For the Milwaukee Bucks, who need depth at the center position, as well as a perimeter shooter, it will be about churning out a bargain deal for a veteran, due to the team’s penny-pinching philosophy, which was necessitated after point guard Eric Bledsoe was acquired last November. Even if the Bucks elect to let forward Jabari Parker, who is a restricted free agent, walk, and don’t re-up with guard Jason Terry and forward Shabazz Muhammad, the team will be about $2 million over the salary cap.
What does this mean for the team’s prospects in free agency? For one, the eligibility to use the non-taxpayer mid-level-exception, which applies to teams fiscally below the luxury tax apron. For this offseason, the spending number, for teams in this instance, will be about $8.5 million. Let’s say Parker re-signs; then what? Well, the fact that the four-year floor-spacer has only appeared in 183 of a potential 328 games (excluding playoffs) undoubtedly deflates his value on the open market, allowing the Bucks to still stand below the luxury tax pocket, and spend more money.
The most sensical option would be to re-sign Parker, (for somewhere around $10-to-15 million annually, if possible) which is also helpful because of the possession the Bucks have of his Bird Rights (meaning, they can dip further into the cap space to sign their forward, myopically unaffected), and nabbing a nice role player or two, elsewhere.
Below are candidates, listed by position, to fill the team’s glaring holes off the bench.
(For the sake of this article, we are going to assume that players, like center John Henson, and guards like Eric Bledsoe and Matthew Dellavedova, aren’t dealt to free up cap space, mostly because there hasn’t been any traction regarding the Bucks on that matter, and they’re not exactly known to do salary dumps.)
Avery Bradley, UFA
Yes, a backcourt player who has been hampered with various injuries over his career doesn’t sound like a problem the Bucks need, but Bradley deserves a shot. A savvy 3-point shooter who has appeared in 39 career playoff games, Bradley is perhaps most known for making two NBA All-Defensive teams, in 2013 and 2016. While he isn’t the same defender he was two years ago, he can still play good on-ball defense when he wants to. It’s hard to say whether he needs a pass-first point guard (ala Rajon Rondo, during his days in Boston) to limit his time as a playmaker – something that likely wouldn’t translate with Bledsoe at the helm. That said, Bradley didn’t play with any playmaking stars in Los Angeles and Detroit, like Antetokounmpo. There are a lot of question marks surrounding the 27-year-old who might be past his prime, but Budenholzer and Antetokounmpo could tighten up his shortcomings.
Will Barton, UFA
As they’ve improved their record, in each of the last four seasons, the Denver Nuggets’ hidden antidote has been the 27-year-old Barton. After averaging nearly 16 points this past season, on a 56.2 percent true shooting percentage, Barton earmarked his breakout year by impressively defending both guard positions, as well as small forwards. Though a mid-level exception stipend may be selling Barton short, the Bucks are in dire need of consistent backcourt help, a two-way bench player with a lot of durability. Jason Terry is 40-years-old and an unrestricted free agent. It’s no secret that Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon played a combined 76 games. Sure, Sterling Brown will see a larger role, but his offensive game is unpolished. A defined spot-up shooter but also a respectable driver, Barton is a plus two-way player, one who could jumpstart a Bucks bench, if he wanted to accept a pinch of dough below his projected market value.
Tyreke Evans, UFA
He may appear out of reach after an outstanding bounce-back season, but for the few teams with available cap – many of whom are rebuilding, such as Phoenix, Chicago, Sacramento – Evans, who will turn 29 by the start of next season, may sign with a playoff-bound team for less. Despite missing time with a rib injury, the former Rookie of the Year averaged 19.4 points (on 45 percent shooting), 5.1 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. In the last handful of years, the athletic wing has developed into somewhat of a 3-point ace, making over 38 percent of his attempts (while hoisting over 4 per game) since the 2015-16 season. He can dribble drive, play-make off the pick-and-roll, as well as move well off-ball. For a team that scored less than one-quarter of their bench points from behind the 3-point line, the Bucks could use Evans’ shooting prowess, to provide a spark. He’s not well-known for his defense, either, but that can be masked by Malcolm Brogdon, a larger role for Sterling Brown, and Tony Snell.
