Milwaukee Bucks retain impressive flexibility on final roster spot

PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 10: (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 10: (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Although the Milwaukee Bucks look to have filled all 15 of their roster spots at present, the nature of the Dragan Bender deal means they still have options.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ roster is likely locked in place for training camp, but that doesn’t mean that further change won’t be on the horizon before opening night, or even throughout the season.

With the recent deal to bring Dragan Bender to Milwaukee on a two-year contract, the Bucks used their last remaining roster spot. Compared to the battles that have taken place in training camp and preseason for that berth in recent years, that marked something of a change of strategy.

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Still, reports from Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed that Bender’s deal wasn’t fully guaranteed, adding another level of intrigue to the contract, and making the agreement even better from a Bucks’ perspective.

Partial or non-guaranteed contracts can still mean a lot of different things in the NBA, depending on how they’re structured. That includes just how much money is owed up front as the guarantee, but also when it locks in as a fully guaranteed contract.

Those details have now emerged for the Bender deal, and they certainly make for interesting reading.

Relayed by cap expert Jeff Siegel of the invaluable resource that is Early Bird Rights, Bender’s deal is staggered with multiple checkpoints that will see his earnings ratchet up the longer he can stick on the roster.

In essence, only $300k is owed to Bender at present. If the Croatian big man makes it to opening night, he’ll receive another $300k. On December 1, Bender will receive another $200k if he’s still playing for Milwaukee. From there, the contract will fully guarantee for the season if Bender remains with the Bucks on January 10, 2020.

Heading into a second year, if Bender is to make it that far, the contract would become guaranteed after July 6. This would allow the Bucks the chance to survey their options in the first few days of free agency before having to make a final decision on Bender’s future.

All told, the terms of this deal make for a remarkable coup for Jon Horst and Milwaukee’s front office. Not only did they get to bring in a talented young player with untapped potential on a minimum deal, but if they don’t see signs of development, they’ll have multiple opportunities to move on at minimal cost.

That’s important as the timing of Bender’s guarantee date for his first season will fall very close to the window for 10-day contracts opening, and with the trade deadline and subsequent buyout market arriving just a few weeks later.

If a greater need emerges at a different position due to injury, or if Bender stagnates on the end of the bench, Milwaukee can painlessly move on and make the most of that spot.

On top of the flexibility it offers the Bucks, it may also ensure that Bender has no shortage of motivation to perform and prove himself. With so many check marks needing to be hit for him to earn his money and secure his stay in the NBA, Bender won’t have the luxury of slacking off at any time.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: How they can get the best out of Dragan Bender. dark

This deal was an interesting one to begin with, but with these details, the Bucks’ swoop for Dragan Bender becomes even more worthy of praise.