The Milwaukee Bucks are a young team with a bright future.
Just because you have all the potential in the world doesn't mean you can just sit back and wait for the plan to unfold on its own, however. The Bucks need a plan to go from promising squad on the rise to a true competitor with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now that Milwaukee's playoff run has come to an end at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, here are four steps to help the Bucks take the next step.
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Don't rush back Jabari Parker
Parker's initial prognosis following another major knee injury calls for him to be out until the 2018 All-Star break.
There's absolutely no reason for him to come back any sooner than that, even if doctors clear him. Parker would be better off continuing to practice, building confidence in his knee before he takes the court at full game speed.
The Bucks also have a slightly nefarious reason to sit Parker for most, if not all, of the 2017-18 season. His absence could drive down his asking price as a restricted free agent in the summer of 2018.
Hoping to land Parker for a below-market deal because of his injury might seem crass, but that kind of discount on Stephen Curry and his ankles helped turn the Golden State Warriors into an NBA behemoth.
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Have Giannis Antetokounmpo add the final piece of his game
The Greek Freak could learn a lot from Jason Kidd.
The Bucks coach and former NBA champion was one of the few players in recent history to improve significantly as a 3-point shooter — which is the one facet still missing from Antetokounmpo's game.
The scary part? We don't think that kind of growth is out of the question for the Greek Freak. He's done everything else he's been asked to do so far, so why not add a 3-point shot to the repertoire and terrify the rest of the NBA?
Use the D-League to unleash Thon Maker
Although Maker played much better on the main roster than anyone could have expected, that wasn't the original plan.
Ideally, the Bucks would have had Maker destroying people in the D-League (well, the G-League starting next season), but they didn't have a local affiliate to develop their prized rookie project. That changes for 2017-18, when the franchise opens its direct D-League affiliate in Oshkosh, Wisc.
Milwaukee has a golden opportunity here. The Bucks can build their D-League affiliate to maximize Maker's potential — and they should. The D-League coaching staff needs to be on the same page as the Bucks' staff, allowing the team to send Maker back and forth between the two organizations without missing a step.
Because if the Bucks can turn Maker into an All-Star rim-protector and 3-point shooter, they'll have the rarest of NBA talents.
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Add a secondary playmaker to help out Giannis
The Bucks don't have a ton to spend in free agency, especially if we assume they'll bring back Tony Snell. In fact, Milwaukee might get just one shot at landing the right player.
So instead of chasing the big-name free agents, the Bucks should target specific players like George Hill. The Utah Jazz point guard would be a clear upgrade on Matthew Dellavedova and fit perfectly next to Antetokounmpo as a secondary creator and defensive-minded point guard.
Other potential Milwaukee free-agency targets should include J.J. Redick, who can create off the bounce while giving the Bucks a much-needed shooter, or the pugnacious P.J. Tucker, whom Milwaukee knows all too well after that Toronto series.