Doug McDermott, RFA
Assuming Budenholzer doesn’t turn a current Bucks’ wing into a sniper, like once he did DeMarre Carroll in Atlanta, someone like McDermott would automatically become the team’s best 3-point-shooting option off the bench. Shooting over 40 percent from downtown for his career, McDermott was sixth in the Association in 3-point percentage on catch-and-shoot threes, which would translate well if Bledsoe were running a fast break, or Antetokounmpo were to drive and dish. Sure, the former Creighton superstar won’t be helpful on the boards, nor will he lend a modicum of athleticism elsewhere on the floor, but he can fluff Milwaukee’s confidence from behind the arc – it ranked 25 in 3-point rate and attempts – and adjust better to today’s NBA.
Ed Davis, UFA
A rebounding stalwart, who, throughout his career, has played 53 percent of his minutes at power forward and 46 percent at center, Davis may very well demand more than $8 million annually. Assuming he compromises to come to an easier conference and join a team with limitless potential, the 6-foot-10 journeyman’s wingspan will torture opponents and help the Bucks with second-chance opportunities, while not demanding many touches on the offense. The only shortcomings with Davis’ game would be his over-aggressive tendencies on the defensive end (4.3 fouls per 36 minutes), as well as his inability to hit free throws. The former can be easily fixed, while the former won’t prove too debilitating, given the number of weapons who can score the ball. Had Davis, who played in Portland the last three seasons, been a member of the Bucks in 2017-18, he would’ve led consistent rotation players in total rebounding rate and been third in win shares, while averaging less than 19 minutes per night. The 29-year-old would find an instant rotation spot in Milwaukee and could even be a spot starter on some occasions.
Mike Scott, UFA
A former seed of Budenholzer’s offense, Scott’s not going to destroy you with his back to the basket, and he lumbers for rebounds, but the now-trim veteran can stroke it from midrange and outside, enough to deem him a marksman. He’s a great pick-and-pop option – something Milwaukee is, and has been, sapped of – and may come at a discounted price. After power forward Mirza Teletovic, a career 37-percent shooter from deep, was waived ahead of the playoffs, due to a serious lung condition, the Bucks lacked a consistent perimeter presence at the stretch four. Though Scott won’t push any starters for minutes, as he lacks inside-out mobility, a microwavable force emerging out of the reserves is what Milwaukee needs.
Kyle O’Quinn, Player Option
Though he’s only started 60 games in his six-year career, O’Quinn’s fearlessness on the offensive glass alone makes him a perfect frontcourt option for the Deer. Per 36 minutes, O’Quinn averaged 14.3 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists, last season with New York. The former Norfolk State product displayed prime efficiency, too, making 58.2 percent of his shots from the floor, and shot 77 percent from the charity stripe. There are very few flaws in the 28-year-old’s game, as possesses a decent shot, and can consistently hit 10-15-foot jumpers. Yes, his career turnover rate of 16.4 percent is somewhat concerning, but it looks better when you realize how often the ball passes through him. Aside from the A-listers mentioned in the lead, O’Quinn might be the best value pick in free agency.
Tarik Black, UFA
It helps that the underexposed gritty center wants a larger role, and is willing to move on from the Houston Rockets. In Brew City, he won’t eat up any starting minutes, but the man who, per 36 minutes, averaged nearly 12 points and 11 boards (four of which were offensive), to pair with 59 percent shooting. He plays like a modified version of Tristian Thompson, in that he plays larger than his 6-foot-9 frame but has a stronger pulse on what’s happening around him on the court. Black sets consistent, hard picks, and has enough athleticism to roll to the basket and finish. The Bucks need a bruiser down low, someone who doesn’t get content with his game; Black fits that billing.
Nerlens Noel, UFA
But, but, Noel doesn’t space the floor, and is teetering on being an unmistakable first-round bust, despite being 24-years-old. Though that may seem true, it comes down to fit. The former Kentucky Wildcat only had a year to solely himself in Philadelphia, before the team decided to draft two more bigs in subsequent years (Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor) to further clog the team’s frontcourt. Then, during Noel’s 15-plus month tenure in Dallas, in which the team was accused of tanking multiple times, Noel didn’t see as many minutes, and proceeded to tear a ligament in his left thumb. He started only 18 games in Dallas. With all that being considered, Noel is still a one-of-a-kind rebounder and shot blocker. For context, John Henson posted a career-low in offensive rebounding rate, while the Bucks finished 29th in the NBA in the same category. Many have given up on Noel, who was also suspended for five games in April for violating the Association’s the NBA’s Anti-Drug program, but, for a team needing backup frontcourt help, the Bucks should gamble.