There is a not-so-silent faction of Milwaukee Bucks fans that would like to see the team move on from Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez. Their argument, which is plastered all over social media, is that the team could use the money saved from letting them walk to sign other players. This reasoning, however, is incredibly flawed.
The NBA salary cap rules are not that simple. Milwaukee can re-sign Lopez and Middleton and go over the salary cap because, in essence, they are their free agents. The Bucks, literally, cannot sign outside free agents and go over the cap.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ Only Chance of Fielding a Competitive Roster Is by Re-Signing Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez
In order to make this clear and easy to understand, there are a few numbers that need to be understood (all salary numbers come via Spotrac)
- The NBA salary cap is set at $136 million
- Right now, the Bucks active roster (seven players, including Jevon Carter) are signed for $117,410,821
- The Bucks also have salary cap holds (for their current free agents) totaling $107,948.845
- Ergo, Milwaukee has -$89,359,666 in current salary cap space
Now, this does not mean the Bucks can do nothing. The salary cap holds can either be renounced or the team can agree to new contracts with the players. TO BE CLEAR, renouncing a hold does not afford a team more cap space.
That being said, there are ways that the Bucks can field a competitive team by re-signing their own players. Before this gets explained, here are some more key numbers:
Using the $117,410,821 allocated, the Bucks have the following cap spaces:
- The NBA Luxury Tax Threshold is $165 million, which means Milwaukee has $47,589,179 in luxury tax space
- The NBA Super-Tax Apron is set at $182.5 million, which gives the Bucks $59,838,139 in super-tax space
The Bucks can use this space to extend their own players, i.e. Middleton and Lopez. They can do this because they own Middleton’s and Lopez’s Bird rights, which allow a team to go over the cap to extend their own players.
In short, the Bucks have to extend/re-sign these players in order to field a competitive team. If they decide to sign elsewhere, Milwaukee cannot use those tax holds on outside free agents.
Let’s say the organization decides, or none of their free agents decide, to re-sign. That would mean Milwaukee would have less than $19 million to sign eight players (including draft picks) and fill their 15-man roster. That simply will not happen.
If this were to happen, Milwaukee would also have a $12,403,000 non-tax payer exception that they could use, and they could use it on multiple players. Still, that would give Milwaukee just about $31 million to sign eight players, an average of less than $4 million per year per player.
In today’s NBA, to get the players that Milwaukee would need to compete at a high level with Middleton and Lopez, that simply will not cut it.
The expectation of the team is to continue to compete for NBA Championships. The only way they can continue to do that is by extending both Lopez and Middleton.
If they do not, they will enter a rebuild.