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Caponomics: A Financial Guide to the Summer

UPDATE: We first published this about a month ago, but it's now been updated to reflect the past few weeks' activity.  Long story short: the Bucks do have some flexibility under the luxury tax (about $7.5 million if the threshold comes in at $71 million), but they're not out of the woods yet.  Pay close attention to where the final 09/10 cap figures are when they are released on Tuesday/Wednesday.  At $71 million the Bucks can probably re-sign Sessions (or someone else, like Josh Childress) for up to an MLE deal and get Ilyasova as well; at $69 million it becomes distinctively tougher to do both.

It's hard to speculate about the Bucks' summer plans without looking at their current cap situation, so to simplify things I've uploaded a file that you can view here...or just look below.  We'll place a permanent link to this page on the left under "Bucks Cap Info" and keep it updated from here on out.

Most of the information is just pulled from Sham Sports' excellent salary databse. Information on minimum salaries is from Larry Coon's incomparable CBA FAQ and the 2009 first rounder salary number I got by multiplying 120% times the rookie scale figure for that slot as listed at the NBA Players' Association website.

In the "default" scenario above I've zero'ed out both Ramon Sessions' and Ersan Ilyasova's cap figures so that you can see in blue at the bottom the amount of money available to sign them (and anyone else) without going over the tax.  However, there are some key assumptions that go into the number, namely:

1) The rookies get standard dealsBrandon Jennings' salary is based on the Bucks signing him to 120% of his scale number, which has effectively become the standard practice for first rounders.  For Jodie Meeks, I assumed the standard two year rookie minimum deal.  Teams can offer more than the minimum and use part of their MLE to sign second rounders, which is what the Bucks did last year in giving Luc Richard Mbah a Moute more money up front in exchange for a third year at the minimum.  That's looking like a very smart move at this point.

2) I assumed the tax comes in at $71 million, but it could definitely be lower.  While there were some fears that the luxury tax threshold could fall below $70 million, recent suggestions are that it should stay very close to the $71.15 million figure we had this year.  This is probably the most important variable in all of this, but we won't know where the level will be until the new cap numbers are announced in July.  The range of numbers that have been thrown around are anywhere from $68 to $71 million, and given the Bucks' situation that kind of swing is a big deal.  For instance, using the lower figure and the other assumptions I've outlined, the Bucks would essentially have zero space under the tax to sign any free agents.

4) Bruce Bowen gets cut while Kurt Thomas sticks around.  Bowen's $4.1 million deal is only 50% guaranteed if he's waived by August 1, so I assumed the Bucks take advantage of that and cut him loose.  It's possible he's traded or even kept for depth, but from the perspective of free agent flexibility, I thought it would be helpful to assume he's cut and only $2.05 million counts against the Bucks' cap.

Thomas' $3.8 million deal is guaranteed, but there's a distinct possibility he gets traded or even bought out for a smaller amount.  Thomas wouldn't have too much trouble latching on with a contender for a veteran minimum deal, which would be about $1.306 million.  So hypothetically he could get bought out and the Bucks could save around that amount on their cap number.  However, he certainly has value as a savvy vet who can defend both big spots, rebound at a high rate, and clean up garbage in the paint.  Considering the Bucks' depth up front, that would no doubt be of use, while also making him an appealing trade target.

5) Amir Johnson's trade kicker is $275k.  Sham ($4.217 million) and Storytellers ($3.947 million) have different salary figures for Johnson, apparently because of how much they're figuring for his trade kicker.  I'll go with the more conservative estimate for now, but that could change.