The offseason has arrived for the Milwaukee Bucks, albeit nearly two weeks later than most would have expected when Jason Kidd opened his first training camp last October.
Well, like every other team no longer playing basketball, the Bucks can now focus their efforts on the June draft in addition to preparing for the coming free agent bonanza in July. There won't be quite the same drama heading into the draft as a year ago, but it's still important for the Bucks to make the most of draft night even if they'll be back picking in the all-too-familiar middle of the first round. Come July the Bucks' big task will shift to re-signing restricted free agent Khris Middleton, who could draw significant interest from other teams in July (much more on that in the days and weeks to come).
The rest of the summer's key dates:
May 12 - 17: Chicago Predraft Combine
May 19: NBA Draft Lottery
A trip to the playoffs means there will be no lottery fun for the Bucks, though it'll be a big night for the likes of the Timberwolves, Knicks, and Sixers. Note that trade talks involving picks don't usually heat up until closer to the draft after teams have had a chance to figure out where they're picking and which guys they actually like.
June 25: NBA Draft
We'll have plenty more on the draft in the coming weeks, though there's a bit less drama this season since we already know where the Bucks will be picking: 17th and 46th.
July 1 - 8: NBA Free Agency Moratorium
Teams can begin negotiating with free agents starting at just after midnight on the 1st, though most types of contracts can't officially be signed until the moratorium ends on July 9. It's during this period that the league finalizes the salary cap and luxury tax figures for the coming season, though teams generally have a good idea of where the numbers will end up well in advance. Current projections peg the 15/16 salary cap at just over $67 million and the tax threshold at $81 million, with both numbers expected to jump by $20+ million the following two summers.
Note that the Bucks will have to make Middleton a $2.75 million qualifying offer in order to retain matching rights, though that's just a formality. That figure will also count against the Bucks' cap number until he officially signs; if Dudley doesn't opt out, the Bucks could have over $15 million in potential cap space assuming they cut loose non-guaranteed guys like Johnny O'Bryant and Jorge Gutierrez. That's right around the starting max salary for a player with up to six years of service, so in theory the Bucks could try their hand going after a top free agent. Suggestions welcome!
If Middleton signs an offer sheet with another team the Bucks would have three days to match, at which point his new deal would likely eat up most of the Bucks' cap flexibility. In other words, the longer Middleton remains unsigned, the better for the Bucks' flexibility, though if he does sign an offer sheet the Bucks would still have a three-day window to go after a bigger-name free agent. Based on a $67 million cap figure, Middleton could sign an offer sheet of up to $67 million over four years with another team.
July 11 - 21: Las Vegas Summer League
Don't expect to see Giannis Antetokounmpo (too good) or Jabari Parker (still recovering from knee surgery) playing in Vegas, though Parker has already said he'll travel with the team and Giannis could also be there even if he's not playing. On the court, you should expect to see Tyler Ennis (at least until he bolts for Team Canada), Damien Inglis, Johnny O'Bryant, and whomever the Bucks select on draft night.
October 31: Deadline for Signing Rookie Extensions
John Henson is the only Buck eligible for a rookie extension this fall, though I wouldn't say a deal is likely. Keep in mind that most first round picks don't sign extensions, and the ones that do typically have proven themselves as starting talents or flashed bigger upside than we've seen from Henson to date. It's not to say Henson doesn't have a future in Milwaukee next season -- young shot-blockers don't grow on trees -- but there's no rush for the Bucks to do anything and Henson himself may prefer to hit restricted free agency when the cap skyrockets to near $90 million in 2016. Or the Bucks can simply move him this summer.
While I wouldn't expect teams to start dealing until closer to draft night, the Bucks and every other team no longer in the playoffs are now free to make trades. That said, it's worth mentioning that players who will be free agents or can become free agents (via player options, team options or early termination options) are not eligible to be traded before the league's calendar turns over in July. For the Bucks that only affects restricted free agent Middleton as well as Dudley, who can opt out of the $4.25 million owed to him next year and become an unrestricted free agent if he chooses. I'd be surprised if both guys don't return one way or another, especially Middleton, but we'll be talking much more about that shortly.
All other players including those with non-guaranteed contracts (Johnny O'Bryant, Jorge Gutierrez) can theoretically be traded at any time to teams no longer in the playoffs. They don't have much of any value at the moment, but NG'd deals can be useful when trying to make salaries match. Also note that until the league's new cap figures are finalized in July, all trades will use 14/15 cap numbers. You can see the Bucks' updated cap numbers here: