While the Toronto Raptors geared up in anticipation for the 2021 NBA Draft, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks won their first NBA championship since the days of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as their six-game victory over an impressive Suns team was capped with a Giannis masterpiece.
Giannis’ decision to sign a supermax contract in Milwaukee despite the fact he and Raptors president Masai Ujiri have some incredibly strong connections had to be a punch in the gut for this fanbase, but his prolific Finals run and first of what could be multiple championships validated the decision.
As brilliant as Giannis was, the Bucks didn’t win this title alone, as the likes of Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday played vital roles in helping Milwaukee sustain some broadsides from a very hungry Phoenix side. The NBA is a copycat league, meaning Toronto could take some lessons out of whiz-kid GM Jon Horst’s playbook.
Obviously “draft Giannis” isn’t a practical bit of advice considering what a special talent he has become. Despite that, the Raptors can take several important roster-building axioms away from the Bucks, and applying those lessons to this roster could accelerate the retool.
2 lessons the Toronto Raptors could learn from the Bucks
Lesson No. 1: Don’t be afraid to part with draft capital for a star.
The Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard deal shows that this franchise knows the benefits of staying aggressive on the trade market. Milwaukee was able to benefit from that aggression by adding Holiday in a deal that gave New Orleans two additional first-round picks and the right to swap picks.
That might’ve seemed like a huge offer upfront, but it ended up giving the Bucks an ideal tertiary gunner and master defender who helped slow down Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
The Raptors may be in possession of the No. 4 pick in the draft, but they won’t be in this range too often. They already have the hard parts of roster construction out of the way after drafting stars like Pascal Siakam, so parting with capital for that one X-factor shouldn’t scare an aggressive franchise.
Lesson No. 2: Prioritize veteran shooters with size in free agency.
Part of why Giannis and the Bucks were able to come back after being down 2-0 was the fact that they were a much bigger team than Phoenix. Deandre Ayton and the seldom-used Frank Kaminsky were the two traditional bigs they had, and a physical Milwaukee team beat them down to the point of exhaustion in Game 6.
Antetokounmpo is principally responsible, but stretch bigs like Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis were able to pull Phoenix’s bigs out of the paint and maneuver inside for easy finishes.
The Raptors already have one player that can dominate inside in Siakam, but they need to place a greater emphasis on that position if the Bucks’ style of play is the new meta in the NBA.
The Bucks will have the Giannis factor that might make this title run impossible to duplicate, but that doesn’t mean that the Raptors can’t take a look at that roster and figure out what they need to improve as far as how they are constructed.