Big Changes Happening on August 7, 2019.

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Bucks retooling roster after near Finals miss


The Associated Press Bucks’ Khris Middleton, right, shoots against Pistons’ Ish Smith during Game 2 of the team’s first-round playoff series April 17. Middleton agreed to a new five-year deal with the Bucks at the start of the free agency period.

The Associated Press Bucks’ Brook Lopez makes a 3-point basket against the Pistons during a regular season game Jan. 1. Lopez will return to Milwaukee on a new four-year deal.

The Milwaukee Bucks recently embarked upon one of their most important offseasons in recent memory, trying to find the missing pieces to help the team reach the NBA Finals after just falling short this past season.

The team’s most important piece, MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, is under contract with the Bucks until 2021 and has said he enjoys playing in Milwaukee. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t change his mind if the team isn’t making positive strides — which would be reaching, and hopefully winning, the Finals before his contract is up.

As one might expect, the Bucks decided to bring back most of their core players, doing so in the first few hours after the free agency period started Sunday.

All-Star Khris Middleton and the Bucks agreed to a five-year, $178 million deal, while Brook Lopez signed a four-year, $52 million deal. Both deals were reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Stadium and The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the Bucks also brought back George Hill on a three-year, $29 million deal.

Those three all served big roles for the Bucks during their run to the Eastern Conference Finals and will now be a part of the team’s foreseeable future.

A player who also played big minutes for Milwaukee but was not brought back was Malcolm Brogdon, who will instead play for the division rival Indiana Pacers next year.

Milwaukee had the ability to match the four-year, $85 million contract offered by the Pacers as Brogdon was a restricted free agent, but instead chose to trade him away for one first-round and two second-round draft picks. This deal was also reported by Wojnarowski.

The Bucks also lost Nikola Mirotic, who chose to take his talents overseas, and guard Tim Frazier, who signed with the Detroit Pistons, but Brogdon is clearly the biggest loss for the team.

The move didn’t make a ton of sense at the time, especially to the fans who prefer Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe, whom the team re-signed during the regular season.

The move to let Brogdon go was made much clearer when Wojnarowski announced that Milwaukee had signed former Marquette standout Wesley Matthews on Monday. The contract was for the veteran’s minimum.

Fans tend to latch on to the players who stick around for awhile, making Brogdon’s removal from the team heartbreaking.

But when you compare the stats between Brogdon and Matthews, you’ll quickly realize the Bucks got a player who does pretty much the exact same thing for a fraction of the price.

Over his three, injury-riddled seasons with the Bucks, Brogdon averaged 12.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 0.9 steals. In his 10 seasons in the league, Matthews has averaged 13.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals.

Brogdon is a slightly better 3-point shooter, connecting on 40.8 percent of those shots to Matthews’ 38.2.

Matthews, who could be in line to start or be the first guy off the bench, could turn into one of the NBA’s best free agency acquisitions by the end of the upcoming season.

In retaining Middleton and Lopez, the Bucks get back about 31 points per game and a pair of strong defenders.

If it seems like Middleton’s contract is for a good chunk of change, you’re right.

In fact, at the time his deal was reported, Middleton’s $178 million total was the third-largest ever, trailing only Russell Westbrook (five years, $206.8 million) and Stephen Curry (five years, $201.2 million). It was also the largest contract for a second-round pick in NBA history — both numbers were according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Middleton has been a solid source of scoring for the Bucks since joining the team in 2013. He expressed his interest in winning a title with Antetokounmpo and now he will have that opportunity.

Lopez turned into one of the biggest free agent additions from last summer’s crop of players. He set a record for most 3-pointers hit in a season by a center and quickly became a fan favorite.

He will now get the chance to reunite with his twin brother, Robin, after the Bucks reached an agreement with the big man late Sunday. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported the two-year deal.

While Robin won’t stretch the defense with his 3-point shooting ability like Brook does, the brothers, known as the Twin Towers during their time at Stanford, are both solid bigs who can help defend the paint.

While the free agency period is still young and the Bucks still could make a few moves to improve the roster, fans of the team should be excited for what is to come in Milwaukee. General manager Jon Horst won Executive of the Year for a reason, so leave the roster moves to him and don’t be too quick to judge a transaction like so many fans were with the sign-and-trade of Brogdon.

This column reflects roster moves through Tuesday.

Morgan Rode is the sports editor for the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@newmedia-wi.com.