The Milwaukee Bucks have interest in free agents, but the team will likely need to clear a roster spot to add anyone.
As detailed here on Behind the Buck Pass, the Milwaukee Bucks have reportedly had interest in a number of free agents already–Ben McLemore (who has since reportedly been signed), Anthony Tolliver and Derrick Rose. Tolliver could potentially help the Bucks, but there’s one problem.
Well, actually there’re a few problems, the biggest being the large amount of cap money the Bucks already have tied up over the next few years. But ignoring all of that, there is another problem.
Milwaukee doesn’t project to have an open roster spot at the moment. The Bucks have 12 guaranteed contracts once Tony Snell officially signs his new deal, plus the non-guaranteed deal of Gary Payton II.
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In addition to those 13 players, Milwaukee also just drafted two players, D.J. Wilson and Sterling Brown. Assuming the Bucks sign both of them to NBA deals, that would make 15 contracts, thus rendering Milwaukee unable to sign Tolliver or anybody else out there on the market.
There are certainly ways around this. The easiest involves the use of the new hybrid two-way contracts. Each team gets two of those that can be used to sign a player who plays mostly in the G-League, in this case with the Wisconsin Herd, but who can be called up to play sporadically in the NBA, with limitations on how often the player can be with the NBA club before he has to be signed to an NBA contract.
The Bucks have already reportedly used one of their two-way contract spots on Bronson Koenig, or at least they plan on doing so, but the remaining one could be used on Brown, Milwaukee’s second-round pick, if he chooses to sign such a deal.
Additionally, Milwaukee could waive Payton II and sign him to a two-way or standard G-League deal, if he accepts that offer. The Bucks could also just waive him outright and let him walk, considering his salary is not guaranteed.
The Bucks could also look into waiving Rashad Vaughn, if hopes of him ever becoming a consistent NBA contributor have evaporated from Milwaukee. Vaughn is owned around $1.9 million next season, and his fourth year club option has yet to be taken, meaning he’s only got one guaranteed year left.
Milwaukee could theoretically waive Vaughn and stretch the cap hit over the next three years, costing the team roughly $633,000 per season instead of $1.9 million all at once. That cap hit combined with the one owed to Larry Sanders over the next five years would give the Bucks around $2.5 million in dead money each year over the next three, then back down to $1.8 million annually over the last two years of money owed to Sanders.
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In NBA terms $633,000 is not much, but if the Bucks end up in the luxury tax they’ll be paying more for each dollar they spend. Vaughn might end up sticking around for another season simply in an effort to preserve cash.
Finally, if nobody is waived/signed to a two-way deal, Milwaukee could trade players into cap space. The Bucks have reportedly looked at moving Greg Monroe‘s nearly $18 million cap hit already, and John Henson and Mirza Teletovic are other big contracts Milwaukee would love to move.
Those salary dumps would likely cost the Bucks a draft pick, and in some situations a player has to come back in exchange for the outgoing one. Milwaukee could make room on the roster by trading for a non-guaranteed contract and releasing the player, or finding a team with enough cap space to eat a contract without needing to send one in return.
Regardless of what it is, something will have to happen for Milwaukee to sign any free agents this summer. The Bucks have some money to spend thanks to various salary cap exceptions, but roster spots are obviously necessary as well.