The Bulls and Lauri Markkanen are open to working out a sign-and-trade deal that would send him to a new team, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Chicago issued Markkanen a qualifying offer this week that will ensure he’s a restricted free agent, giving the team some leverage in negotiations.
Scotto identifies the Timberwolves – who have long been on the hunt for a power forward – as one team to watch as a possible sign-and-trade destination for Markkanen. The Spurs and Thunder are also among the teams with Markkanen on their radar, per Scotto. San Antonio and Oklahoma City would have the cap flexibility necessary to issue Markkanen an offer sheet without giving up an asset in a sign-and-trade if they’re confident Chicago won’t match.
Here are a few more updates on free agency from Scotto:
- Following a strong season in New York, free agent big man Nerlens Noel is expected to draw interest from the Raptors, Knicks, Pistons, and Kings, writes Scotto.
- The Raptors and Pistons should have a little cap flexibility and will likely look to the free agent market to address the center position. Scotto reiterates that Jarrett Allen and Richaun Holmes are on Toronto’s radar, and names Kelly Olynyk as a potential Detroit target. Some people around the league believe Olynyk will end up signing a deal worth $10-12MM per year, Scotto adds.
- Despite mutual interest in a new deal between the Hawks and Lou Williams, the three-time Sixth Man of the Year will receive interest from other clubs, including the Pacers and Bucks, says Scotto. Williams is seeking a multiyear deal.
If Portis had opted into the final year of his deal, he would’ve earned a $3,804,150 salary. Instead, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent in search of a new contract.
Portis, 26, took a modest offer worth the bi-annual exception in free agency last fall in order to join the Bucks and played a key role in the team’s championship run. The veteran big man averaged 11.4 PPG and 7.1 RPG on .523/.471/.740 shooting in 66 regular season games (20.8 MPG), then contributed 8.8 PPG and 5.0 RPG in 20 postseason contests (18.3 MPG).
Declining his second-year option doesn’t preclude a return to the Bucks for Portis, who emerged as a fan favorite in Milwaukee. However, the club’s ability to offer him a raise will be limited.
The Bucks only hold Portis’ Non-Bird rights, which would allow them to offer a starting salary worth up to about $4.2MM. If they want to dip into their taxpayer mid-level exception, the Bucks could go up to about $5.9MM in year one. Portis will likely receive more lucrative offers on the open market.
Still, the former first-round pick accepted a discount to sign with Milwaukee once and could be open to doing so again if he wants to try to earn a second consecutive title with Giannis Antetokounmpo and company. The Bucks and Portis reportedly have mutual interest in a new deal.
The Bulls are looking to make to major additions to shore up their point guard position, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.
The Bulls have been linked for months to Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball and there’s thought to be mutual interest between the two sides on a four-year deal worth more than $80MM. If the Pelicans extend a $14.36MM qualifying offer to Ball, he’ll be a restricted free agent — the Bulls would have to give him an offer sheet and hope New Orleans doesn’t match it, or work out a sign-and-trade with the Pels.
The Bulls may have some competition from the Celtics, who have been recently mentioned as a potential Ball suitor after dealing away Kemba Walker. There’s increasing speculation the Celtics will not look to re-sign unrestricted free agent Evan Fournier, says Fischer. That possibility increased significantly after the Celtics agreed to acquire Josh Richardson from the Mavericks.
Chicago is also considering another Derrick Rose reunion and there’s mutual interest. It’s uncertain if the Knicks and head coach Tom Thibodeau can convince Rose, an unrestricted free agent, to re-sign with them if the Bulls make a hard push. However, Chicago will likely need to shed salary in order to bring in both Ball and Rose and the Knicks have plenty of cap room to outbid the Bulls for his services. While that’s a best case scenario in the Bulls’ eyes, they’re intent on adding two point guards this summer, especially with Coby White out indefinitely after undergoing left shoulder surgery, per Fischer.
Fischer offers up a number of other interesting items:
- The Bucks are interested in bringing back two of their prominent free agents. They’d like to re-sign defensive specialist P.J. Tucker on a contract in the neighborhood of two years and $20MM. They are also hoping to re-sign forward Bobby Portis and the feeling is mutual. Since the Bucks only have Non-Bird rights on Portis, they’d have to use their mid-level exception to give him a starting salary higher than about $4.3MM.
- The Cavaliers view the Raptors as their main threat to re-signing restricted free agent Jarrett Allen. Toronto’s interest in Allen surfaced last weekend. However, Cleveland is likely to match any offer sheet for Allen. The Raptors are also eying Kings free agent Richaun Holmes.
