As widely reported, the Bucks have several big decisions entering the offseason regarding their free agents. As a proud member of the "Run It Back" club, I am looking forward to Executive of the Year Jon Horst getting these guys back in the fold for 2019.
Yet, for as talented, likeable and well-fitting as these players are on this team, none of these guys are at that All-NBA level elite status where a max contract offer is a no-brainer. With these players, there has to be a point for each person where the Bucks may be better off walking away, especially if the contract(s) end up interfering with their ability to fill out the second units.
So, in the spirit of the Price is Right, I'm putting in my bids for each player, trying to give them fair market value, without going over. Let the bidding begin!
Khris Middleton: 4 years/$140.61M or 5 years/$166M
In my mind, I think Khris is a max player. In any given year, there are about 40 contracts in the NBA at the max, or close to it. Khris is a top 40 player (I think probably somewhere around 35), so a max deal is a fair deal. But there are different levels of max contracts. For instance, if Klay resigns with GSW for a 5 year max worth $189.66M, is a deal with Khris for 87.5% of that actually a better deal? If Kawhi resigns with Toronto at the 5 year max, that's a better deal, but it's also kind of a bargain. Any team right now would pay that in a second to land Kawhi. Khris at 5/166 is not a bargain, but it's a fair deal. If he stays healthy, he'll produce it. Most of the bad max contracts are for players who started breaking down.
Getting back to the levels of max contracts: a 5 year max is much more expensive than the 4 year max an outside team can give. Khris is a lower-tier max level guy. He should be on a lower end max, if on a max at all. If I'm approaching the negotiations, I'd communicate that we won't let him leave to take more money from another team. But signing that 4 year outsider max, or a 5 year with a haircut gives us wiggle room to fill out the roster with better players. With Milwaukee, Khris has a familiar situation, teammates he gets along with, just as much money and as much or better of a shot to win the title than any other team. We shouldn't have to blow the doors off a 4 year outsider max to convince him to stay.
Malcolm Brogdon: 4 years/$85M or 5 years/$105M
On this team, Brogdon is right there with Khris in terms of his contributions to winning. Though this is highly debatable, I personally believe that if you, for instance, put Middleton on the Knicks, he's going to increase his counting stats and put up over 20/5/5, and get them more wins (though I don't think he would get them to a playoff seed). I don't think Brogdon can carry that load. If defenses can focus on him, I think he'll have trouble getting his shot and I think his turnovers will go up. Defense may suffer too. And, I'd be concerned about him getting injured. He's missed significant time the last two seasons. He is great as a third or fourth option because if he can pick his spots he will score efficiently, defend hard, and his minutes can be managed easily. If another team wants to throw a max at him, he's going to struggle as a top 1-2 player on a team, and I'd be real concerned about him getting injured.
Brook Lopez: 3 years/$36M
I love Brook Lopez. He obviously unlocks our offense with his ability to space the floor and is a pretty good defender, especially in the zone drop. Good rim protector, awesome at boxing out. When we first signed him, many posters noted that his team's rebounding percentage is better every time he is on the floor, and this year was no exception as the Bucks' rebounding improvement corresponded with an improvement in our overall defensive performance. I feel he was underutilized against the Raptors. Especially with him struggling from behind the arc (other than the 2nd half of Game 3), posting him could have slowed the game down, allowed him to get some buckets, or potentially could have unlocked more lanes to the basket if he kicked the ball back out to the perimeter. But I digress.
He's also older, entering a market that doesn't place a high value on centers, and is unfortunately in a position where we need to use cap space to sign him to a decent sized deal and still keep the team together. I believe a 3 for 36 will be enough for us to sneak him under the cap and have the MLE available for George Hill, or another player.
George Hill: The Taxpayer MLE (3 years/$17,989,650)
I don't think we'll be able to stay under the tax next year. Really, if we can get the salary to be just over the tax (like, under $140M this year), I'm sure we'll be able to duck back under it next year one last time, if not even later this year if we can trade Leuer. That should allow us to avoid the repeater tax.
I love George Hill, but there are several backup level guards out there who I think we can get for the tax MLE if necessary, though George Hill is easily my favorite of the group (including Darren Collison, Cory Joseph and Elfrid Payton).
What's your price point? Looking forward to the discussion! Thanks for reading.