The Bucks – with enough plausible deniability to claim other reasoning – have generally taken the cheap route this offseason.
But it helps when a solid player like Wesley Matthews is willing to sign for the minimum.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Milwaukee used all its cap space (and then some) to re-sign Brook Lopez and George Hill. The Bucks then committed their room exception to Robin Lopez. That left only a minimum salary for Matthews, who grew up in Wisconsin and played at Marquette.
Matthews might be one of the best signings this summer. Rotation-level wings rarely come this cheap. He might even start at shooting guard with Malcolm Brogdon departing.
None are as good as Brogdon, but Milwaukee can cobble together a solid rotation between Matthews, Hill, Pat Connaughton, Sterling Brown and Donte DiVincenzo.
The Milwaukee Bucks will be one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference next season, and not just because they have returning 2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
As free agency got underway on Sunday, the Bucks re-signed center Brook Lopez. Then, in a surprising move, Milwaukee signed his twin brother Robin Lopez.
The room exception is for NBA teams that were under the cap but then used all their space.
Milwaukee also re-signed Khris Middleton to a long-term deal, and kept George Hill.
The Bucks let former rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon walk to the Indiana Pacers in a sign-and-trade deal where Milwaukee grabbed one first-round and two second-round picks from the Pacers.
The Lopez twins have not played together since they starred at Stanford in college.
Robin will add some rebounding and defensive help as a backup rim protector, which Milwaukee needs. He is an efficient post-up player, sets great screens in the pick-and-roll, and scores well on offensive rebounding chances.
At age 31, Robin is still a good defender, particularly as a backup option. He should benefit Milwaukee’s chances in the playoffs nicely.
The Bucks are losing starting combo guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers.
Their replacement is coming from within – George Hill.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
The Bucks don’t currently project to have enough cap room to make this signing, but there are several ways to get there. Among the possibilities:
- Milwaukee trades Ersan Ilyasova
- Milwaukee trades Jon Leuer
- Milwaukee stretches Leuer
- Milwaukee renounces the trade exception for Brogdon (which will be for half his starting salary)
- Brook Lopez has unlikely bonuses in his contract that would create extra cap flexibility
- Hill has unlikely bonuses in his contract that would create extra cap flexibility
- Lopez and Hill’s deals aren’t worth the precise amounts reported
One move the Bucks can’t make: Stretching Hill, whom they’re waiving before re-signing. They wouldn’t be allowed to re-sign him.
Stretching Leuer appears most likely, but wouldn’t be enough alone. So keep an eye on the other possibilities.
Hill played exceptionally well in the playoffs. Keeping him will allow Milwaukee – which is also re-signing Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez – to maintain continuity. But Hill is also 33. He won’t remain as productive as he was last postseason.
Overall, this is an OK signing for a team trying to win now. Perhaps importantly to Bucks ownership, it’s also a cheaper route than retaining Brogdon.
The Bucks took care of business with Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon.
Milwaukee will let its other starting free agent – Malcolm Brogdon – get away, but only after leveraging his restricted rights into a return.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
David Aldridge of The Athletic:
This could work well for Brogdon and Pacers.
Brogdon has sounded like he’d prefer to play point guard, the position he’ll seemingly play in Indiana. In Milwaukee, Brogdon primarily played shooting guard next to Eric Bledsoe. This is also a lot of money for the former second-round pick who spent his first few seasons earning near the minimum.
Indiana will get the 26-year-old Brogdon through his prime. He can shoot, handle the ball and defend. He should fit well with Victor Oladipo in the backcourt.
But that’s still a lot of money for Brogdon considering his long-term health concerns.
So, on a value basis, it could be reasonable for the Bucks to prefer the picks to Brogdon (depending on pick protection). But Milwaukee should be aiming to contend around Giannis Antetokounmpo right now. Future picks can’t help with that. Perhaps, those picks will eventually get flipped for an actual player who helps the Bucks compete this season.
It’s impossible to overlook the luxury-tax ramifications of this move. This is the cheap route. Milwaukee might have ulterior motives other than building the strongest roster.
That’s risky as Antetokounmpo approaches his super-max decision.
The Bucks now need a starting guard. Maybe they’ll re-sign George Hill. The mid-level exception is available. But it’s still unknown just how much ownership is willing to spend.
Brook Lopez said he prioritized a one-year contract in free agency last summer so he could prove himself.
Lopez sure proved himself this season.
The center shined for the breakthrough Bucks. He became an elite 3-point threat for a big, spacing the floor for Giannis Antetokounmpo. On the other end, Lopez paired nicely with Antetokounmpo as a staunch rim protector.
But because Lopez spent only one season in Milwaukee, the Bucks have just his Non-Bird Rights. That makes re-signing tricky.
At least Lopez and the Bucks appear intent on finding common ground.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:
Both sides are motivated to get a deal done, per source
The Bucks showed their motivation by trading Tony Snell and the No. 30 pick to the Pistons for Jon Leuer.
Milwaukee can now open about $14 million in cap space while keeping cap holds for Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon. The Bucks could use that cap room to re-sign Lopez then exceed the cap to re-sign Middleton and Brogdon.
If a $14 million starting salary isn’t enough for Lopez, Milwaukee can clear more room by stretching Leuer and/or George Hill. The Bucks must decide on whether to stretch Hill’s $1 million guarantee by Thursday. They can decide on Leuer’s $9.76 million salary anytime by Aug. 31.
This plan could get expensive. Middleton could command a max contract. As a restricted free agent, Brogdon could land a huge offer sheet from a team trying to poach him. How much luxury tax will Milwaukee pay?
But soon-to-be-super-max-eligible Antetokounmpo is watching. Securing his supporting cast is important.