Bucks Stampede With Success in Free Agency


The Milwaukee Bucks boldly declared, even on the first day of free agency, that the city’s dynastic aspirations have many a season ahead.

But their moves brilliantly came not with outside free agents but by retaining existing players. It looks largely like a run-it-back scenario for the Bucks and who could blame GM Jon Horst and the Milwaukee brass?

If not for Khris Middleton‘s knee injury in the playoffs, perhaps the Bucks would’ve represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Without Middleton, Milwaukee took Boston to seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

So why not stay on the marked trail of success? Here are the moves made, not including Pat Connaughton opting into his $5.7 million player option, which is also a coup. Connaughton returning for less than market value allows for others (like Bobby Portis) to cash, further indicating Bucks’ cultural success.

Bucks Reward Portis With Deserved Windfall

Bobby Portis is staying in Milwaukee. An agreement of the long-presumed deal was reported five minutes into free agency. Portis returns on a four-year, $49 million deal. It’s a great deal for both sides as Portis took a discount last year in a wink-wink move with management fulfilling the big-money deal this free-agency period.

Wisconsinites belove Portis. His hard-nosed toughness is Milwaukee. He also happens to be a great bench player who fits ideally with Giannis given his skillset, size and shooting range. Portis is coming off a career season in 2021-22 in which he averaged career-highs in points (14.6), rebounds (9.1) and minutes (28.2) per game. He also posted a career-high 24 double-doubles.

Portis returning was the most pivotal move for the Bucks entering the offseason, and the team got the job done quickly. It’s a slam-dunk deal.

Bucks Bring Back Wes Matthews

Matthews largely replaced P.J. Tucker’s defense on opponents’ best perimeter offensive player. Wes returns on the vet minimum which is great for the Bucks. He not only brought strong perimeter defense, but knocked down enough shots as well.

Carter Returns

Jevon Carter didn’t get his shot much in the postseason. Mike Budenholzer elected to go with George Hill behind Jrue Holiday despite Carter’s strong play.

Carter signed with the Bucks on February 24th after being waived by Brooklyn, appearing in 20 games with Milwaukee, averaging (51% FG, 56% 3PT), 2.5 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 17.7 minutes per game with Milwaukee.

Carter is a hard-nosed and tough defender. For a 12-15 minute-a-night role player, he is a fine piece to a team. He signed a two-year deal for $4.6 million. It’s a solid deal for both parties.

Bucks Sign Sharpshooter Ingles To TPMLE

The Bucks used their entire TPMLE (taxpayer mid-level exception) slot to bring in Joe Ingles. Ingles is a nice player but is coming off an ACL tear at 34 years old. Providing another sharpshooter and wing with size is a nice complement around Giannis. One could easily observe the need for more wings with size against Boston in the playoffs.

Ingles struggled with his three-point shot last year but is a career 40.8 percent hitter from distance. Having knock-down shooters surrounding Giannis is key for the Bucks and Ingles can also make a play off the bounce and is a terrific passer. The only criticism of the signing is the alternative of signing him for half the TPMLE to possibly bring another piece over. A player like Otto Porter Jr. or Bruce Brown who are younger and not coming off a serious injury could have been a shrewder move.

Ibaka Stays With Milwaukee Too

Ibaka was a trade deadline acquisition for Donte DiVincenzo, Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye last year. Milwaukee acquired him more as an insurance policy in case Brook Lopez didn’t recover well from back surgery. Ibaka faced limited playing, so it is a bit of a surprise to see him return with Portis, Lopez and Giannis already taking minutes at center. Serge could be a salary filler in a potential trade later on, but if he does stay, it is a quality backup on the cheap.

Grade And Are The Bucks Done In Free Agency?

Overall, the Bucks are in the B range. The Bucks couldn’t let Portis walk as he’s beloved in Milwaukee and is a great role player. Wes Matthews showed he still has a lot left in the tank defensively and returns on the minimum. Carter and Ibaka are back inexpensively, too.

All solid moves. Pre-injury Ingles was a lights-out shooter, but being 34 and coming off a knee injury, the deal would have been much better with a minimum with incentives.


Now, are the Bucks done in free agency? Probably. However, Horst is constantly seeking ways to improve the team. Grayson Allen, Hill and Ibaka could be used as a package, or Allen and Hill only to bring a piece to the roster.

One shouldn’t be surprised if ultimately the Bucks have set their opening-night roster, however.

About Mitchell Skurzewski

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