Milwaukee Bucks: Assessing what Pat Connaughton could make in free agency

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 4: Pat Connaughton #24 of the Milwaukee Bucks looks on during the game against the Detroit Pistons on December 4, 2019 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 4: Pat Connaughton #24 of the Milwaukee Bucks looks on during the game against the Detroit Pistons on December 4, 2019 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Pat Connaughton has found a home with the Milwaukee Bucks over the last two seasons, but what can he get in his upcoming free agency this offseason?

It’s been through his time with the Milwaukee Bucks that Pat Connaughton has found his place in the NBA.

Cast off by the Portland Trail Blazers two summers ago after a three-year stint and 1,947 minutes played, Connaughton was scooped up by the Bucks and has been a steady fixture on the wing, and a leading face in the Bucks’ culture set under head coach Mike Budenholzer.

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But with Connaughton set to re-enter the open market, he will be among the surplus of wing players the Bucks will look to retain this offseason, whenever that officially begins.

We know where Connaughton’s allegiances lie as he told Michael Pina of SB Nation that he would ideally stay in Milwaukee and try to fulfill his and the team’s quest to win a championship, regardless of a rich contract or commitment from the Bucks’ end:

"“I want to continue to play in the NBA. I want to continue to be part of the Milwaukee Bucks as a championship contender, and I want to continue to help my team eventually win a championship, two, three, four, whatever it is. What my contract looks like while I’m doing that? If it was more money and more guaranteed years, absolutely, I’d love that. But as long as I’m here, as long as I’m playing, as long as I’m doing my job to continue to be an NBA player, a dream that I wanted to accomplish since I was a kid, it’s quite possible I make more money outside of basketball than I do in basketball when it’s all said and done.”"

That’s certainly one of the many special qualities and characteristics that makes Connaughton such an interesting figure, both on or off the court. And the reality is is that Connaughton’s upcoming trip in free agency won’t be all that dissimilar to how his first foray into the open market nearly two summers ago.

For those that need the refresher, Connaughton signed a two-year pact with the Bucks in late July of 2018 that was worth $3.3 million and just guaranteed for his first season with the club. Taking up the remaining money on the Bucks’ Mid-Level exception that summer, Connaughton got a decent deal, despite having logged the majority of his minutes with the Blazers throughout the 2017-18 season.

Of course, Connaughton’s experience and overall playing time in Milwaukee has eclipsed what he earned in Portland as he has played 2,704 total minutes with the Bucks when you account both the regular season and the team’s playoff run last year.

Connaughton no longer stands as that outcast he may have been viewed as, but the prospect of getting a relatively nice raise for a role player like the Fighting Irish product is a tougher challenge than was the case nearly 21 months ago for Connaughton.

Before the season stoppage, very few teams were projected to have cap space, with only the Miami Heat being the lone playoff team to have some worthwhile amount of cap space as ESPN’s Bobby Marks ($) wrote last month. And as Marks noted in this piece ($) regarding what resources teams will have available to them this offseason, the Bucks will have a projected $9.8 million Mid-Level exception and $3.8 million bi-annual exception handy to them as of now.

To say that all of those figures will be impacted by the season being suspended is an understatement and there are plenty of other negotiations being worked out at this moment between the league and the players’ union that will impact the NBA in ways we can’t even imagine right now.

Where that leaves someone in Connaughton’s place, a player standing in the lower-to-middle class of players in the NBA, will be especially damaging to him as he hits his athletic and basketball peak of his powers. But as Connaughton said himself, there’s a good chance that he may end up with more earnings with his ventures off the court than what he earns over his NBA career.

The Bucks will likely be more than happy to keep Connaughton on a nice value deal, likely at the veteran minimum, even as they will have to address the wing position. The fact that the Bucks hold Connaughton’s Early Bird rights does give them advantages navigating through the salary cap as Hoops Rumors’ Luke Adams delved into here, despite him being an unrestricted free agent.

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The Bucks can offer the chance for a meaningful role as well as the chance to continue contending for a title, just as Connaughton has done with them over the last two seasons. If that’s enough for him, that may very well be key to his stay in Milwaukee continuing this offseason.