Ukic heading back to Europe, Bucks clear more salary

Good news: Roko Ukic has requested that the Bucks void his contract and allow him to sign with a European club, creating additional financial flexibility both this year and next.  That lets the Bucks off the hook for the remainder of Ukic's $1.35 million salary this year as well as the potential $1.45 million player option Ukic could have exercised this coming summer.  Sham Sports reports that Ukic will be joining Fenerbahce in Turkey.

Ukic hadn't played in eight games and had yet to crack the rotation, earning only sporadic time behind Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnour, who not coincidentally have each been healthy for all 31 games.  Ukic's only real contribution as a Buck came against Toronto on December 9, when he scored 17 points in 25 minutes to help clobber his former team.  But after a six minute cameo three days later against Portland, it was curtains on Ukic's career as a Buck--he hadn't played since. 

The Bucks' similarly waived Lynn Greer in the summer of 2007, clearing the way for Greer to sign a more lucrative contract and substantial playing time with Olympiakos.  Ukic was a star in Europe before signing with Toronto in the summer of 2008, having spent time with FC Barcelona (Ersan Ilyasova's former team) and Lottomatica Roma (Brandon Jennings' old club), so don't expect his bank account to be hurting in Turkey.

 

As for the Bucks' rotation, not much changes.  Charlie Bell officially becomes the Bucks' third string PG, but it's not an unfamiliar position.  With Ukic inactive on most nights this season, he's effectively been the Bucks' emergency PG most of the year.  His actual time there has been limited however, the most obvious exception coming against Washington a couple weeks ago, when foul trouble (and Gilbert Arenas' physicality) earned both Jennings and Ridnour early trips to the pine.  Bell of course had more experience playing PG under Terry Stotts, and even managed a triple double in a rare start against the Suns in the 05/06 season.  While having Ukic as injury insurance was a nice luxury, it wasn't really necessary to carry three PGs in addition to Bell.

I'm not sure anyone is surprised that Ukic failed to make an impact, but his departure--and Carlos Delfino's current disappearance into Scott Skiles' doghouse--reiterates the general lack of enthusiasm most had for the trade that brought the pair to Milwaukee in exchange for Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems.  No one involved is having a monster season, but as of now the Raptors are clearly getting more value for their money.  I especially wouldn't mind having a bigger, more physical PF like Johnson in the Bucks' frontcourt rotation, and I haven't even mentioned the possibility that the Bucks could have cut Weems and possibly brought back Ramon Sessions for additional backcourt depth this summer.  With Brandon Jennings around I'm not losing much sleep about Sessions' departure anymore, but assets are assets, right? 

The positive cap ramifications of Ukic's departure are twofold.  For one, the Bucks now have an open roster spot, giving them added flexibility to take on an extra body should they want to make a trade, and wiping the rest of Ukic's 09/10 salary off the books will give them over $2 million of breathing room under this year's luxury tax.  It's not hugely useful, but it gives the Bucks extra room in case they are able to make any big trades that add salary this year. 

As for next summer, the Bucks now have just over $50 million committed to nine players for 10/11, a figure that includes Redd's player option and the partially guaranteed amount owed to Delfino and Luc Mbah a Moute.  That won't be enough to afford them real cap space unless they somehow deal Redd for expiring contracts, but it should give them enough room to sign their draft picks and use their full MLE--even if the tax declines by $5-7 million (it's currently at $69.92 million).

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