Bucks score another salary cap own goal (Sat. 5:40)
Bucks: While you were all talking about Gordon Hayward (my initial thoughts are under separate cover here and I’ll have more on this in the morning), the Milwaukee Bucks were busy making a fraught free agency weekend take another bad turn.
As I mentioned in an earlier missive (scroll down), the Bucks originally agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal with Pat Connaughton that included a second-year player option. Only one problem: As an Early Bird Rights player, Connaughton wasn’t eligible to receive a second-year player option on his deal.
As a result, the Bucks (almost certainly) would have had to go back to his agent with hat in hand and request a different arrangement. That’s why a new arrangement for Connaughton was reported later this afternoon. This time they ended up paying twice as much money, to do a three-year deal worth $16 million.
Wait, it gets worse. Despite the error, the Bucks didn’t even need to do the second part. They could have signed Connaughton to the original with their midlevel exception. Yes, they had already agreed to a sign D.J. Augustin to a three-year, $21 million deal with their midlevel exception, but this was also unnecessary.
Augustin’s contract, as it turns out, would have fit snugly into the Jrue Holiday trade with New Orleans as a sign-and-trade if they had either A) started him slightly lower at $6.33 million (for a three-year deal worth $19.5 million or B) included two-way Cam Reynolds in a sign-and-trade back as part of the deal.
They would have had to work out a sign-and-trade with Orlando, but doing so would have been favorable to the Magic as well, generating a $7 million trade exception for the Magic. (Indeed, it is equally bizarre that the Magic did not pursue this angle with more vigor). Orlando would have just needed to send the rights to Janis Timma to New Orleans to complete this, and if they needed cash to pay Reynolds’ salary they could have asked nicely and got it. Doing it this way would have hard-capped the Bucks, but using their full midlevel exception hard capped them anyway, so no loss.
Of course, the bigger issue is that they shouldn’t have stepped in it in Connaughton’s deal in the first place. This is part of a worrying free agency trend in Milwaukee. Last offseason they missed out on generating a $10 million trade exception from the Malcolm Brogdon sign-and-trade (think that might have been useful this week?) by not distributing George Hill’s guaranteed money slightly differently or using incentives on his or Brook Lopez’s contract. And a week ago, of course, they (or others involved) botched the sign-and-trade with Bogdan Bogdanovic when news of it leaked out inappropriately early.
None of this is necessarily a death knell for the Bucks: They had the NBA’s best record the past two seasons. But if they’re going to maximize the prime years of Giannis Antetokoumnpo and Khris Middleton, they can’t keep leaving money on the table when they manage the cap.