Milwaukee Bucks: Ownership hints at reasoning for P.J. Tucker controversy

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 14 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 14 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Following their title-winning season, it seemed inevitable that the Milwaukee Bucks would be handing P.J. Tucker a nice extension once 2021 free agency began.

With the team holding his Bird Rights in free agency, they seemed like the clear-cut favorites to keep him. Days before free agency began, general manager Jon Horst discussed how important having those rights to Tucker were, telling the media, “the fact that we have rights on him is valuable, it absolutely played into the calculus of trading for him.”

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Those assuring comments from Horst made it all the more shocking when it was announced on the first day of free agency that Tucker would not be returning to the Bucks, but instead sign a two-year deal worth $15 million with the Miami Heat.

Many immediately questioned how this happened, and after a heartfelt goodbye post from Tucker on Instagram, where he hinted that the decision was out of his control, it seemed apparent that this was a financial move due to the team’s current luxury tax situation.

Recently sitting down with The Athletic, Milwaukee Bucks ownership highlighted their luxury tax situation

Talking with The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Anthony Slater (subscription required), Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry freely discussed all things from the title run and the future of the team.

One area of the interview that caught the attention of readers was where Lasry detailed the team’s current luxury tax predicament. Per Spotrac, the Bucks already have the fourth-highest luxury tax bill in the entire association at $52.4 million. Lasry highlighted how that financial bind was considered among their moves made in the offseason, as he hypothetically notes that signing someone for $5 million would have been somewhere around $20, $25 million on the tax bill. They wanted to avoid increasing that bill further, as Lasry noted that the team will already be losing money as it currently stands due to their small-market status.

While he did not outright say it, Lasry essentially confirmed everything that fans had already been speculating since Tucker’s departure. Despite having his rights and the ability to retain him, as well as guaranteed interest from Tucker to return, they chose not to due to the cost. Given how pivotal he proved to be in the championship run, the decision to not bring him back has been scrutinized to the fullest extent, and justifiably so. While it is a big loss both on and off the floor, fans will have to wait until next season to legitimately analyze just how much this will hurt the team as they aim to defend their title.

Of course, it makes matter worse that Tucker went and signed with one of Milwaukee’s biggest rivals in the Eastern Conference in the Miami Heat. That only rubs more salt in the wound, and it will be very telling if these two teams meet in the postseason for a third consecutive time during the upcoming 2021-22 season and Tucker proves to be a massive difference-maker. However, only time will tell how things transpire there, as that scenario is still far down the line.

In the present, fans essentially got the news confirmed that they had already known that this was a cost-cutting move.

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Losing Tucker stings for the Bucks, and it will be interesting to see how the decision factors into their success next season.