- League sources think Lou Williams, one of the league’s top reserves, could re-sign with the Hawks on a veteran’s minimum deal, sys Fischer.
- The Knicks, who need to add scoring punch, have expressed interest in Fournier. They’ve also been linked to Lakers guards Dennis Schroder and Talen Horton-Tucker. Schroder will be looking for a new home after the Lakers agreed to acquire Russell Westbrook. Previous reports have indicated the Knicks’ potential pursuit of Fournier and Schroder. Horton-Tucker is a restricted free agent after the Lakers extended a qualifying offer, though the team has the option of pulling it off the table.
- According to SNY.TV’s Ian Begley, there’s support within the Knicks organization to pursue Nets free agent Spencer Dinwiddie and he’s interested in remaining in New York. Devonte’ Graham, Kendrick Nunn, and Kyle Lowry are some other potential targets at point guard. At the wing, the Knicks have some interest in the Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan and they’ve had discussions with the Magic this week regarding a potential Terrence Ross trade.
JULY 30: The trade is now official, according to a press release from the Bucks.
Isaiah Todd was selected with the No. 31 pick, but he’s being rerouted to the Wizards along with Aaron Holiday in a separate trade. The Bucks, meanwhile, used the No. 54 pick on Sandro Mamukelashvili and the No. 60 selection on Georgios Kalaitzakis.
JULY 29: The Bucks have agreed to trade the No. 31 pick in tonight’s draft to the Pacers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports that Milwaukee is received the Nos. 54 and 60 picks in return, along with two future second-round picks.
The Bucks had entered the night with only the No. 31 pick, having agreed to swap their first-round selection for Houston’s second-rounder in the P.J. Tucker trade at this year’s deadline. They’ll now have a pair of picks right near the end of the draft, which they could use to select a potential two-way player or low-cost roster player.
The Pacers, meanwhile, give up a couple future picks in order to move up to the top of the second round tonight. They now control the 13th and 31st overall selections.
According to Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link), the two future second-rounders Milwaukee receives will be as follows:
- Either Indiana’s 2024 second-round pick or the less favorable of Cleveland’s and Utah’s 2024 second-round picks (whichever is most favorable).
- Either Indiana’s 2026 second-round pick or Miami’s 2026 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable).
The Bucks breathed a collective sigh of relief during the 2020 offseason when Giannis Antetokounmpo signed a five-year, super-max extension to remain in Milwaukee. That commitment from Antetokounmpo gave the club some leeway to operate without having to worry that a trade request from the two-time MVP might be imminent.
Still, it’s not as if Giannis’ new deal lifted all the pressure on the franchise. The Bucks were coming off back-to-back postseason disappointments, having blown a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019 and then losing to the underdog Heat in the 2020 Eastern Semifinals.
Milwaukee was also facing scrutiny for its 2020 offseason moves — the team gave up a ton of draft assets for a player (Jrue Holiday) who had made one All-Star team in 2013 and had never earned an All-NBA spot. And a failed attempt to acquire Bogdan Bogdanovic via sign-and-trade cost the club a future second-round pick for tampering and created the impression that the Bucks didn’t maximize their opportunities to improve the roster.
The fact that the Bucks faced so many questions entering the 2020/21 season makes it all the more impressive that – eight months later – they’ve answered each and every one of them. Before his extension even began, Antetokounmpo led the organization to its first championship in 50 years.
Holiday played a key role in the team’s title run, Bogdanovic’s new team (Atlanta) was no match for Milwaukee in the Eastern Finals, and Mike Budenholzer – who was on the hot seat following the team’s last two playoff letdowns – now appears in line for a contract extension rather than a pink slip.
It’s a good time to be a Bucks fan.
The Bucks’ Offseason Plan:
With Antetokunmpo, Holiday, and Khris Middleton on the books for a combined $106MM+ next season, the Bucks will start the offseason over the cap — and likely in tax territory, once guaranteed salaries for Brook Lopez, Pat Connaughton, Donte DiVincenzo, and others are taken into account.
That will make it difficult for the Bucks to retain free agents like Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes. Milwaukee has both players’ Non-Bird rights, but the Non-Bird exception only gives the team the ability to offer a 20% raise, which would result in a starting salary of about $4.3MM for Portis and $2.8MM for Forbes. They can likely do better on the open market, so if they hope to retain one or both, the Bucks will either have to dip into the mid-level exception or hope they’re willing to accept a discount.
