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Milwaukee Bucks general manager Jon Horst met with the media for the first time since the team was eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston, and he covered a wide range of topics, including the upcoming NBA draft on June 23, free agency, key player injuries and the build back up to another run at a championship.
Here are five key highlights from Horst’s nearly 30-minute session Friday afternoon (Note: Answers lightly edited for clarity).
1. Injury updates on Grayson Allen, George Hill and Khris Middleton:
What injury did Grayson Allen suffer?
“There was a little instability in his left ring finger, dealt with it throughout the season. I think a lot of times guys do maintenance-type stuff, routine-type stuff in the offseason to get ready. So, it was good for him to approach it in the offseason. He'll be fine. There's no lasting effects of it. There was a little procedure to stabilize the left ring finger.”
George Hill said a tear between his T6 and T7 vertebrae would need to be addressed this offseason – has it been?
“It's occurred. It's addressed. Those things you can deal with in different ways, sometimes they're operations, sometimes they're not. Sometimes, it's just rest, therapy. It's being addressed.”
Did he have to have any procedures on his oblique?
So that was an injury that could heal with rest?
"Yeah. It's good."
How is Khris Middleton?
"He's great. He's been here a ton. He's actually been in town most of the time. Looks great. Really starting to ramp up his court work and his lifting and everything. He's fine. There's no lasting effects of the injury and he's in a really great spot."
2. What have you learned about the draft process of evaluating players who can contribute immediately vs. a high upside?
"So, during my time as GM, I think we've made two first-round picks. So, what I have learned about it? I think you want to maximize the value of the asset. That asset for us, chopping it up in different ways, has become P.J. Tucker, has become Grayson Allen, other draft picks becoming Niko Mirotić, Donte (DiVincenzo), who relative to his draft (position) had a really big impact over his three-and-a-half years with us as an impact player.
“I think that you can maximize the value of that asset relative to the need on your team in different ways. It can be trading it outright for something that can help you, attaching it for something that can help you, or drafting a player that’s ready now and can grow with you. It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t draft a player that can’t really contribute now and really has a big-time horizon and big upside. That’s something we’ll always look at. But I think those other options, in the past, have been more attractive to us and I think we’ve gotten great benefit out of it and I think we’ll continue to focus on those.
“That’s really what’s going right now this time of year is you’re just trying to generate as many of those options as you can to evaluate and hopefully make a good decision.”
3. Looking back, how do you evaluate the Serge Ibaka trade?
“I would say how it played out all the way through the end of the playoffs without any background context or behind-the-scenes knowledge you’ll never get — we were down a wing and we were plus a big. So, we traded a wing for a big, so probably not great, right? When it happened, we absolutely needed Serge to come in and bridge the gap. So beyond the insurance part of Brook (Lopez), we needed immediate help and someone to come in. That’s where we felt we were at that point in the season.
"And Serge did a great job. Serge really came in and helped bridge that gap for us in a big way. Beyond that, he was an incredible professional. He is a very good player that was ready. He was ready for every game in the playoffs, he was ready for every game in the regular season that he was with us. So, Serge himself I thought was a great add.
"The need itself didn’t become as big as it could have or that we worried that it could have, and so that’s why we got the insurance on him. And at the end of the day, we traded Donte, who would’ve been a restricted free agent, for some future assets that I think we’ll be able to use and hopefully repurpose and do something that can continue to help this team going forward.
“But obviously how it played out, being down a wing and up a big, not the greatest. But, totally convinced and convicted on why we did it, how we did it, and I’m actually really happy with the outcome and I think it got us to the position we were.”
4. Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo may play for the Greek national team in the Eurobasket tournament. What is the thought process there for the organization for players who play for their country?
“We’ve had a lot of guys over the years play for their national team, which is a credit to the people on our team. It’s an incredible honor for those guys. We know what it means to them. I think it’s great for us. It’s really reflective on the type of players that we have.
“I think they’re big decisions. Not only is the decision big, but how you manage it and how you operate is big. So we continue to have those conversations. We figure out the best path forward, how to support, how to make the decision. We haven’t done a lot of that yet. We’re pretty focused on free agency and the draft. But at the right time we’ll all sit together collectively and we’ll figure out not only the right decision, the great decision, but also how we also kind of resource it and support it.
"I think we do that as well as anybody in the NBA. I think we have a lot of opportunities to help these guys.”
5. What is your top priority this offseason — something you want to make sure gets done?
“Manage the draft on Thursday and be ready for free agency when it opens up. No, but (the) top priority — it’s general but it’s true — our job is to continue to generate options and evaluate them to try to get better. I believe we’ve built a team that’s really been successful over the last few years and we’ve had a chance each year, in my mind, to win a championship. And we’ve won one once, right? So that’s a pretty good outcome. But our goal is to keep pushing the envelope, figure out how to get better.
“We believe in our core, grow and develop internally, grow and develop internally from a coaching perspective, from a front-office perspective and continue to look for ways to get better with the group that we have but figure out options to get better and improve the group.
"And so, my priority is to as soon as I leave here and go back up (to the office) and keep pushing the guys and figure out how to get better — what are the options, what are the things that we can do, what are the things no one else is thinking of? That’s the goal, is to keep doing that and hopefully by the time we open up for the ‘22-23 season, we’ll feel like we got better.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bucks' GM Jon Horst talks Khris Middleton injury, 2022 NBA draft