Following up on an initial report from ESPN's Marc Stein on late Tuesday night, Charles Gardner reports that the Milwaukee Bucks and free agent combo guard Jerryd Bayless are close to an agreement that would pay him between a total of $6-7 million over the next two seasons. Gardner reports that the deal would not include any player or team options.
The dollar figure cited by the Journal-Sentinel suggests that the deal would reduce Milwaukee's max projected cap space to around $9 million, down from the $12 million the Bucks have had since officially signing Jabari Parker last week. Had the starting salary of Bayless' deal been for $2.7 million or less, the Bucks could have made other deals leveraging the full $12 million--such as an offer sheet for restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe--and then still signed Bayless afterwards using either remaining cap space (if they didn't use it up) or the league's cap room mid-level exception (if they did spend it all). Note that the room exception is only available to teams that renounce their mid-level exception and bi-annual exceptions in order to use cap space.
So the Bayless deal certainly doesn't preclude the Bucks from making more moves, though for now it would seem to rule out a straight-up offer sheet for Bledsoe. The Bucks could have offered Bledsoe a four year deal worth up to $51.8 million before the Bayless signing, though Phoenix would have almost certainly matched a deal of even that size. Could the Bucks still pursue a sign-and-trade deal for the 24-year-old point guard? Sure, though having less cap space won't improve their leverage or flexibility. And that's my main complaint about this deal; the Bucks presumably sorted through Bledsoe scenarios before finalizing a deal with Bayless, but it still would have been nice to get Bayless for a little bit less while retaining additional cap flexibility for the next few weeks. It probably wouldn't have gotten them anything--Bledsoe has always been a long shot at best--but you never know.
On the court, Bayless is a capable combo guard off the bench but not much more. He's a competent three point shooter (35.3% career), though his improved marksmanship in recent years has also coincidedwith a tumbling free throw rate. That's probably a result of playing more off the ball and generally having less freedom to attack defenses, though at the age of 25 he could certainly still have a rebound year left in him. All told, his shooting efficiency has tanked from a career-best 56.1% true shooting in 11/12 with Toronto to below-average marks of 51.4% and 49.8% the past two seasons, and along with it his catch-all metrics have similarly declined. A career-best 18.0 PER and .139 WS/48 in Toronto has dipped to pedestrian 12.0 and .069 a year ago, while ESPN's RPM data show him 56th overall among 84 point guards with a -2.68 real-plus minus. Interestingly, he rated positively offensively (+0.84) but a major negative defensively (-3.68). Overall those numbers put him slightly ahead of Brandon Knight (-3.18), slightly worse than Ramon Sessions (-2.08) and well below Nate Wolters (+0.03).
So while Bayless' ability to knock down threes and fill in at either guard spot makes the 2008 lottery pick a solid fit with any of the Bucks' other guards, he's unlikely to make a noticeable impact for good or bad. Though his usage rate is comparable to Gary Neal's, his assist rate is also about twice as high, so he's neither a playmaker nor an unrepentant chucker. In short, the Bucks needed another guard to give them some semblance of depth in the backcourt, and Bayless gives them that. Don't expect much more, but also realize that other options (Ramon Sessions, Jameer Nelson, Mo Williams, Jordan Crawford) were unlikely to provide significantly better value.