P.J. Tucker‘s Bird rights will allow the Bucks to re-sign him without any cap limitations. A new deal for Tucker would increase Milwaukee’s projected tax bill, but team ownership should be more willing to take on those penalties after a championship season, and Tucker, who is 36, shouldn’t require a long-term investment.
Further upgrades to the roster will be a challenge. If the Bucks are prepared to use it, the taxpayer mid-level exception (worth about $5.9MM) could be used to land a rotation player, though tax penalties would exponentially increase the cost of using that exception. Jeff Green has been cited as one possible target if Portis departs.
It’s possible Milwaukee could get a bargain or two if there are veterans willing to sign for the minimum to chase a ring, and the No. 31 pick will be a useful tool for adding a low-cost player capable of contributing immediately. The Bucks may preserve a portion of their mid-level exception to ensure they can give their second-round pick a deal exceeding two years — dedicating a roster spot to an inexpensive rookie contract for the next three years will help keep team salary in check.
The Bucks will also have to decide soon whether DiVincenzo will be part of the team’s long-term future. He’s eligible for an extension this offseason and could be a useful trade chip if Milwaukee isn’t comfortable giving him a sizable raise. DiVincenzo is a solid player with room to continue improving, but the team was willing to include him in last year’s aborted Bogdanovic sign-and-trade and won a title while he was sidelined with an ankle injury, so it’s not as if he’s indispensable.
If the Bucks had fallen short in the playoffs this season, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Lopez’s name pop up in trade rumors this offseason, since he has the largest contract outside of the club’s “big three.” That’s still a possibility, but Lopez played big minutes during Milwaukee’s title run and didn’t get run off the court like some centers have in the postseason. He’s still a useful piece for the Bucks, who would probably only move him if they could get a better player — not just to get off his salary.
Salary Cap Situation
Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo ($39,344,970) 1
- Khris Middleton ($35,500,000)
- Jrue Holiday ($31,171,333)
- Brook Lopez ($13,302,325)
- Pat Connaughton ($5,333,334)
- Donte DiVincenzo ($4,675,830)
- Jon Leuer ($3,169,347) — Waived via stretch provision.
- Larry Sanders ($1,865,547) — Waived via stretch provision.
- Jordan Nwora ($1,517,981)
- Sam Merrill ($500,000) — Partial guarantee. Non-guaranteed portion noted below. 2
- Mamadi Diakite ($100,000) — Partial guarantee. Non-guaranteed portion noted below.
- Total: $136,480,667
Restricted Free Agents
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo ($2,126,991 qualifying offer / $2,126,991 cap hold): Early Bird rights
- Total (cap holds): $2,126,991
Two-Way Free Agents
- No. 31 overall pick (no cap hold)
- Donte DiVincenzo (rookie scale)
- Brook Lopez (veteran)
Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds
- P.J. Tucker ($15,142,120): Bird rights
- Bryn Forbes ($2,804,574): Non-Bird rights 4
- Jeff Teague ($1,669,178): Non-Bird rights
- Total: $19,615,872
Offseason Cap Outlook
The Bucks’ team salary barely sneaked across the tax line in 2020/21. In 2021/22, the club will likely blow past that threshold.
Milwaukee is already essentially at the tax line with only seven players on fully guaranteed contracts, so even filling out the roster with minimum-salary players would push team salary into the tax by about $10MM. Barring a major cost-cutting move, the Bucks will be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception.
Cap Exceptions Available
- Taxpayer mid-level exception: $5,890,000 5
- Trade exception: $4,886,515
- Trade exception: $1,620,564
- This is a projected value. Antetokounmpo’s salary will be 35% of the 2021/22 salary cap.
- Merrill’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 8.
- Because he’ll have four years of NBA service, Jackson is ineligible to sign another two-way contract.
- Forbes is declining his player option for 2021/22.
- This is a projected value. If the Bucks stay below the tax apron, they could have access to the full mid-level exception ($9.5MM).
The decision had been expected, since Forbes’ 2021/22 salary would have been a modest $2.45MM if he had exercised the option. Coming off a season in which he played regular minutes for the NBA champions, the 28-year-old presumably feels confident about earning a higher salary – and perhaps a multiyear deal – on the open market.
Forbes, who signed with Milwaukee after four seasons in San Antonio, averaged 10.0 points per game in 70 contests (19.3 MPG) in 2020/21, recording an impressive shooting line of .473/.452/.770. His 45.2% mark on shots from beyond the arc ranked fourth in the NBA among qualified players.
