Note: People often try to use Hoopshype or other sites to estimate cap/tax space, but I'd strongly recommend against it, especially given all the moves the Bucks have made, the inclusion of non-guaranteed deals, and general sluggishness in updating their info. Sham Sports is the best of the salary sites in my opinion, but even that includes qualifying offers (which can obscure actual salaries), doesn't have Jodie Meeks included, and has Amir Johnson's trade kicker incorrectly doubled.
With all the wheeling and dealing of the last 24 hours, it seemed a good time to show the most up-to-date numbers on the Bucks' cap situation. While all the Bucks' expiring deals will make John Hammond a popular guy among NBA GMs, the Hakim Warrick signing means that the Bucks appear close to having a complete roster to start the season. The only other obvious issue needing resolution is Ramon Sessions' future.
Sessions watch. The Bucks presently have about $2.3 million in cash available to them under the tax, which means a Sessions offer sheet with a starting salary above that figure puts them over the tax threshold. While I have zero expectation that they'd pay the tax to keep Sessions, they could free up more room over the course of the season to get back under the tax. So it's not completely inconceivable they could still match a modest offer sheet for Sessions.
Either way, I'm bracing for Sessions' departure. On the one hand it's disappointing because I have little doubt that Sessions would put up great numbers in New York next year, and there's also no guarantee that Brandon Jennings ends up being a great player, much less better than Sessions. In that sense, I'd argue that diversifying the Bucks' risk (let's call it "young point guard development risk") by keeping both guys is the most prudent move--especially given Sessions isn't going to get a monster deal. But it's also no secret that the Bucks have never been crazy about Sessions, and they're probably also wary of the potential awkwardness of having both Sessions and Jennings fighting for time.
Roster spots. The table below has 14 roster spots because I am assuming Walter Sharpe and Sonny Weems are eventually waived. Weems' deal is only partially guaranteed before mid-month, so waiving him seems like an obvious move. Sharpe meanwhile is out for the year (ACL) and his contract is expiring anyway. Since his deal is guaranteed, the Bucks don't have to cut him loose until they need an extra roster spot, and if they don't need that spot then he could be used down the road as a throw-in to make a bigger trade work.
- Kurt Thomas. Thomas represents the last obvious trump card the Bucks could play in terms of freeing up more space under the tax. Thomas is owed $3.8 million but the Bucks should be able to buy him out for no more than $2.5 million if they choose. That's because as a veteran with more than 10 seasons under his belt, Thomas' minimum salary is $1.3 million, so if he's cut by the Bucks and signed for the minimum elsewhere he'd still get his full 09/10 salary. Considering he'd no doubt prefer to be on a contender, he might even accept a buyout at less than $2.5 million, and if he got more than the minimum that would also reduce the Bucks' obligation.
2010 and 2011. I know people will be frustrated by the idea of dumping Jefferson and then not keeping either Villanueva or Sessions, but there's a bit more to it than that. Ilyasova, Warrick and Johnson were all low-risk pickups made possible by the RJ trade and I'd expect the Bucks' PF position will actually be improved this year compared to last year. Moreover, the Bucks should have no issues staying under the tax next year--they're currently at about $13 million under a $65 million tax projection--which would have been a major problem with Jefferson's $15.2 million deal on the books in 10/11. Using their full MLE would at least be an option, as would re-signing someone like Amir Johnson (if he pans out).
The Bucks could open up a big chunk of cap space next summer if they were to deal Michael Redd for expirings, but at the very least they're still on pace to have a boatload of space in the summer of 2011. Of course, the chance to sign free agents in two years doesn't exactly make watching your team any more fun in the intervening time. And the odds of getting a top tier free agent are always low. But the Bucks would also have the ability to acquire more money than they send out, which could be used to acquire a disgruntled star already under contract. At the very least they can be adding salary rather than jumping through hoops to stay under the tax.