Outlook of Milwaukee Bucks’ 2019-20 roster heading into offseason
The Milwaukee Bucks’ run to the Eastern Conference finals was a season to remember. But now, the fun part is over and decisions need to be made. General manager Jon Horst, who made a couple of brilliant midseason moves to propel Milwaukee deep into the postseason, will be tasked with bringing in another cast of players to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo and repeat on the success in 2018-19. Decisions will need to be made on key players like Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic. Which players are candidates to be traded or cut to free up some cap space? And who will the Bucks likely retain in free agency? We break it all down below:
Signed past 2019-20
Giannis Antetokounmpo: Signed through 2020-21 and will be eligible for a supermax contract, but that’s an issue and story for another day. The bottom line is he’ll be on the roster next year, of course.
Eric Bledsoe: Inked a four-year, $70 million extension this past season, which runs his contract through 2022-23. So, yup, he’ll be around as well.
Ersan Ilyasova: He signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Bucks last July. The final year of the contract is not guaranteed. Milwaukee can’t cut him – well it could, but it’d have to pay $7 million in dead cap space, so that wouldn’t make much sense. If the team wants to create some cap space, perhaps they could find a willing partner, especially since Ilyasova could easily come off the books before the 2020-21 season and his contract, relatively speaking, isn’t that bad.
Signed for 2019-20 with options
Donte DiVincenzo: Milwaukee’s first-round pick last year will count just around $2.9 million under the cap (and if the Bucks cut him, they’d incur all of it in dead money). It seems likely they’d pick up his approximately $3 million third-year option for 2020-21 before the season. Either way, the 2018 top pick will be on the roster.
Tony Snell: Signed for the upcoming season at around $11.5 million and has a player option -- which he’d seem likely to exercise -- for 2020-21 at slightly over $12.3 million. Snell’s playing time dipped to 17.6 minutes this season and he appeared in just nine of 15 playoff games, averaging 3.1 minutes. Depending on other moves, Snell certainly could be a part of the Bucks’ rotation again next season. The easy thing to say is “trade him!” and clear up cap space. But would anyone want that contract? And if Milwaukee has to add a sweetener, i.e., a first-round pick, the Bucks own the No. 30 pick in this year’s draft, which is obviously not necessarily a great incentive to deal. If the Bucks had moved onto the NBA Finals (sorry!), this year’s pick actually would have gone to Phoenix. Instead, the Suns will get the Bucks’ 2020 first-rounder (protected 1-7, which seems highly unlikely), so that selection can’t be offered. Milwaukee also owes its 2021 first-round pick to Cleveland, but since a team can’t deal first-round picks in advance in back-to-back years, this would get pushed to 2022 (protected 1-10. Bottom line is Milwaukee has no first-round pick from 2020-22 to offer (although a future first-rounder could be conditional, moving it back to 2024. Got it?) The Bucks also have no second-round picks in 2019, 2020 or ’21. In other words, it won’t be easy.
D.J. Wilson: The Bucks picked up Wilson’s third-year option last October and he figures to be in the rotation in 2019-20. He’s relatively inexpensive with a salary just under $3 million next season. His fourth-year option, if picked up, jumps to slightly over $4.5 million.
Signed for 2019-20 only
Sterling Brown: Scheduled to make slightly over $1.6 million next season -- just roughly $250,000 more than he made this past year. However, his contract is not guaranteed, so the Bucks could cut him without incurring any dead cap money.
Pat Connaughton: Similar to Brown, Connaughton gets a slight pay boost next in 2019-20 – from $1.64 million to $1.72 million. But also like Brown, the salary is not guaranteed. If Milwaukee needs to clear any cap space, albeit relatively speaking not much, Connaughton and Brown are the easiest to come off the books.
Players with options
George Hill: Hill’s contract for 2019-20 is fully guaranteed for $18 million … unless he’s waived by July 2, in which case he gets a $1 million parting gift and becomes an unrestricted free agent. It’s hard to envision a scenario in which the Bucks don’t waive Hill. Maybe he returns on a veteran deal for less money, but with other pressing players -- and younger players at that (Hill turned 33 in May) -- you can see now why his (potentially) expiring contract was a reason he was acquired.
Khris Middleton: Middleton can exercise a player option in which he’d make $13 million next season or he can not do so and potentially get a max contract as an unrestricted free agent. Hmmmm … wonder what he’ll do.
Malcolm Brogdon: There’s a couple advantages for the Bucks with Brogdon. First, he’s a restricted free agent, meaning they could match any offer. Second, they have his Bird rights, which basically means they can go over their salary cap to sign him (there are some pitfalls with this as well, of course). With all the contracts Milwaukee needs to figure out, this one might be the most interesting.
Tim Frazier: Obviously Frazier won’t be a high priority. But if Milwaukee needs bodies, especially at point guard, he could be brought back on the cheap again (i.e. veteran’s minimum).
Pau Gasol: We hope you enjoyed all 30 minutes of Gasol’s Bucks career. He turns 39 in July. Gasol will be an unrestricted free agent and maybe there’s a team which wants him for his experience. Seems doubtful that team will be Milwaukee.
Brook Lopez: An unrestricted free agent after taking a massive pay cut to sign with the Bucks last offseason (from $22.6 million to $3.38 million). If Milwaukee wants Lopez back, based on the other moves the Bucks have to make, it’ll have to sign Lopez using its mid-level exception, which will be around $9.2 million, or, more likely, the taxpayer mid-level exception (which they’d use if they think they’ll approach the tax) at around $5.7 million. After the season he had, Lopez could find other suitors who will pay him a lot more.
Nikola Mirotic: Mirotic will be an unrestricted free agent, but the Bucks do own his Bird rights, again, meaning they could go over the cap to sign him. So, technically, Milwaukee could find a way to bring back Brogdon, Middleton and Mirotic (and maybe Hill and Lopez) … but in doing so, they’d be hitting the salary-cap tax. And if you do that two straight years, the punitive amount increases. Do the Bucks really want to get themselves in that situation? But how long will the championship window be open? And the team has very few draft picks upcoming. Of course, Mirotic didn’t even play in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, so this train of thought might be moot anyway.
Other cap hits
The Bucks have dead cap figures on Spencer Hawes ($2,007,058) for one more year and Larry Sanders ($1,865,546 each year) through 2021-22.