The Milwaukee Bucks are fresh off an NBA Championship—fresh as vegetables just picked from your backyard garden and brought into the house fresh—but nevertheless, they have decisions to make about the offseason which is already upon us.
With the NBA offseason starting this week already, not only will the Bucks have to begin executing their offseason plan, but a number of players will have to make critical decisions about their future with the franchise as well. Just like this abbreviated break, let’s jump right into the pivotal decisions general manager Jon Horst and his staff will have to make before next season tips.
Bryn Forbes and Bobby Portis each have to make decisions about whether they’ll accept their player options for the 2021-22 season. Forbes’ determination date comes on July 28 while Portis has to make his by August 1. Don’t be surprised to see both players decline them and hit the open market. They played crucial roles for Milwaukee this season and will easily be able to earn more than the $2.4 and $3.8 million, respectively, they’d earn if they accepted their options.
Just nine days removed from their Game 6 victory over the Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee will have to figure out to do with their draft pick on July 29th. They currently hold the first selection in the second round (the 31st overall pick) thanks to their trade with the Houston Rockets to acquire P.J. Tucker. Milwaukee could hold onto that selection and add a potential contributor who will be under valuable team control for three years. They could also package it as part of a larger deal if they want to actively upgrade their roster for their championship defense.
P.J. Tucker is one of the Bucks’ few rotational players who will likely become free agents this year they actually have a good chance at keeping. When Milwaukee acquired him around the trade deadline, they also acquired his bird rights which allows them to go over the salary cap on his next contract to retain his services. That’s huge because they’re far over the salary cap as is and have very few assets to upgrade their roster before next year. After he played lockdown defense throughout the entire postseason, Milwaukee will likely do everything they can to keep Tucker around on a one or two year deal.
Best known as Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo carved out a small, but important role on the team this year. He was the hype man on the bench, the guy who would come into games to inject energy into his teammates, and the defensive stopper who would sometimes play one possession at the end of quarters. The Bucks can make a qualifying offer worth $2.1 million to bring him back for next year—something they’ll have to decide on by August 1.
Sam Merrill, Mamadi Diakite and Elijah Bryant
The Bucks have individual decisions to make about this trio of young players at some point in the offseason. Sam Merrill has an August 8 trigger date on his $1.5 million contract for 2021-22. He showed some promise in his rookie campaign as a player who could turn into a combo guard and space the floor from the perimeter. Mamadi Diakite and Elijah Bryant are in a little bit different of a place as there are no dates in place that will guarantee their contracts. Basically, Milwaukee can string them out all offseason and make a decision to release them at any point before the beginning of the season.
Donte DiVincenzo is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is eligible to sign an extension up until the day the NBA regular season tips-off. He was an integral part of the Bucks’ starting lineup this year and showed improvement in his outside shooting and overall offensive game. He’s also a dynamic and versatile defensive player who excels off ball. Milwaukee would be wise to see how his health progresses throughout the Summer and early Fall before pulling the trigger on a new deal.
We can technically put Brook Lopez into this category as well. He’s entering Year 3 of his four-year extension he signed with the Bucks, but Milwaukee can offer him another three-year extension on top of that. You can forget about that, however, as there’s no way Milwaukee will offer the big man a contract that won’t even kick in until he’s 35-years-old.
If the Bucks dip their toes into the trade waters, they’ll have two trade exceptions to work with totaling $5.8 million—one for $1.7 million and another for $4.9 million. It would be difficult for them to pull off such a move without including Lopez or DiVincenzo, but it is something worth keeping an eye on.
Taxpayer Midlevel Exception
This is the Bucks’ primary way to acquire new talent through free agency (other than veteran minimum contracts). The Bucks can use the taxpayer midlevel exception worth $5.9 million to sign a new player. If Portis declines his player option, this would be the most Milwaukee can offer him (it’s likely he can get close to double this on the open market). Otherwise, the Bucks will look to bring in another player with this money and add a role player they’ll desperately need for next season.