If the Milwaukee Bucks continue to fail in finding a Greg Monroe suitor, could they consider buying the center out?
As the talk of the Milwaukee Bucks looking to trade Greg Monroe but receiving very little interest has gone on (and on and on), there’s been one particular question that seems to have reared its head from time to time.
If the Bucks really don’t want Greg Monroe that much, why can’t they just release him and move on? If they are certain that he’s such a terrible fit that his presence in the rotation will be the detriment to the team, why aren’t just cutting ties regardless.
There are a couple of ways in which the Bucks could potentially do this, but there are arguably many more reasons why it would make little sense for them to entertain the possibility.
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Among the many intricacies of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement are the terms for the early release of a player from his contract, more commonly referred to as waiving a player.
When an NBA team decides they no longer want a player, whether it be for salary purposes, creating roster spots or any other reason, the player is placed on the waiver wire. This leaves a 48 hour window when another team has the option to claim said player off of waivers and assume the remaining guaranteed money on the contract he was being released from.
If a player clears waivers, things beyond that 48 hour window get very different. The player is no longer on the roster of his previous team, but the salary implications remain for the most part as the player is still owed guaranteed salary.
Generally, the stretch provision comes in to play at this point (as it did in Milwaukee’s buyout agreement with Larry Sanders), allowing the team to pay the owed money over twice the remaining length of the contract the player was released from plus one year.
There can be a little bit of respite for the team too. If the player goes on to sign for another team, either in the NBA or overseas, as an unrestricted free agent, his former club has the option to offset some of the salary owed.
As explained in Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ:
"The amount the original team gets to set off is limited to one-half the difference between the player’s new salary and the minimum salary for a one-year veteran during the season in which the player is waived (if the player is a rookie, then the rookie minimum is used instead).For example, suppose a fifth-year player is waived with one guaranteed season remaining on his contract for $5 million. If this player signs a $1 million contract with another team for the 2011-12 season, his original team gets to set off $1 million minus $762,195 (the minimum salary for a one-year veteran in 2011-12), divided by two, or $118,902. The team is still responsible for paying $4,881,098 of the original $5 million. Note that between his prior team and new team the player will earn a combined $5,881,098, which was more than he earned prior to being waived."
As the value of the offset is relative to the new (often lower value) contract, this rarely makes a major impact on the salary owed by the player’s previous team.
Away from standard releases, there is another form of waiver that can provide more flexibility. If a team and player both agree that waivers would be beneficial, they can then enter buyout discussions.
This move can come about for a variety of reasons. In a buyout, both parties have generally agreed that upon clearing waivers the player’s salary amount will be reduced significantly, if not even eliminated entirely.
As this move represents financial risk for the player, it most often comes about in situations when a veteran has already made the bulk of their career earnings and is eager to join a contending team.
That certainly doesn’t sound like Greg Monroe, but could it be an option for the Bucks to explore?
In a recent weekly chat column on ESPN, when asked about Greg Monroe, writer Kevin Pelton indicated that he could see a buyout being in play.
"“Bold prediction: I think the Bucks will end up buying out Monroe because I don’t think there’s any trade market for him at all, at least not without them taking back bad salary. I keep saying this: nobody needs centers.”"
There can be no debating that it’s technically possible, but considering the current situation for both parties a buyout would seem like an unlikely long-shot.
From Greg Monroe’s perspective, staying in Milwaukee earns him $17.1 million in guaranteed money. That’s not to mention the $17.8 million player option he could opt in to next summer either.
For a buyout to be worth Milwaukee’s while, Greg Monroe would have to agree to a significant reduction, but for that to make sense for him, he’d also need to have logical destinations lined up who could afford to make up the difference.
With the list of teams with significant cap space now very limited, the market really wouldn’t seem to be there for a big money, free agent deal for the Louisiana native at this late juncture. With the chance to move on and chase a bigger pay day next summer already on the horizon, why would Monroe want to lose money to move on now? That’s not to mention the potential damage to how he’d be perceived around the league in the aftermath of a team buying him out.
The list of reasons for why a buyout seems improbable doesn’t end at Greg Monroe’s side of the table either.
With extensions for Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker in the immediate and near future for the Bucks, the team’s remaining cap space has grown more valuable than ever. As such, a buyout doesn’t seem like the most prudent use of resources.
Monroe isn’t simply going to walk away and leave all of his owed $17 million on the table, and as a result, Milwaukee would face the prospect of stretching the remaining agreed upon amount over the three years afforded by his single guaranteed season remaining on the contract.
Even if Monroe was feeling particularly generous in these hypothetical buyout discussions and agreed to give up $9 million, the Bucks would be facing up to paying him $2.6 million for the next three years. That may not be such a big deal if not for the fact that the Bucks are already paying Larry Sanders $1.8 million per year through to the end of the 2020-21 season, thanks to the terms of his buyout.
With cap space at a greater premium than ever, could the Bucks really choose to carry $4 million (or potentially a lot more) in dead contracts over the next three seasons? The even more pertinent question might be why they would choose to do so, considering they could be entirely free of any Greg Monroe money after just one more season.
If a buyout was ever to become a possibility, the trade deadline would seem like a much more appropriate time to do so as with half the season played, the guaranteed money owed to Monroe would be halved too.
In reality, not only does a Monroe buyout seem unlikely, but it was also be unnecessary and unwise.
If the Bucks can’t find a trade partner, Monroe should remain with the team. He’s not a notably disruptive influence, and as troublesome as his fit is, it’s not worth making rash decisions that impact long term flexibility just for the sake of avoiding the prospect of one more season of that poor fit.
UPDATE: Kevin Pelton clarified his comments from the ESPN chat referred to above with a couple of tweets on Monday evening. The details of which can be found below.