Who are the players the Milwaukee Bucks could look to realistically target on the buyout market who might be capable of helping their playoff push?
With the dust settling after a hectic couple of weeks in the NBA that included the trade deadline and All-Star break, the Milwaukee Bucks are looking to start the final stretch of their season with some reinforcements.
They emerged from the trade deadline with a new bench weapon in the form of Nikola Mirotic, the sharp-shooting big man from New Orleans who is likely to be a large part of the Bucks playoff plans.
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But what can’t be overlooked is that the Bucks also came out of the NBA trade deadline with an open roster spot. It wasn’t by accident, as many teams aim to have an open roster spot to be contenders in the buyout market that immediately succeeds the trade deadline frenzy..
With the majority of the regular season over with, most teams know by now what their team is capable of and the best way to improve their franchise over the final stretch of the season.
For some, it means adding pieces to better position themselves for a playoff run, while others it means unloading players not in the franchise’s future plans in an effort to tank and improve their odds of snagging a top draft pick.
Teams with little to no hope of reaching the playoffs are more likely to play young and developing players over veterans in a look toward the future. Most teams try to trade veteran or unheralded players to get something in return, and if they can’t find a trade partner, resort to simply releasing the player after the deadline.
Thus we have the buyout market, where playoff contending teams vie for new free agents in order to bolster rotations and add depth.
The Bucks, owning the best record in the league, obviously have the playoffs and a potential title run on their minds, which is likely why Horst made sure to leave space on the roster in case a valuable free agent were to hit the buyout market.
Now a couple of weeks after the deadline, some buyout players have signed with new teams like Wesley Matthews to the Indiana Pacers and Jeremy Lin to the Toronto Raptors. The Bucks, however, have remained quiet.
That’s not to say they’ll forever stay content. I fully expect them to at some point add one more free agent in an effort to add some depth to the back end of the bench. But Bucks fans looking for a big splash are likely to be disappointed.
For one, it seems to be a down year for the buyout market with many teams holding onto their assets. Also, even though the Bucks are in a position to contend for a title, they’re not exactly a free agent destination.
Players who have been bought out, whether they’re veterans are developing youngsters, are on the last year of their contract, which means they’ll be looking for a new contract come this summer.
With that in mind, players are going to want to go to a team that will give them a chance to play. Soon-to-be free agents want a chance to show teams that they can contribute and earn a new contract this summer. This is primarily the challenge for the Bucks in signing players.
The Bucks already have essentially a 12-deep rotation. Head coach Mike Budenholzer doesn’t use 12 players every single game but isn’t afraid to tap into the end of his bench for whatever reason, as he’s done it on multiple occasions.
Keep in mind that one of those 12 is now Mirotic, replacing the traded Thon Maker, who rarely played in the final month with the team. There aren’t going to be many minutes left to go around.
Also, I didn’t even include injured rookie Donte DiVincenzo who, although he has been injured and mostly relegated to the bench as a 12th man, was getting 15 minutes per game when he was healthy at the beginning of the season.
Suffice to say that minutes off the bench are going to be difficult to come by, especially when it comes to the playoffs where rotations tighten up even more. The Bucks may be the best opportunity for a free agent to get a deep playoff run, but they don’t offer much in terms of playing time.
With that in mind, the Bucks options for a free agent signing are limited. The players they’re going to look at are likely either aging veterans looking to ring-chase, players with literally no other offers, or young players who may be interested in signing with the Bucks in the summer and can use the rest of the season as a try-out of sorts to show coach Budenholzer and general manager Jon Horst their ability.
Remember that as I list a few realistic — and realistic being the operative word — targets the Bucks could pursue in the buyout market who could add at least something to the team.