The Bucks face a critical juncture in their championship pursuit this offseason, as three of their starters and a few key bench players will reach free agency. Perhaps none more important than James Khristian Middleton, fresh off his first all-star game looking to secure the bag. The questions have been around all year, is Khris Middleton worth what he will be paid this summer? Is Khris Middleton good enough to be the second best player on a title contender? Is Khris Middleton a closer?

Let us talk about what the opportunity cost is, if Khris Middleton opts out and the Bucks waive his cap hold along with Nikola Mirotic’s cap hold. The Bucks would have about 24 million dollars in cap space to replace him. (They would have to do this before Brogdon is extended, otherwise, they will likely not have any room)


This player would be called upon to replace what Khris did this year, 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists a game along with good defense. Not superstar numbers, but a club that only these 11 players qualified for this year:

Khris has been a perfect fit next to Giannis, doing some playmaking and a lot of shooting. He was their second leading scorer all year, and continued that in the playoffs, but a max would pay him $32 million next season, and is that something the Bucks want to do going forward? A lot of Bucks fans are not so sure, so what are the options


 

Option 1: Sign a Max Free Agent

If the Bucks also waive Brogdon’s RFA hold, Sterling Brown’s non-guarantee, and Pat Connaughton’s non-guarantee, they are close $32 million in cap space. Trading Ersan ($7 million) or Snell ($11 million) could open up room for a full max for any free agent. That list includes:

  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Kemba Walker
  • Klay Thompson
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Tobias Harris

I think all of those names aside from Tobias Harris are upgrades on Khris Middleton. Where it gets a little sketchy is that you’d be giving up 5-6 guys who gave you good rotation minutes in order to get them, unless you convince one of them to take a fairly large (3-6m) discount to sign with the Bucks. Which is, of course, the hardest part. If you pull off adding Kawhi Leonard to this core, you win the offseason. If you gut the roster to add Tobias Harris, I remain skeptical that is “improvement.”

 

Option 2: Sign a Big Free Agent

So you didn’t sign a max guy, but maybe there is someone on the next line that makes sense that can be an upgrade on Khris value wise. Since it allows keeping Brogdon, Pat, and Sterling. What kind of names are on that $10-26 million list?

  • Al Horford
  • Goran Dragic
  • Thaddeus Young
  • Bojan Bogdanovic
  • Julius Randle
  • Nikola Vucevic
  • JJ Redick
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Terrence Ross
  • D’Angelo Russell (RFA)

 

Some of the names on this list are interesting, they all do various things well. Some defend well, others score well, some fit well with Giannis. I am not sure any of them makes the Bucks better, but perhaps you could convince me the Bucks really need one of their individual skills. Russell might be the most interesting, but the Nets likely match his offers or he gets snatched up elsewhere. Redick’s shooting ability would change the look of their offense, but he is a guy that gets targeted every playoffs. None of them have Khris’s versatility, but some of these guys have made all-star games and are probably top 50 players in the NBA.

 

Option 3: Sign Several Small Free Agents

I am not sure that four $4-8 million a year guys improves you as an NBA team, but let us look at it anyway.

  • Marcus Morris
  • Mario Hezonja
  • Emmanuel Mudiay
  • Alonzo Trier
  • Danny Green
  • Darren Collison
  • Alec Burks
  • Cory Joseph
  • Patrick Beverly
  • Justin Holiday
  • Mike Scott
  • Tomas Satoransky
  • Rodney Hood
  • Seth Curry
  • Jeff Green
  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Jonas Jerebko
  • Terry Rozier?
  • Kelly Oubre Jr.?

 

The last two might be more expensive, but I honestly have no idea at this point. The thought process here is that Giannis and some guys who have skills will be enough for ECF and then next year you’ll have max space to try and sign a big guy again.

 

Option 4: Scale Up Other Bucks Usage

This is a tricky option, but perhaps the younger Bucks are ready. So next year Bledsoe, Brogdon, Wilson, Sterling, Donte all combine to pick up the slack. Khris’s 18 PPG are divided amongst them and the Bucks are able to use the space to bring back Hill and Lopez on rich one-year deals to keep the powder dry for next summer. This option can be combined in some way with option 3 or possibly option 2, with a free agent or two picking up some slack.

 

So there you have it, if you want to replace Khris Middleton there is a concrete list of a handful of names that you could try. If I were Jon Horst I would be reaching out to Uncle Dennis and Mychal Thompson now, and if the vibes were not positive I would have Middleton set to sign a near max deal on June 30th. Khris brings a combination of shooting, playmaking and defense that is tough for anyone to replace. If you plan on letting him walk, the plan essentially requires getting a top 20 player to replace him sooner or later. That is my opinion, what do y’all think? Let me know on Twitter @junesfoshiz.

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