The best version of the Milwaukee Bucks next season involves the team re-signing Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez to make another run with this group of players. With their core intact, this team has the talent, the two-way attack, and the continuity to challenge for a title.
The issue with that plan is twofold. One, the price to bring both back at market value will send this team rocketing into the luxury tax. Even if the Bucks’ owners are willing to pay that much money in a small market for a team that just lost in the first round, starting in 2023-24, being deep into the tax will trigger draconian team-building restrictions.
The Milwaukee Bucks might not be able to bring Khris Middleton back
The other issue is that Middleton can probably find a couple of teams that are willing to pay him his maximum amount, which would start at $46.9 million and go up from there. Can the Bucks stomach paying that much, given the above problems? Probably not, which greases the wheels for Middleton to sign with another team.
Middleton leaving with no return likely dooms the Bucks as a title contender. They need his offensive impact and floor spacing, and they can’t replace him if he walks. Their best course of action in that scenario is to try and work out a sign-and-trade where Middleton lands his big payday and the Bucks get something back in return. That also opens up more options for Middleton on the open market.
Here are four such trade ideas, each designed to land Middleton somewhere he can get paid while also returning players back to Milwaukee. The goal is to find realistic outcomes for both the Bucks and their trade partners. That includes both the value coming back (not as much as a signed Middleton, but more than nothing) and the financial situation, keeping in mind the Bucks can’t take anyone back in a double sign-and-trade given their tax situation.
Without further adieu, four sign-and-trade scenarios to keep the Bucks in contention.