The Milwaukee Bucks are the reigning NBA Champions, but their 2021-22 title defense has been an up-and-down affair as different players float in and out of the roster with injuries. Still, the team remains in solid position, just 2.5 games back of the first-place Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings.
Bucks general manager Jon Horst has proven more than willing to make upgrades when needed. So far, in the nine days since the trade deadline, he’s already added big man Serge Ibaka and wing De’Andre Bembry.
Goran Dragic was the hottest name on the buyout market long before he was even available on said market. Now, it appears Horst is hot on the 35-year-old’s trail in what would be a desperately-needed upgrade in the depleted Milwaukee backcourt.
The Milwaukee Bucks are in search of even more roster depth
Going into the trade deadline, the Bucks’ most significant need was another player in the frontcourt. Wing depth wasn’t a necessity but would have been nice to add, and upgrading the backup point guard spot was also on the to-do list.
The first issue was solved in a four-team trade that brought in Ibaka. Brook Lopez, Milwaukee’s regular starter at center and a crucial part of its success the last three seasons, had back surgery following the first game of the year and hasn’t returned.
Ibaka’s ability to space the floor and play drop coverage defensively is almost a like-for-like with Brook. He now becomes an interchangeable part of a rotation that consisted of just Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis.
Then Horst signed veteran De’Andre Bembry after the Brooklyn Nets were forced to clear a roster spot in order to complete the Ben Simmons-James Harden trade. Bembry is a versatile 6-foot-5, fifth-year vet who doesn’t demand the ball and is shooting a career-high from three this season.
That only leaves the reserve guard. This year, George Hill has been Jrue Holiday’s primary backup, but he’s been hurt since the end of January and hasn’t been productive even when healthy.
Donte DiVincenzo went out in the Ibaka trade, and the very next night, Pat Connaughton injured his right hand. He’s since had surgery and is expected to be out until mid-March at the earliest.
Signing Dragic would immediately solve those backcourt problems.
Goran Dragic would be a serious upgrade if the latest buyout market rumors are true
The 35-year-old was expected to be bought out and available for the stretch run for contending teams. After a trade to the San Antonio Spurs, that became official.
It was long-assumed the Slovenian would join Luka Doncic in the Dallas Mavericks‘ backcourt, but it appears Dragic’s market is more robust than initially believed. He’s now taking his time to see how his market develops before making a decision, but the Mavs seem to be on the outside looking in at this point.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Milwaukee is going hard after the former Miami guard:
“(Dragic is) spending this week talking with teams about where he might like to sign and foremost on that list: the Milwaukee Bucks, who have great need in the backcourt.
“They traded Donte DiVincenzo in the deal with the [Sacramento] Kings, they lost Pat Connaughton to an injury for about a month, and so they need guard depth.
“There’s an opportunity for Goran Dragic to come in, play some meaningful minutes for the Bucks, and certainly have a chance to have a run in the playoffs.”
Woj does, however, go on to list the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Nets, and LA Lakers as other possible destinations.
He’s not wrong, though, in saying the Bucks could give Dragic the best combination of playing time and a chance at a championship.
Having already brought in Ibaka and Bembry, adding Dragic could complete the Bucks’ playoff rotation
Ibaka can now slot in with Giannis and Portis, and if Lopez comes back, gives Milwaukee a legitimate four-person rotation up front.
Bembry provides depth behind Khris Middleton, Grayson Allen, Wes Matthews, and — if head coach Mike Budeholzer trusts him in the playoffs, Jordan Nwora. That’s another 4-5 possible guard/wing rotation players.
Dragic would immediately become Bud’s main backup point guard behind Holiday, and the 13-year veteran would be in line for meaningful postseason minutes, likely as one of the first two or three options off the bench.
The 6-3 floor general provides depth and experience where the team needs it most, and Milwaukee would give him a critical role in a title chase.
A Dragic-Bucks partnership is ideal for both parties.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com.