Milwaukee Bucks: Assessing their financial situation ahead of the offseason

As the Milwaukee Bucks are set to take on a challenging offseason for a variety of reasons, we assess what their current financial situation looks like.

For the second straight year, the Milwaukee Bucks were knocked out of the playoffs sooner than they aspired and fans had hoped.

The general consensus going forward is that the Bucks’ front office helmed by general manager Jon Horst is going to shake up the roster a bit. But how will their current financial outlook affect what they’re able to do to acquire the roster upgrades they reportedly desire? Glad you asked.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in late January that the salary cap was projected to be around $115 million. What that looks like in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic disrupting the 2019-20 NBA season to where the campaign finally wrapped up nearly a year after it started remains to be seen.

However, recent reports such as this one from The Athletic’s Shams Charania ($$) suggest that the league is attempting to hold those current projections, something that NBPA executive director Michele Roberts echoed in that piece.

How that pertains to the Milwaukee Bucks is a very pertinent question, given the fact they’re currently slated to be right on the projected tax line of $132.7 million for next season.

Amid questions about where the Bucks shake up their foundation this fall and winter, most of the Bucks’ core is locked in for the long haul. That comes after the frenzy they were in to retain their core last offseason where they brought back the likes of George Hill, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton back on lucrative, long-term deals. That goes on top of the four-year, $70 million extension that Eric Bledsoe signed near the end of the 2018-19 regular season.

With their starting core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe, Lopez and Middleton all in place for at least one more season, the Bucks already have $90.1 million committed to those four for next season. Add in Hill and that jumps $99.7 million to their top five earners.

Along with that, the Bucks’ most recent first round selections, Donte DiVincenzo and D.J. Wilson, are set to earn a combined $7.5 million between the two of them. With Thanasis Antetokounmpo going into the final season of his two-year, veteran minimum deal, that raises the Bucks’ bill up to $109 million that are locked in for players who will be on their roster next season.

It’s from there where the questions swirl as to which Bucks holdovers in supporting roles will stick around for next season amid a free agent market that is far from robust, both financially and in terms of star names.

As of this writing, Ersan Ilyasova’s $7 million salary is completely non-guaranteed for next season. Both Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews hold player options for next season. Lopez is owed $5 million while Matthews is deliberating picking up his $2.6 million option.

Sterling Brown is currently set to enter restricted free agency, but the Bucks must first pony up his $2 million qualifying offer in order to make the 25-year-old a restricted free agent and the ability to match any offer sheet that may come his way this offseason.

Finally, the Bucks still have the dead money of both Jon Leuer and Larry Sanders on their books and those figures combine for a $5 million for next season.

While we wait on the decisions on Brown, Ilyasova, Lopez and Matthews in particular, the player contracts that are officially locked in and the dead money brings their bill up to a little more than $114 million for next season. Under those aforementioned salary cap projections, that would go right up to the salary cap number that is obviously still subject to change.

As of now, the Bucks will have three roster spots open with Pat Connaughton and Kyle Korver both set to re-enter the open market and Marvin Williams calling it a day on his 15-year NBA career after the end of the Bucks’ season. But that number could rise up to as many seven roster spots, depending on what happens with the likes of Brown, Ilyasova, Robin Lopez and Matthews.

That’s also not to mention the Bucks’ two-way players, Frank Mason III and Cam Reynolds, who both will be restricted free agent and didn’t count against the Bucks’ cap this season with their non-guaranteed deals. Mason, in particular, could be an interesting player for the Bucks to consider signing to a standard NBA contract, given his positional fit and skill set. Although he only saw very limited minutes with the Bucks this season.

Next: Bucks 2020 NBA Draft roundtable: Looking at potential fits

As if the Bucks didn’t have enough questions as to how they will pivot from here after falling short of their ultimate goal, there are plenty of decisions the organization and various players will make that will significantly shape what their offseason will look like in the weeks and months ahead.