off the bench and would give the Bucks something they sorely need and completely lack right now — a player who can create his own offense.

The Bucks could also look to make a trade, offering up a young piece like John Henson or, better yet, Ersan Ilyasova, to a team like the Clippers for an albeit inefficient scorer like Jamal Crawford. But that kind of deal seems doubtful.

Or Milwaukee could look in another direction at someone who could offer the Bucks a consistent scorer in the post, someone they could dump the ball in to when the shot clock is running down or the offense gets stagnant. Marc Gasol isn't coming to Milwaukee, and there aren't really any pending free agent big guys who fit this bill (at least not good ones), so a trade may be the best possibility here. Or Milwaukee could look to the draft, but at No. 17, it won't be finding a scorer or a post presence who can contribute immediately.

Perhaps the best option is to stand pat and let the current core develop. That is certainly the best plan in the long term, anyway. Parker could become your go-to scorer in the post and/or your creator offensively. If Giannis and Carter-Williams can find a shot, that would loosen up defenses, allowing one of the two to drive to the basket and create their own shot.

Regardless, the Bucks No. 1 need this offseason is finding an offensive creator, whether they develop one or find one elsewhere. This should be No. 1 on John Hammond and Jason Kidd's list.

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