Bucks

Vacant Roster Slot Decision Looms for Bucks

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As expected, the Milwaukee Bucks had a relatively quiet NBA Trade Deadline. Following the P.J. Tucker acquisition (and subsequent Torrey Craig trade), the Bucks were just $1.25 million under the luxury tax and roughly $3.5 million under the hard cap, giving them just enough room for two low-cost free-agents or buyout candidates.

Despite what SportsCenter and debate shows tell you, other teams besides the Lakers and Nets are active in the buyout market.

With a couple roster spots available post-trade deadline and limited cap space it was clear the buyout market is where the Bucks were going to upgrade their roster.

The first domino for the Bucks fell Monday, when the Bucks reportedly signed Jeff Teague, who was waived by the Orlando Magic two days earlier.

Why Jeff Teague?

This one is pretty simple– the signing fills a void opened by the Bucks’ deadline deal sending out backup point guard D.J. Augustin for Tucker. Teague slides in for what the Bucks hoped Augustin would be when they signed him this offseason.

Teague isn’t a guy who needs the ball or take a bunch of shots from the Bucks’ big 3. He can get the Bucks into sets and knock down open shots. Teague is shooting a sizzling 46 percent from three-point land this year.

An underrated aspect of this move is Teague is also familiar with coach Mike Budenholzer. The Wake Forest product was the Hawks’ starting point guard for much of Bud’s strong Hawks era, with Atlanta even making the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015 (Teague was also an All-Star in 2015). When signing a player late in the season, it can be tough to get them acclimated, but the familiarity Teague has with Bud should help greatly.

If there is a reason this move feels so right, it’s because Teague was nearly a Buck eight years ago. He signed a restricted-free-agent offer sheet that the Hawks ultimately matched in 2013.

What’s next for the Bucks?

In acquiring Jrue Holiday this offseason, the Bucks put themselves in a cap pinch. The move is an unquestioned upgrade, but the Bucks’ depth is not what it’s been the previous two years.

While rumor and speculation is Austin Rivers and the Bucks have mutual interest in each other, my opinion is Milwaukee is holding out hope a wing with length is available shortly.

With Holiday, however, perhaps they don’t need that depth. But signing Teague to me feels like a choice above Rivers. The buyout market is a place to fill holes and add skillsets to your team. Teague fills the backup point-guard role.

But the Bucks can sign another buyout player and remain under the hard cap.

Rivers is 6’4, but the Bucks already have the backup point guard and have guards with skillsets similar to Rivers like Donte DiVncenzo, Pat Connaughton and Bryn Forbes. The Bucks could use a 3-and-D wing with size or a backup big. While Bobby Portis has been a standout offensively for the Bucks, there isn’t much rim protection on the roster outside of Brook Lopez and Giannis. The problem could be, none of those skillsets remain on the free-agent market or wouldn’t be an upgrade.

So who could the Bucks use their final open roster spot on? Here are some names to watch:

Austin Rivers

It’s unclear if Rivers would move the needle much, but he can handle the ball while being switchable. At 6’4, he and Holiday are both big enough to switch onto wings and defend. Rivers shoots it at 36 percent from three-point range.

This is a nostalgic move too, as his father Doc graced the Marquette hardwood.

Avery Bradley

Bradley is still a really good defender. A defensive-minded wing who can hit the three-ball, the Bucks would be able to put the clamps on opponents with a Holiday-Bradley-Middleton-Tucker-Giannis lineup and could switch pretty much everything without being beaten up defensively. The only question is whether the Rockets plan to retain Bradley through the end of the season.

Otto Porter Jr.

If bought out by Orlando, this would be a gem of a signing. The Bucks saw what long defenders who can knock down 3s can do last season in the NBA playoffs. The Heat rolled them out in waves and Porter Jr. (6 feet, 8 inches tall) would be a nice wing upgrade for the Bucks. OPJ is the model 3-and-D player in today’s NBA, connecting on 40 percent from three-point range. The Bucks also could use some height to defend the likes of Eastern Conference stars in James Harden, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kevin Durant, etc.

Connaughton, Forbes, DiVincenzo and Tucker are all 6-foot-5 or shorter.

Brandon Knight

From the out-of-left-field category, Brandon Knight has been injured much of the last four-plus years, but he reportedly worked out for the Bucks recently. Knight was great in Milwaukee before being traded for Michael Carter-Williams (cringe) at the 2015 trade deadline. Knight would be an interesting move, but doesn’t seem likely with Teague officially signed.

Other names that could be on the Bucks’ watch list if they become available include: Wayne Ellington, Cory Joseph or Kelly Olynyk. But it isn’t clear at this time if those names are even likely to hit the market.

While the cap situation prevented the Bucks from making more moves at the trade deadline, Milwaukee can still make wise roster moves to land some roster upgrades. Jeff Teague fills their biggest hole– now they look ahead to bolstering the bench.

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About Mitchell Skurzewski

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