On a day dominated by the Chris Paul controversy and the Knicks' curious Tyson Chandler signing, the Bucks quietly took two major steps towards completing their 11/12 roster by adding former Indiana swingman Mike Dunleavy while offloading surplus point guard Keyon Dooling and a conditional second round pick to Boston. So what does it all mean for the Bucks' roster and cap situation?
As we detailed yesterday, one of the key questions facing the Bucks has been how they could create enough roster spots to accommodate all the players they seem interested in retaining. While there have been strong indications that the Bucks would like to re-sign Luc Mbah a Moute and keep former second round picks Darington Hobson and Jon Leuer, Milwaukee also remains in need of a backup center and was short on wing shooters just a day before camp and free agency were set to open on Friday. Dunleavy fills the latter hole and figures to challenge Carlos Delfino for the starting small forward position, and all at a rather reasonable, low-risk price of $7.5 million over two years. He also provides cover in the event that Luc Mbah a Moute signs an offer sheet outside of the Bucks' comfort zone. I won't go so far as to say the Dunleavy move precludes Luc's return, but it certainly doesn't help.
Meanwhile, the Dooling deal eases the Bucks' logjam at point guard while allowing Milwaukee to shed Dooling's modest-but-unwanted salary of $2.25 million. Viewed together, the Dunleavy and Dooling deals basically saw the Bucks turn their least desirable point guard into a useful, high IQ perimeter threat, all for the price of a conditional second rounder (will see what that ends up meaning), around $1.5 million in additional 11/12 salary and around $3.75 million next year. It's not a home run move, but that's OK. There's little financial risk and the Bucks are certainly a better, more balanced roster now than they were 12 hours ago.
Dunleavy may never recapture the breakout form of his 07/08 season, but the 31-year-old has shown he can be a high-efficiency shooter (59.3% true shooting, 40.3% from three last year) while doing a little bit of everything else in both starting and bench roles. The 6'9" veteran led Indiana in net +/- a year ago (+6.2) as the Pacers were better offensively and defensively when Dunleavy was on the court. On the downside, knee injuries have limited his effectiveness in recent years and he won't make the Bucks any more athletic, but his numbers rebounded somewhat last year and the Bucks will hope he can deliver more of the same.
Looking at the Bucks' updated cap situation below, there's still a reasonable amount of flexibility with which to round out the roster. While it was initially reported that Dunleavy's deal would take up part of the Bucks' MLE, the more cap-effective approach would appear to be to renounce the MLE and use cap space to sign Dunleavy. Before the two moves, Milwaukee had around $4.2 million in cap space if they renounced the $5 million MLE, but by renouncing the MLE they would also gain access to the new $2.5 million exception given to teams with cap space.
Dealing Dooling shaved an additional $2.25 million off the Bucks' payroll, which makes the benefit of using cap space even more obvious. Consider: by using the MLE to sign Dunleavy, Milwaukee would only have around $1.25 million to spend on outside free agents (note that Mbah a Moute can always be signed using the Early Bird Exception while min players such as Leuer/Hobson can be signed regardless of the cap). By trading Dooling, the Bucks would increase their cap space to around $6.4 million before factoring in the Dunleavy move, which in turn would leave around $2.7 million plus the aforementioned $2.5 million cap exception after signing Dunleavy. Those two exceptions can't be combined, but it does afford the Bucks greater flexibility in the event they want to sign Joel Przybilla or some other backup big man.
The Bucks also continue to stockpile fairly modest, short-term deals that could also come in handy should they want to make a larger trade down the road. Though the Bucks' cap number is still projected over $50 million next year as well, a significant chunk of that will be in the form of expiring contracts.