George Hill

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With Bucks hoping to take off, leaving behind Malcolm Brogdon a risky choice

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Next season is the Bucks’ time.

They shouldn’t wait.

They can’t wait.

Milwaukee is very good. Good enough to win a championship. There are no overwhelmingly dominant-looking teams this year. Most of the top contenders will beat up on each other out West. In the Eastern Conference, the 76ers must develop chemistry after a major roster makeover, and Kevin Durant‘s injury puts the Nets another year away from title contention. The Bucks got a necessary and hard-learned lesson in how to compete deep in the playoffs last season. They look primed now.

Giannis Antetokounmpo will also be eligible for a super-max contract extension next offseason. His willingness to re-up might depend on Milwaukee’s success this season. The Bucks remaining elite is totally predicated on keeping the 24-year-old MVP. His satisfaction with the team must be the priority.

With all that swirling, Milwaukee parted with restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon.

A young talented guard the Bucks held matching rights on – gone. In return, they got absolutely nothing that will directly help them in the ultra-important upcoming season.

Maybe that was the right call. By signing-and-trading Brogdon to the Pacers, Milwaukee got a first-rounder and two second-rounders and avoided paying a red-flagged player $85 million over four years. There’s a case the Bucks got enough value and preserved enough flexibility to justify the move, even considering next season’s high stakes.

But this was also an essential decision for avoiding the luxury tax. That can’t be dismissed. If Milwaukee weakened its roster due to a refusal to pay the luxury tax this season of all seasons, that’d be incredibly disappointing.

This could be a choice that significantly shapes the Bucks for the next decade. I wish I had a better sense of their motivations.

At least Milwaukee got done the rest of its heavy lifting this summer and even rebounded nicely from the loss of Brogdon.

The Bucks re-signed Khris Middleton for less than the max (five years, $177.5 million). It was essential to keep Antetokounmpo’s lone supporting star.

Brook Lopez – with his 3-point shooting and interior defense – is even more important to Milwaukee’s identity. In a tricky situation due to holding only his Non-Bird Rights, the Bucks cleared enough cap space to re-sign him for four years, $52 million.

Milwaukee also had enough cap space to re-sign George Hill (three years, $28,771,806 with $20 million guaranteed). Hill played well in the playoffs. He’s also 33. It’s worth signing Hill to this deal. He can back up Eric Bledsoe, who struggled the last two postseasons, and help at shooting guard with Brogdon gone. But it’s far from certain Hill will live up to this contract.

The Bucks found surprising reinforcements at shooting guard with Wesley Matthews (1+1 minimum) and Kyle Korver (one-year minimum). Both are past their primes, but that’s tremendous value for those two. The big question: Would they have come to Milwaukee if Brogdon hadn’t left open so much playing time? That must be considered in the Brogdon evaluation, but again, it’s difficult to discern.

Robin Lopez signed for the room exception on 1+1. He’ll back up his twin brother. The Bucks could use Robin’s size at the position, especially with Joel Embiid and Philadelphia looking like the top threat in the East.

These are all good deals for Milwaukee. This offseason could have gone far worse for the Bucks given the steps they had to take to open cap space for Brook Lopez and Hill.

Milwaukee traded the overpaid but still helpful Tony Snell and No. 30 pick to the Pistons for Jon Leuer then waived Leuer, accepting a $3,169,348 over the next three years. That was a nasty set of transactions, but it was necessary. The Bucks also lost Nikola Mirotic, who returned to Europe.

After that, it was standard low-end roster moves. Adding Dragan Bender is intriguing. Adding Thanasis Antetokounmpo is the cost of doing business.

It just keeps coming back to Brogdon. How much will the Bucks miss him? How much did his departure improve their ability to lure Matthews and Korver? What will Milwaukee do with the draft picks acquired from Indiana?

That last one is a biggie. Trade those picks in the right deal, and the roster next could be even than it would have been with Brogdon – especially if ownership is willing to enter the luxury tax.

I just have a hard time figuring out where the Bucks stand on that, and it makes me uneasy about their summer.

Offseason grade: C

Report: Bucks signing Wesley Matthews for minimum salary

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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.

Robin Lopez reportedly agrees to two-year deal with Bucks

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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.

Via Twitter:

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.

Report: Bucks re-signing George Hill for three years, $29 million

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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.

Report: Bucks signing-and-trading Malcolm Brogdon to Pacers on four-year, $85M contract

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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.