Milwaukee Bucks: Why a sign-and-trade is the only avenue for Bogdan Bogdanovic

The Milwaukee Bucks have been reportedly linked to Bogdan Bogdanovic, but a potential sign-and-trade deal is the only path to realistically acquire him.

Well, another layer of intrigue regarding this Milwaukee Bucks offseason has recently surfaced.

As we touched on Thursday and was first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania that morning, the Bucks are expected to chase Sacramento Kings restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic this offseason. It’s not particularly surprising to see the Bucks interested in a player that checks the boxes for the biggest needs they need to address this offseason like Bogdanovic does.

But if the hurdles for doing, say, a theoretical move for future Hall of Famer Chris Paul was significant, the same sentiment applies to potentially swinging a deal for Bogdanovic, if not more so.

The fact that Bogdanovic stands as a coveted restricted free agent and the Kings will have the right to match any offer sheet coming towards the 28-year-old this offseason is quite the massive hurdle to make any pursuit of Bogdanovic a reality.

On top of that is the fact that the Bucks are incredibly limited in their avenues to make a swing for Bogdanovic, given their current cap situation and how they’re reportedly set to enter the luxury tax next season.

As of now, the Bucks will have a little more than $114 million committed on their books for next year, which comes right up to the projected cap number that ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on pre-coronavirus pandemic. So with no cap room and plunging into the tax next year, the Bucks have very little flexibility to make any moves in free agency, much less pursue someone of Bogdanovic’s stature.

That’s where doing a sign-and-trade deal stands as the Milwaukee Bucks’ only lifeline for pulling off such a high-wire act for the Serbian international.

The Bucks clearly have a history of doing sign-and-trades as they did so as recently as last offseason to orchestrate the Malcolm Brogdon deal with the Indiana Pacers last offseason. The only difference here is that the Pacers had the sufficient cap space to take on Brogdon’s four-year, $85 million deal and $21 million salary on to their books in exchange for draft compensation, which included this year’s 24th overall pick.

While it’s far from a like-for-like scenario, over-the-cap teams like the Bucks and the Kings still can pull off a sign-and-trade deal, but it still comes with tough restrictions and is a complicated maneuver to pull off. And with the biggest resource available to the Bucks this free agency being the midlevel exception that’s projected to be over $9 million, that doesn’t seem sufficient enough to really make the Kings sweat in potentially matching an offer sheet for Bogdanovic.

That brings us to any players and assets that would both interest the Kings and the Bucks would be willing to part with and again, making such a maneuver doesn’t come without shaking up Milwaukee’s foundation, beyond parting ways with Bledsoe. Given that the Kings already have a star guard at the center of their franchise in De’Aaron Fox, Bledsoe wouldn’t be of much interest to Sacramento.

The Bucks currently have some young assets they could entice the Kings between the aforementioned 24th overall pick as well as second-year guard Donte DiVincenzo. But in a vacuum, those aren’t wholly appetizing assets for the Kings to take on and replace and in-his-prime Bogdanovic who is a versatile fit alongside someone like Fox.

Perhaps the number of decently sized salaries on the Bucks will help in this regard, but all of them are owed to veterans such as George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova (should his $7 million be guaranteed), Robin Lopez. Even as the Kings have aspirations to end their 14-year playoff appearance drought next season, the value of bringing in those veterans isn’t very high for a developing team such as they are.

That makes the pathway for potentially acquiring Bogdanovic dependent on any moves the Bucks make before free agency. Bucks general manager Jon Horst proved last year that he’s capable of navigating through some tough cap gymnastics as he did in mostly retaining all of the Bucks’ free agents last offseason, Brogdon notwithstanding.

With a transaction moratorium in place, we’re far off from seeing any and all moves that would be necessary in order to gain a little more flexibility in bolstering their roster outside of the trade market.

There’s also the matter of the Bucks being hardcapped if they were eventually able to pull off a sign-and-trade move for Bogdanovic, which would leave the Bucks unable to cross the tax apron, which will be $6 million over the luxury tax line. Given the pledge that Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry reportedly made to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks appear set in going into the luxury tax for next season.

Last offseason, Bogdanovic reportedly turned down a max contract extension that was worth $51.4 million over four years from the Kings and turned his attention towards earning a bigger payday this offseason. That payday certainly won’t be as big as Bogdanovic had hoped it would be, given the current financial difficulties, but he very well could still be among the rare group of players who earn a raise that goes beyond exception money.

For all those reasons and plenty more, the Bucks’ interest in Bogdanovic is certainly just that at this point in time. And given their own current cap constraints, the Bucks are trying to acquire Bogdanovic with one hand tied behind their back.