Bucks

Bucks Offseason Begins With Portis, Connaughton

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The Milwaukee Bucks’ 2022 offseason started earlier than planned.

It can be easy to overreact to the loss as Twitter shows, but taking a step back, it isn’t hard to see had Khris Middleton remained healthy, the Bucks were likely heading back to the NBA Finals. The core of Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday all under contract makes the Bucks perennial Finals contenders.

With their Big 3, it is likely GM Jon Horst and the front-office’s decisions are how to maintain key role players and enhance the supporting cast, which leads us into the offseason checklist and a couple of monster decisions around said cast.

Portis, Connaughton player options

The most pivotal early moves this offseason are the player-option decisions by Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton.

Portis and Connaughton are both likely to opt for free agency to get a long-term and more lucrative deal. Portis ($4.5 million) and Connaughton ($5.7 million) have both earned big paydays. The Bucks have Early Bird rights for both Portis and Connaughton, meaning they can go over the cap and re-sign them for up to 175% of their previous salary or 105% of the average league salary, whichever is higher.

It will be fascinating this offseason how far Bucks ownership will be willing to go into the luxury tax. Retaining your own players with bird rights doesn’t ding you like signing outside free agents.

The entire offseason hinges on the outcome of Portis and Connaughton. It is more likely than not that both return. Could a team sway them with a bigger deal? Sure. However, few teams have much money this offseason.

Portis is available for a 3-30 type deal from the Bucks. He can get more elsewhere. Anyone could be swayed with a big-money deal, but he accepted a bargain last year knowing this deal was the one the Bucks could retain him with and set him up for more cash the following summer.

BP also knows the importance of fit and he has gushed about his love for Milwaukee and the city embracing him.

Connaughton likely gets a 3-21 type deal with the Bucks. He was fantastic this season and his confidence from the title run was evident. After the year, he sounded like he’d give the Bucks a bit of a discount.

The decisions by Portis and Connaughton really will dictate the Bucks’ offseason. They return and the Bucks have solid role players in hand. They leave and the Bucks still won’t have much flexibility financially and will sorely need reliable help.

Other Bucks offseason moves

  • Right now, the Bucks have Giannis, Khris, Jrue, Brook Lopez, Grayson Allen and George Hill on guaranteed contracts for next season. Thanasis Antetokounmpo is expected to exercise his $1.8M player option as well
  • It should be a no-brainer to re-sign Wes Matthews on a vet-minimum deal. Matthews really filled the P.J. Tucker role nicely and actually shot the ball pretty well in the postseason. He isn’t leaned on for his offense, but the Madison native showed he still has the chops defensively.

  • There should be some optimism about Jevon Carter returning in free agency, but while he really fit in nicely and hit shots, he fell behind George Hill on Coach Bud’s depth chart, signaling a possible exodus this summer.
  • Don’t anticipate Serge Ibaka or Jordan Nwora to return. Ibaka was basically insurance for Lopez in case his back injury didn’t heal up and couldn’t return last year. Nwora hasn’t been able to consistently crack the rotation or shoot despite showing flashes at times. He isn’t a great defender, but when you’re 6-8 and can hit shots, a team likely offers more than the Bucks are willing to match as a restricted free agent.

NBA Draft

The Bucks own the 24th pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. There’s always the possibility the Bucks trade down if they can for an added pick. They need cheap players and multiple draftees would supply that. The Bucks could also try to offload Brook Lopez’s expiring $13.9 million contract. Lopez and the 24th pick could bring back a decent player.

One trade that works in the NBA Trade Machine: Brook Lopez, 24th pick for Utah’s Royce O’Neale and Rudy Gay. The Jazz are likely seeking an overhaul after another playoff disappointment.

Another fun trade option: Lopez, 24th pick, Hill for Bogdan Bogdanovic.

If the Bucks do keep the 24th pick, expect them to look at backup point guard or a big first, but wing depth could also be a target depending on how the first round shapes up.

Names to watch: PG Kennedy Chandler, G Bryce McGowens, SG/SF Jalen Williams, C Walker Kesler and C Orlando Robinson.

Key offseason decisions

Both Portis and Connaughton have become Milwaukee staples and great role players on a dynasty-aspiring squad. What they decide before June 29th will set the tone for what is to come.

About Mitchell Skurzewski

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