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Report: Bucks to Part With Dragan Bender, Will Sign Marvin Williams

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Bender has a non-guaranteed second year on his contract.

Chicago Bulls v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

In the end, it came down to a numbers game for Dragan Bender and the Milwaukee Bucks, who yesterday were reported to be the destination for Marvin Williams following his contract buyout from the Charlotte Hornets.

Bender, 22, took up residence both at the end of the Bucks’ bench and as a contributor for the Wisconsin Herd this season; he played only 91 minutes in the NBA this year, but was featured in 13 G-League games and averaged 20.5 points and 8.9 rebounds on 0.505/0.384/0.794 shooting. Bender joined Milwaukee this past summer as an offseason flier; having washed out with the lowly Phoenix Suns, his contract had multiple portions of his salary become guaranteed only after certain dates, and his figure for 2020-21 is fully non-guaranteed. Bender was never afforded the opportunity to do much on-court development with the Bucks, who are 44-7 and have Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, and Ersan Ilyasova in front of him on the depth chart at center.

But why Bender, you may ask? Why cut loose now on a prospect with some upside, when other players might not have that same ceiling for development? Well, the money matters, for starters. D.J. Wilson is guaranteed $4.55 million next season, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo is owed $1.70 million. Neither one is playing for the Bucks right now, but Milwaukee already deals with enough dead money on their salary cap next year.

Alternatively, Pat Connaughton ($1.72M, unrestricted free agent) or Sterling Brown ($1.62M, restricted free agent) have no salary cap obligations next season, so why not cut one of them? The short version is that both are currently NBA-level contributors (Bender isn’t) and provide valuable depth on the wing (Bender doesn’t).

Oh, but what if Jon Horst was able to pull off a 2-for-1 trade to bring in another contributor and avoid waiving Bender? Sure...what if? What if they were able to trade Sterling and D.J. for someone, and still have the roster space for Marvin Williams? That would be cool. That didn’t happen; the Bucks stood pat at the deadline and waited for the right buyout candidate before they did anything, and cutting Bender loose is the lowest-impact move to bolster the rotation. I know I’ll miss Dragan Bender, but to the team he’s no huge loss.

On the other hand, Marvin Williams is a huge boon for the Bucks. At this stage in his career, Williams is a stretch-4 who can move up to the 5 in small lineups, and will play credible defense while shooting at a decent clip and maintaining a low usage rate. He’s basically a more athletic Ersan Ilyasova (without the charges) and can fit next to a Lopez brother as a floor-spacing PF or next to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, or Ersan as a small-ball C. Suddenly, the best team in the NBA has a roster that makes even more sense.

And to think, on top of the moves Horst made to get the Bucks into this position, with this roster, performing this well, all while staying below the luxury tax...Milwaukee has a draft pick in the first round this summer that will be a better selection than where their own will be.

Things are looking pretty good right now, Bucks fans. Let’s see how the final 30 games go.