Bucks free agency preview: Middleton, Dudley and big man on wish list

The Bucks hope to bring back guard Khris Middleton, a restricted free agent, and forward Jared Dudley, who has a player option, next season.

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ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — By taking Rashad Vaughn in the first round of the NBA Draft and trading for Greivis Vasquez, the Milwaukee Bucks addressed one of their biggest needs — perimeter shooting.

The next step in the offseason is free agency, which begins at the stroke of midnight Wednesday.

The direction in which the Bucks went in the draft confirmed the notion that Milwaukee’s top priority in free agency, outside of re-signing Khris Middleton, will be adding a big man to the roster.

"Something like that," Bucks general manager John Hammond said. "Some kind of big player — maybe another center or a power forward. Something on the frontline is probably our top goal or objective going into free agency."

Here’s a list of things the Bucks have left to accomplish this offseason:

Is Dudley in or out?

Dudley has until Tuesday to decide whether he will exercise his $4.25 million player option for the 2015-16 season.

The Bucks would welcome the 29-year-old back to a bench role, but it is unclear what type of contract Dudley is looking for. He may decline the player option in order to seek a multi-year deal.

Dudley would like to return to Milwaukee, but the price would have to be right for it to make sense for the Bucks.

"Jared was great for our team, appreciate everything that he’s done," Hammond said. "And it’s his decision to make, and we’re going to be pleased if he’s back here and we’ll support him with every decision he makes, of course."

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The Bucks also have to decide on Caron Butler’s $4.5 million team option for next season by Tuesday. Unless it finds a taker in a trade, Milwaukee is expected to decline the option in order to add to its cap space.

How much for Middleton?

All signs point to the Bucks acting swiftly to lock up Middleton.

Middleton is a restricted free agent, which means the Bucks have the right to match if he signs an offer sheet with another club.

"We appreciate what Khris has done for us," Hammond said. "He was an important part of our organization and we hope to have him back in the future."

The big question is how much it will cost Milwaukee to keep Middleton in the fold as a key piece. Will it be closer to $10 million per year? Or will one team try to force the Bucks to make a tough decision by offering somewhere in the range of $15 million per season?

Those questions should be answered in the next couple of weeks, as both Middleton and the Bucks have expressed their interest in moving quickly once free agency opens Wednesday.

Hammond indicated the decision to draft a shooter like Vaughn has no impact on the team’s thought process on Middleton. Instead, Vaughn could take some pressure off Middleton if he becomes a 3-point shooting threat early in his career.

Adding a big

The Bucks have been linked to a few free-agent centers, including Brook Lopez, Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe and Enes Kanter.


Lopez, who recently opted out of the final year of his contract with the Nets, played for Bucks coach Jason Kidd in Brooklyn during the 2013-14 season. FOX Sports 1 NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported Lopez is seeking a three year, $60 million maximum contract extension from the Nets.

When healthy, Lopez is one of the top offensive centers in the league. The 27-year-old averaged 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds in 72 games with Brooklyn last season.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Bucks will be one of four teams Jordan meets with once free agency begins on Wednesday. The newspaper also reported a rift between Jordan and point guard Chris Paul could lead to the defensive stalwart’s departure from the Clippers.

Jordan, who averaged 11.5 points, 15.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game for the Clippers in 2014-15, would be a gigantic splash for the Bucks. However, the odds of Jordan signing with Milwaukee are slim.

While Jordan is likely to be returning to the Clippers, Monroe is definitely not re-signing with the Detroit Pistons.

Monroe told the Baton Rouge Advocate that he will meet with the Bucks, Celtics, Knicks, Lakers and Trail Blazers next week. Just 25 years old, Monroe averaged 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds last season.

A more realistic option for the Bucks is Chandler. The 14-year veteran averaged 10.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 75 games with the Dallas Mavericks in 2014-15.

The Fort-Worth Star Telegram reported Chandler is aware of Milwaukee’s interest and called it "humbling" that Kidd thinks highly enough of him to pursue adding him to the Bucks.

Chandler and Kidd won an NBA Championship together with Dallas in 2011 and were teammates again with New York during the 2012-13 season.

"Looking at our roster overall with the youth that we have, maybe in free agency we can get more of a veteran piece, whatever that may be — veteran size, veteran shooter, veteran physicality," Hammond said. "Free agency is tough. We do have significant cap room, but it is a two-way street. No matter how much we like a guy, the guy has to like us back. He has to want to be here."

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Unclutter the backcourt

As of Tuesday, the Bucks have seven guards on their roster, and that doesn’t include Middleton or Dudley.

Michael Carter-Williams is expected to enter the season as the starting point guard. That leaves Vasquez, Jerryd Bayless, Tyler Ennis and Jorge Gutierrez as backup options. Vasquez and Bayless are combo guards, but Milwaukee has O.J. Mayo and Vaughn capable of potentially playing shooting guard behind Middleton. If he returns, Dudley could also see time at guard.

Bayless ($3 million) and Mayo ($8 million) are entering the final year of their current contracts, which could make them attractive to teams on the trade market. Gutierrez has a non-guaranteed contract and faces an uphill climb to make the roster.

The additions of Vaughn and Vasquez indicate the Bucks will make additional moves to their backcourt at some point between now and the start of training camp in October.

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