The Milwaukee Bucks, reigning NBA Champions (still fun to write that!), will begin preparations for their title defense today, as the league enters NBA free agency this afternoon. Some teams may have already started (something something tampering rules, something something consistent enforcement, something something we won the damn thing anyway) but everything becomes overtly permissible today, so we’ll start seeing some rumors come to fruition while the others fizzle out and evaporate into nothingness.
In case you missed our delightful offseason primer last week, you should go check that out now. Once you return, here’s a rundown of the things you need to know.
- Milwaukee currently has 10 players under contract for next season, whose salary ($140.6 million) already puts them deep into the luxury tax (set at $136.6M). The Bucks have no cap space (the cap is set at $112.4 million) and no path to create cap space, because doing so would necessitate moving at least one of their three best players...which would be madness.
- Last week, the Bucks drafted a pair of prospects late in the second round (Sandro Mamukelashvili and Georgios Kalaitzakis), and their presumed salaries will be the league minimum ($925K) for players with no prior NBA experience. They will presumably replace the spots on the bench vacated by the Bucks’ outgoing free agents, a list that is made up of Jeff Teague, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, PJ Tucker, and two-way players Axel Toupane and Justin Jackson. All three of Teague, Thanasis, and Tucker could be retained by Milwaukee, depending on their circumstances and league-wide interest in their services.
- Jeff Teague was with the team for less than half of last season, and as such has Non-Bird Rights with the team, allowing them to give him up to 120% of this year’s veteran minimum salary in a new contract (which would be about $2.0M). Teague may be a fallback option for the club if the Bucks cannot find a more suitable option for backup point guard.
- Thanasis has accrued two years with Milwaukee and as such has Early Bird Rights, allowing the Bucks’ to re-sign him (even if over the cap) to any contract up to 105% of the league average salary, which is about $10.0M. Thanasis won’t get that much, but it means the Bucks are able to give him more than a minimum if they choose, and either way it’s difficult to imagine the elder Antetokounmpo having interest in leaving Milwaukee.
- Tucker was acquired in a trade and therefore has Full Bird Rights with the Bucks, allowing Milwaukee to re-sign him for as much as they are willing to afford, even over the salary cap. It is widely regarded that the Bucks will retain Tucker, though the exact figures of such a deal can only be speculated.
- Lastly, Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes have already exercised their right to decline their player options, and both are currently unrestricted free agents. The Bucks hold Non-Bird Rights for each, but both are expected to far exceed the salary Milwaukee would have owed on their second years. While Forbes will likely find greener pastures elsewhere Portis is rumored to be comfortable in Milwaukee and willing to return, despite the Bucks’ limited cap resources.
- Speaking of resources, the Bucks don’t have much. Besides minimum-level free agent contracts and a pair of small, inflexible trade exceptions ($4.9M and 1.6M), the only method the Bucks have to acquire someone in free agency is through the taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (MLE), worth about $4.9M.
That’s the long and short of it. We’ll try and update this post with any major rumors or reports that come out over the course of the day, and we hope you do the same in the comments section.