Contract details are shown on the latest Bucks signees and answer some questions

We’re finally starting to see some real clarity on the Bucks’ current financial situation and how that could dictate moves — or lack thereof — between now and training camp. As I’ve done a few times already since the offseason kicked into gear, let’s take a look at how Adrian Griffin’s first roster comes together.

With news there Jae Crowder really took the veteran’s minimum to return to Milwaukee, as Robin Lopez and Malik Beasley did, GM Jon Horst did a pretty solid job of filling out the roster in free agency given the limited tools he was allowed by the new CBA. After committing a combined $54m next year to Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, the Bucks had $169.5m earmarked for just eight players on their roster, which didn’t even include their two most recent second-round picks.

Speaking of them, Chris Livingston took one minimum wage agreement it will pay him $7.7 million over four years, with two years guaranteed. Jackson took basically the same contract, although the second year is only partially guaranteed. The Bucks also promoted AJ Green from a two-way to a standard roster, and his salary will reportedly come in just above the league minimum for a second-year player at $1.9M, with non-guaranteed minimum salary for two more seasons after that. .

Even before factoring in these three cheap players, it would be pretty difficult to use the entire taxpayer version of the $5m version of the mid-level exemption – as a team over the NBA’s $165.3m luxury tax threshold – that’s all they have allowed. if the team salary exceeded the second base of $182.8 million, that exception disappears. For having spent all of the $5 million on one player, the Bucks would have ended up with just $25,000 left for that apron by signing the Beasley-Crowder-Lopez trio for a vet minimum plus the two rookies on their minimum requirements.

Replacing one of those vets with a third rookie and only his minimum would have only opened up another $900ki in cap space. Even an unrealistic one five Rookies on the minimum would have them just $2.7 million under the cap, not much more than a vet minimum costs the team and cheaper than what a player with eight years or more experience would earn on a minimum deal. Splitting the MLE between two players wouldn’t have made the situation much better, only allowing two vet minimum deals.

In any of these scenarios, however, the roster would be fourteen men, and the brother of a certain superstar would not receive a guaranteed contract. Using the entire taxpayer MLE of $5m. was almost out the window, even with the Bucks getting something of a trade on Middleton, despite having to outbid the Rockets for Brook Lopez, and signing two guys to the vet minimum (a third vet min free agent completely eliminated the chance) , all because Thanasis has to be on the list. And right now he’s technically not on the list.

Like it or not, while Thanasis frankly lacks NBA skills, a roster spot plus its accompanying cap hit is a small price to pay to make Giannis happier. I understand the frustration to a certain extent, but at the end of the day one player out of fifteen is nothing to get upset about. The Bucks should definitely always have a guard spot earmarked for Thanasis—it sounds like they do, but purposefully held off on re-signing him to maintain some flexibility—and it’s up to him whether he wants to stay in Milwaukee with his little brother or go somewhere else. Maybe he will eventually move on, or to coach as some fans hope, but that time is not now, and that’s perfectly fine.

When Thanasis invariably signs that minimum, the Bucks will have a full fifteen-man roster that totals around $181.7 million. in salary, plus an expected $49.7 million. in luxury tax. They will be taxed at a higher rate than in previous seasons thanks to the repeatability provision in the CBA, after paying the tax in at least three of the past four seasons. That’s all right – they use as much as they can while retaining the right to use TPMLE (the other punitive measures imposed from surpassing the second apron will not start before Next season) – but you might be wondering: is there any way they can open up space to use themselves some of TPMLE?

The answer is: not unless they are able to open up some more space under the second apron in a trade. If Horst constructs a deal that sends out two (or more) bucks for fewer players coming back and results in a salary of about $3.9M coming off the books, then he will be able to use that entire $5M exception. Is anyone on the market worth it though? Almost everyone on that list could make minimum salary right now, so for many of these guys a trade doesn’t need to open up more than about $915k if he wanted to take the vet minimum. There are a couple of veteran point guards on that roster — Kendrick Nunn and John Wall the most viable — who could help solve the Bucks’ current lack of depth behind Jrue Holiday.

Is that a concern for Horst though? Recent comments show that it is not. Although he extols the virtues of Omari Moore and Lindell Wigginton as their two-way players, noting that they have “a lot of secondary ball handlers” in addition to primary guys Holiday and Middleton (which I think is an exaggeration, though Jackson shows up ready for NBA game action and ends to those two as more than a secondary option), he is “at peace” without having a “true, pure backup point guard.”

To be fair, it’s a situation that worked to some degree two years ago. With the Bucks only having Jeff Teague to back up the 2021 title, he was at best the third guy off the bench during the playoffs, more often the fourth. Teague had his moments, but was no better than many of the options in free agency, and it’s debatable whether Milwaukee actually needed Hi M. Will the Bucks win the 2021 championship without Jeff Teague? With all due respect to his play in the Eastern Conference Finals, they probably still do.

When healthy, the Middleton/Holiday duo of primary ball handlers proved enough in terms of playmaking, initiation and passing to win a title once before. They might be enough to do it again, and even that high score feels more likely than one of the deep bench point guards becoming a rotation player. Of course, players are less and less likely to ever amount to anything in the league the further down the draft board you go; established players are more likely to improve or maintain past form than the Beauchamps or Jacksons of the world become quality rotation pieces (at least this upcoming season, if ever) that answer the team’s roster composition/depth and youth issues.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be optimistic about the young guys, but why shouldn’t you also be optimistic about the team’s veteran core being good enough to win it all, even without the depth we’d imagine? The latter is a far more likely outcome, if only because they have done it before, not so long ago. Even if they hadn’t, the safer money would be on the ever-recent All-Stars leading the team deep into the postseason over the unproven guys who emerged.

The problems with the list we’re looking at today remain, of course. As always, health is a question mark with Middleton and decision-making with Holiday. Regular season depth in the ball-handling corps would be nice, as any of the Jackson/Wigginton/Moore trio is hardly better than a third-stringer. Plus with the signing of Beasley, the team is heavily tilted toward off-ball wings who are best suited at the 2 rather than the 3, and certainly not the run spot. Given the expanded role MarJon Beauchamp has taken on in Summer League, the Bucks will likely want to find minutes for him on the wing (not to mention Jackson and Livingston), so clearing the current logjam is a smart move.

Again, the best way to deal with this dilemma — which might not end up being as much of a dilemma as it currently appears — would have to largely involve a trade from holdovers. However, such a move cannot happen between now and training camp, and we should be open to the possibility that this roster can work well in its current state. As it is, Griffin may actually be able to run a productive NBA offense with this group, one that isn’t stuck in the half court that we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years. Perhaps Horst will be right in that declaration of confidence. It also feels like a much safer bet than any of the three inexperienced guards seriously breaking into the rotation.

in the meantime, feel free to talk through some trade ideas for fun. It’s likely that everything we can think of has been discussed in the Bucks’ front office. After all, they are professionals who have pulled lots of the right strings over the years. Not pulling more of them could end up training, so let’s at least be open to that.

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