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Bucks venture into tax territory, likely temporarily, to stand pat

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Bucks sold the No. 48 pick in the draft for $2 million and bought the No. 46 pick for $1.9 million.

That was a fun bit of cleverness from a team that otherwise didn’t have room to spread its wings this offseason.

The luxury-tax line landing lower than expected and Greg Monroe opting in squeezed the Bucks. They still re-signed Tony Snell to a four-year, $46 million contract –  fair value – but otherwise packed it in.

Milwaukee’s 14 players with guaranteed salaries will put the team just $47,131 into the luxury tax. The Bucks will surely duck the tax before it’s assessed on the last day of the regular season, allowing them to receive a check usually given to non-taxpayers.

The bet here is Milwaukee won’t do anything catastrophic to dump salary. Stretching Spencer Hawes, who’s making $6,021,175 in the final year of his contract, would do the trick. Though trading someone – like John Henson, who’s now stuck behind Thon Maker – is preferable, the ability to stretch Hawes allows the Bucks to preserve leverage in trade negotiations.

Kudos to the Bucks for keeping Snell, who developed nicely as a 3-and-D wing. They might not have been as aggressive if they knew exactly where tax line would fall, but they crossed the the threshold. Even temporarily, that’s important. Though their injury problems just moved from Khris Middleton to Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s versatility and Malcolm Brogdon‘s emergence should mean Snell remains a starter.

Milwaukee returns its seven leaders in playoff minutes – the oldest of whom just turned 27, the best of whom is only 22. All the reasons people view the Bucks as risers in the East – chiefly, Antetokounmpo – remain in tact.

They lost Michael Beasley, a solid scoring reserve, to the Knicks. Jason Terry remains unsigned despite playing a surprisingly large role last season. Except for a minimum-salary chunk used to give No. 46 pick Sterling Brown a three-year contract, the mid-level exception sits unused.

Brown and No. 17 pick D.J. Wilson fall somewhere in the range of acceptable selections.

From the draft to free agency, this offseason was merely fine. For a team coming off its first winning season in seven years and second in 14 years, that’s not so bad.

Offseason grade: C

AP Source: Thunder trading Dakari Johnson to Orlando

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder are trading reserve center Dakari Johnson to the Orlando Magic.

A person with knowledge of the details confirmed the move to The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Yahoo Sports, which first reported the deal, said Oklahoma City will get guard Rodney Purvis in the deal. Purvis averaged 6.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 16 appearances for the Magic last season. The Orlando Sentinel said the Thunder also sent cash to the Magic.

Johnson played 31 games last season for the Thunder with six starts. He averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. The 7-footer averaged 23.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 10 games for the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, last season.

Center Alex Len reportedly reaches contract deal with Atlanta

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Five years ago, the Phoenix Suns had just drafted Alex Len at No. 5 overall and thought he would be the big man in the middle the team would build around. It didn’t work out that way, he never averaged double figures in either scoring or rebounding for a season. While Len has said he thought he was not used correctly, and there has been plenty of change and inconsistency in Phoenix, he never grabbed hold of the top job, either.

When the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton No. 1 last June, there was no chance they were bringing back Len next season. The unrestricted free agent is headed to Atlanta instead, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Free-agent center Alex Len has agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Len received interest from several teams in recent days before finalizing an agreement with the Hawks on Saturday.

Len is not going to space the floor, 73 percent of his shots came at the rim last season, but he’s become an efficient finisher there. He is good as a roll man, will work off the ball, and can post guys up on offense. He’s also strong on the offensive glass and gets points via putbacks. His game is not that of a modern NBA center, but he’s become efficient at what he does.

Len is going to have to earn his minutes in the ATL, rebuilding team or not there is some quality along the front line. John Collins, who made the All-Rookie team last season and was one of the standouts of Summer League, will start up front, possibly at the four with Dewayne Dedmon at the five. The just-drafted Omari Spellman showed potential at Summer League and could be the backup four, which means Len gets the backup center minutes.

Len is getting his new chance on a team that can give him some run, we’ll see if a change of scenery is what he needed.

Gordon Hayward posts new workout video, he is moving pretty well

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Player workout videos on Instagram are a lot like how your life (or, your parent’s life) appears on Facebook — everyone looks their best, is always having fun and doing something interesting, and the daily grime of life has been scrubbed away.

That said, Boston’s Gordon Hayward looks good — he seems to be moving very well — in this latest workout video he posted.

It’s a good sign to see Hayward moving like that in July, months before that reconstructed ankle needs to be put to the test on the NBA hardwood.

With Hayward and Kyrie Irving healthy, the Celtics start the season as the favorites in the East — but Toronto is a sudden, serious challenger if Kawhi Leonard is all the way back and healthy. Philadelphia is talented and in that mix as well if Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can take strides forward with their game.

The top of the East is going to be very interesting next season.

Montrezl Harrell reportedly reaches deal to return to Clippers

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The Clippers liked Montrezl Harrell last season (he came from Houston in the Chris Paul trade), he averaged 11 points a game for the team with a very efficient PER of 24.7.

He was one restricted agent some around the league thought another team would try to poach, but in a tight market nobody was making an offer because the Clippers were just expected to match. So the Clippers and Harrell (and his agent) sat down and figured out something that worked for both sides, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The deal is fully guaranteed for both years, according to the report. That’s a fair price for his services, and Harrell gets back on the market in two years when the salary cap will have gone up by more than $15 million (at least by the NBA’s early predictions). He will have more options on 2020.

The Clippers are now just $500 below the luxury tax. They also have 16 contracts, which is bad news for C.J. Wilson and his non-guaranteed deal. (Technically Patrick Beverley has a non-guaranteed contract as well, but if healthy he will be back.)

For a couple of seasons, this is a good fit. Harrell will bring some athleticism and bounce to a frontcourt rotation that already includes Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marcin Gortat, and Boban Marjanovic. The Clippers are a pretty good team, the problem is in the West pretty good could be the 10 or 11 seed. The conference is that deep and brutal.