The Milwaukee Bucks were always going to have a hard time finding ways to keep everybody from last season around long-term. The salary cap crunch presented by the market availability of Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, and Brook Lopez made it seem like Nikola Mirotic would be the odd man out...so Mirotic decided to take his talents across the Atlantic and return to Europe.
NBA free agent Nikola Mirotic has decided to sign with Euroleague club Barcelona, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Mirotic was in the market for $45-50M total in contract in the NBA.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 29, 2019
Mirotic, acquired at the trade deadline for (what turned out to be) Thon Maker and a quartet of second round picks, struggled mightily in the playoffs after returning from a left hand injury. His lack of rim protection made him an awkward fit as a big in Mike Budenholzer’s zone drop scheme, and his three-point gunnery was only useful to a point when his accuracy left him (sub-30% from deep in the postseason).
As a free agent with Bird rights, Mirotic carried a significant cap hold ($18.75M) for the Bucks this summer, and it has been widely speculated (including by us at Brew Hoop) that he would be the free agent renounced to help create enough cap space to bring back the other contributors. No one expected Mirotic to simply leave the league entirely, but thankfully our very own BlogFather stepped in to confirm whether or not his cap hold still applied for Milwaukee’s offseason:
Thanks Albert — different scenario than the last time a Bucks stretch 4 left for Barcelona. Ilyasova was RFA when he left for Barça in 2007, but Bucks maintained his RFA rights and brought him back in 2009. https://t.co/xC5KOS8eDB— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) June 29, 2019
All told, this is simply an unexpected path to an expected outcome: Mirotic will play basketball elsewhere next season, and the Bucks will use the cap space held by his Bird rights elsewhere. Stay tuned for more developments as NBA free agency starts tomorrow!