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Bucks expected to sign Kenyon Martin, waive Nate Wolters

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UPDATE: As we guessed below, Adrian Wojnarowski tweets that Nate Wolters will indeed be waived to make room for Martin. Best of luck, Nate.

The Milwaukee Bucks' depleted frontcourt appears to be getting some reinforcements, with 37-year-old free agent big man Kenyon Martin expected to sign a 10-day contract some time this week. ESPN's Marc Stein reports:

Martin was serviceable but not much more in an injury-riddled stint with the Knicks a year ago, but he had yet to latch on with anyone this season despite a handful of workouts. As the picture above implies, Martin and Kidd have a long history dating back to their time together with both the Nets and Knicks, and the Bucks coaching staff got a look at Martin in a workout ahead of their New Year's Eve matchup in Cleveland.

With 15 players already on the active roster, the Bucks would have to clear a spot in order to sign Martin, and that's perhaps the more interesting aspect of all this. That could happen by waiving someone on the current roster, executing a player-subtracting trade (ie a player for a pick, or 2-for-1 deal), or by being granted a hardship waiver from the NBA. Hardship waivers can be granted when four injured players have missed three or more games and will continue to be out -- a situation the Bucks would seem to be in considering Jabari Parker and Damien Inglis are out for the season and Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders have no timetable for returning.

However, Stein's report suggests Milwaukee would be "letting a player go to open up a spot," raising the obvious question of a) which player might be on the chopping block and b) whether it makes sense to drop a younger player (since everyone is younger than Martin) for the privilege of signing a veteran band-aid. You'd certainly prefer the Bucks could instead swing a trade that netted them an extra spot, though right now it's anyone's guess what they might be pursuing or what might be feasible.

If the Bucks were to release someone, Nate Wolters might seem to be the obvious first choice, as his minimum-level deal is only guaranteed through this season and he's been the one healthy player consistently on the outside of Jason Kidd's deep rotation. That's just speculation of course -- and I personally hope it doesn't happen -- though no one else seems an obvious candidate to be cut loose. Wolters curiously found himself back on the court last night in Philadelphia (does that qualify as a showcase?), but otherwise has been stuck behind Brandon Knight, Jerryd Bayless, and Kendall Marshall in Milwaukee's crowded point guard rotation. Still, there would be something disappointing about the Bucks giving up on a second-year player who proved a solid defender and bench facilitator as a rookie, particularly if it's just to facilitate the acquisition of a guy whose Twitter handle includes the suffix "Senior." Wolters may not matter much in the grand scheme of things, but the symbolism -- swapping young for old -- would likely carry more importance.

As for Martin, he may still be able to help the Bucks on the court in the short term, and that seems to have become a higher priority as the team has continued to win games. Not that the latter has come easy. The loss of Parker, Ilyasova and the ongoing absence of Sanders have left the Bucks with only three traditional big men -- Zaza Pachulia, John Henson and rookie Johnny O'Bryant III. Still, they've continued to chug along in large part thanks to solid play from Pachulia and Henson, with Giannis Antetokounmpo also seeing increased time at the four of late. And let's not kid ourselves: With the team seeing increased momentum around town and an arena debate forthcoming, it seems unlikely that the Bucks would make marginal youngsters' playing time take priority over the good vibrations of winning. It's not a rigid adherence to the tenets of rebuilding, but it's not without reason.

If he does sign, Martin would presumably displace O'Bryant in the Bucks' shortened rotation, which is another reason it'd be easy to question this move from a priority standpoint while simultaneously understanding it from a "winning games" perspective. The rookie has mostly struggled as a starter, shooting just 40% from the field, a number that isn't surprising considering that 59% of his shots come outside 10 feet. Still, it seems Kidd prefers him working from the elbows as a screener and pick-and-pop threat, with the hope that he'll start to attack the paint more as well. Perhaps more concerning is the other end, where he's grabbed a paltry 7.9% of available defensive rebounds, the second worst mark on the team. For reference, 5'3" Muggsy Bogues' career defensive rebound rate was also 7.9%, so...yeah. Of course, benching a mostly ineffective O'Bryant in favor of someone other than Henson would also seem to run counter to the Bucks' long-term ideals, though those seem to be shifting -- at least on the margins.

As usual, stay tuned.