There's a reason Milwaukee's deadline trade made more than a few Bucks fans' heads spin.
Major cap space.
All of these words (and many more) have been used in the last week to describe the Bucks’ move at the trade deadline to swap Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams, Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis. These phrases have quite rarely, if ever, been used to discuss the professional basketball franchise in Milwaukee in the last decade.
For years, fans have seen the Bucks make moves to “help secure a playoff spot” and “reload for the upcoming season,” but they’ve never seen the Bucks make moves with an eye toward the future. With little experience in dealing with such a move, my mind immediately went to crippling fear.
Let’s take a closer look at why this flexibility may not be as attractive as it seems.
Using the cap projections from our friends at Brew Hoop, the Bucks will have about $15.5 million in cap space this offseason. This would give the Bucks room for one major addition, but that addition would likely signal the departure of Khris Middleton, as he may command up to $10 million per year in restricted free agency.
On the other hand, keeping Middleton would mean the Bucks would probably only have about $7 million to use in acquiring free agents. This would signal the addition of a middling player, rather than an impact player, which is just the type of acquisition Bucks fans have loathed in the past.
So, maybe, the Bucks will wait on signing a player and keep that money for the following offseason, when the contracts of O.J. Mayo, Zaza Pachulia, Jared Dudley and Jerryd Bayless expire and give the Bucks $20 million more to spend. With the leaguewide cap increasing by $20-$25 million, the Bucks could have up to $45 million in cap space!
This seems exciting, but again, the entire league will have an extra $20 to $25 million to spend. And if the entire league has cap space, one has to wonder where Milwaukee sits on the list of potential free agent destinations.
Combing through the last five to 10 years of free agency movement suggests that players tend to either stay with their current team or move to larger and/or warmer markets, with the only exceptions coming when a team overpays a player (see Josh Smith in Detroit) or that player has a previous connection with that city (see LeBron James in Cleveland…in 2014).
This is really unfortunate, as Milwaukee happens to be one of the smallest and coldest markets in the NBA. Now, this is isn’t to say that the allure of playing with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker in a brand-new arena wouldn’t convince great players to come to Milwaukee, because it very well might. It may also help that the Bucks appear to have found a great coach in Jason Kidd, but ultimately, there is no way of knowing if all of these positives, along with globs of money, will actually bring talented players to Milwaukee. For now, though, Bucks fans have hope because of a forward-thinking front office that has afforded themselves some future flexibility by accumulating assets that opened up major cap space. And that feels pretty good.
What to Read
What the Michael Carter-Williams trade says about the present and future of the Milwaukee Bucks – Brew Hoops’ Frank Madden drew four conclusions from the Bucks major move at the deadline, including what it means for the future of the franchise.
Asset management and how the Bucks could handle the salary cap going forward – Like many others, Mitch Vomhof of Bucksketball looked at the flexibility the Bucks created by making their move at the deadline, but Vomhof took it a step forward by breaking down the salary cap decisions the Bucks need to make in the next four summers.
Khris Middleton is about to get paid – Bucksketball’s Jeremy Schmidt examined one of the possible decisions the Bucks will make this summer and the reasons why Khris Middleton may be well-paid by the end of this summer.
Clip of the Week
Michael Carter-Williams certainly seemed to enjoy playing with his new teammates on Wednesday night, dishing out dimes all over the floor.
Week in Review
Friday – The Denver Nuggets were extremely active during the trade deadline, but didn’t handle the activity quite as well as the Bucks, as Milwaukee won, 89-81. Six Bucks ended the night in double digits.
Sunday – The Bucks were down just two after three quarters, but couldn’t survive a Kyle Korver 3-point barrage early in the fourth and eventually fell to the Atlanta Hawks, 97-86.
Monday – With only 24 hours of rest, the Bucks fell into a big hole early in the first half and just couldn’t recover against the Chicago Bulls, losing 87-71. The Bucks really struggled offensively, shooting just 33.7 percent.
Wednesday – Michael Carter-Williams made his debut in a Bucks jersey, and his new team crushed his old team, the Philadelphia 76ers, 104-88. Can’t imagine that was a coincidence.
Next Week’s Preview
Friday – The Bucks will have a second straight game against one of the league’s worst teams, as they take on the Swaggy P-led Los Angeles Lakers. Despite the Lakers’ struggles, the Bucks needed overtime to seal their victory the last time the two teams met.
Saturday – A Western Conference back-to-back with two teams outside of the playoffs would look a lot better if the Bucks didn’t have to face the Utah Jazz, who have beaten two Western Conference playoff teams in their three games since returning from the All-Star break.
Tuesday – For the second time in two weeks, the Bucks will face the Denver Nuggets and try to sweep the season series after being swept by the Nuggets in each of the previous four seasons.
Wednesday – The Bucks end their four-game Western Conference road trip against former Buck Andrew Bogut and the conference’s best team, the Golden State Warriors.
Stats of the Week
43.4 – Assist percentage is the percent of teammates’ field goals that a certain player assisted. Michael Carter-Williams has recorded the league’s second-highest assist percentage this season at 43.4 percent. (via NBA Stats)
24 – Recently acquired big Miles Plumlee is 24th in the league in blocks per 36 minutes with two every 36 minutes. The league leader in that category? John Henson. (via NBA Stats)
58 – Rookie point guard Tyler Ennis played in only 58 minutes for the Phoenix Suns this season. In four games with the Bucks, he has already played 77 minutes. (via Basketball-Reference)
Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine‘s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can yell at Eric or calmly tell him how much you want your MCW (T-shirt) on Twitter @eric_nehm.