Even before this summer’s free agency season started, it was clear that the Milwaukee Bucks were going to be a fringe participant.
This isn’t the case because the Bucks are a small-market team. Rather, Milwaukee was prohibited from spending too much during this summer because they basically went on a spree in the summer of 2013. Free agent signees from last year like O.J Mayo, Zaza Pachulia, and Carlos Delfino — not to mention extended Bucks like Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders — all take up significant cap space.
Even though the Bucks remain comfortably under the cap, they still have 14 players under contract, and that number will turn to the league maximum 15 if/when the Jerryd Bayless signing becomes official. However, since Chris Wright‘s contract is fully unguaranteed (via ShamSports), it’s possible that the Bucks could waive Wright and pursue a free agent with more NBA experience.
With Bayless’ contract not yet official, the Bucks haven’t technically signed any players via free agency. The only player that they have signed, passing specialist Kendall Marshall, they picked up off the waiver wire once the Los Angeles Lakers released Marshall. With their rotation set for better or worse, if the Bucks sign an additional player it wouldn’t be one of the remaining marquee names, like Eric Bledsoe or Greg Monroe, but a role player more equatable to Marshall’s value.
Here are three possibilities that I think would work well for the Bucks:
1. Aron Baynes / 2013-14 Team: San Antonio Spurs
It looks like Baynes, a restricted free agent, could be the odd man out in San Antonio, who have brought back their entire championship core, drafted Kyle Anderson, and also signed undrafted free agent Bryce Cotton. Baynes only played in extremely limited minutes with the Spurs, but it would be interesting to see what he looks like as a consistent member of a rotation instead of simply being buried behind the rest of the Spurs’ elite roster.
Like any good Spur, Baynes accepted his fate during the many times he was bound to the bench, and then performed superbly whenever he was called upon, such as in San Antonio’s second-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Spurs were 23.1 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents during Baynes’ 102 playoff minutes. Baynes sets the type of solid, girthy screens that can really make an offense run.
2. Emeka Okafor / 2013-14 Team: (Injured)
Technically, Okafor was a member of the Phoenix Suns throughout the 2013-14 season. Due to a herniated disk in his back, Okafor missed the entire year, and the Washington Wizards traded Okafor, Okafor’s $14 million contract, and a first-round pick to the Phnoeix Suns in exchange for Marcin Gortat. Okafor is a proven NBA veteran, and due to the injury, he is almost entirely without leverage at the negotiation table. Okafor would surely be willing to sign a one-year minimum deal in an attempt to build his value back up, and it would make sense for the Bucks to oblige.
3. Andray Blatche / 2013-14 Team: Brooklyn Nets
Blatche and new head coach Jason Kidd spent all of last year successfully collaborating in Brooklyn, where Blatche was a constant member of the bench unit, playing whichever half of the 48 minutes that Kevin Garnett didn’t play. Blatche’s tenure in Brooklyn took place over two separate one-year minimum contracts — since he has gone unclaimed for so long this year, it’s unlikely that his 2014-15 price would be any higher.