Forbes’ decision to opt out doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t negotiate a new deal with the Bucks. However, the club’s ability to offer him a raise will be limited, since he’ll only have Non-Bird rights. Unless they dip into their mid-level exception to re-sign him, the Bucks would only be able to offer Forbes a starting salary worth about $2.8MM.
Milwaukee will be in a similar bind with Bobby Portis if he opts out of his contract. Portis has a $3.8MM player option that he’s considered likely to turn down.
There’s no indication that Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard wants to leave Los Angeles as a free agent this offseason, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said in Sunday’s televised Woj & Lowe special (video link). However, there is a belief that Leonard is at risk of missing the entire 2021/22 season following his ACL surgery earlier this month, says Wojnarowski.
That nugget was one of several that Wojnarowski and fellow ESPN reporter Zach Lowe shared during their half-hour special and the bonus YouTube segments that followed. We’ve already passed along several of their other insights, including some draft-related rumors, the latest updates on Bradley Beal‘s status, and the fact that the Lakers have shopped Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to many teams around the NBA.
However, the ESPN duo dropped several more notes and rumors during their special. We’re using the space below to round up a few of the most interesting ones:
- The Sixers have engaged in Ben Simmons trade talks and are making and receiving offers, says Wojnarowski (video link). However, Woj thinks Philadelphia will be patient, noting that Simmons is under contract for four more years, which “opens up the landscape” for possible trade partners. The 76ers are looking for the best possible player they could get back in a Simmons deal, Woj adds.
- Despite the fact that the Lakers have been linked to so many other point guards in advance of free agency, Wojnarowski believes there’s still a deal to be made with Dennis Schröder (video link).
- The Kings have talked to teams in both the West and East about Buddy Hield, according to Wojnarowski (video link), who says the club has also received plenty of trade interest in Harrison Barnes. Woj would be surprised if Barnes is dealt though.
- In a discussion of free agent point guards, Wojnarowski (video link) said that he anticipates a “big market” for Raptors star Kyle Lowry, who could receive offers in the neighborhood of $25-30MM per year, and that the Bulls and Lonzo Ball would be an ideal match in a perfect world, but his restricted FA status could complicate matters. Woj also thinks luxury tax concerns will prevent the Jazz from simply re-signing Mike Conley and keeping everyone else on their roster (video link).
- The Nets hope to lock up Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden to contract extensions and are optimistic that Blake Griffin will want to return, per Wojnarowski (video link). Jeff Green may be trickier to re-sign, however, as he’ll likely seek more than the veteran’s minimum. Woj and Lowe both identify the Bucks as a possible suitor for Green if he leaves Brooklyn.
After winning a title with the Bucks this week, free agent forward P.J. Tucker seems unlikely to pursue another with the Nets, according to NetsDaily.com. The Athletic’s Alex Schiffer has indicated the Nets were interested in the veteran forward even before the James Harden trade and Tucker is also good friends with Harden and Kevin Durant. However, Brooklyn will likely be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception and Tucker is expected to command more in the open market. Milwaukee also holds Tucker’s Bird rights and wants to retain him despite luxury tax concerns.
We have more on the Nets and Knicks:
- Count both New York clubs among the 11 teams that have brought in JT Thor for a workout, Mike Mazzeo tweets. The Auburn power forward is ranked No. 28 overall on ESPN’s Best Available list. Brooklyn owns the No. 27 pick and three second-rounders, the earliest at No. 44, while New York has picks No. 19, 21 and 32.
- Chris Duarte worked out for the Knicks on Friday, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets, and it was a solo workout, Ian Begley of SNY.TV tweets. The Oregon shooting guard is ranked No. 23 on ESPN’s list but others have Duarte going much higher, Begley points out. The Knicks are seeking to move up into the late lottery, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report said on the Knicks Film School podcast (Twitter link). Today’s workout could indicate Duarte is the target.
- While the Knicks have agreed to a two-year extension with Scott Perry, multiple Western Conference teams have expressed interest in other members of the front office, according to Begley. The contracts of several of those executives expire at the end of the month, Begley adds.
- Point guard Jeremiah Martin will join the Knicks’ summer league team in Las Vegas, Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw tweets. Martin played with the Cavaliers in the closing weeks of the season on a two-way deal.
Bucks rotation players Bobby Portis ($3.8MM) and Bryn Forbes ($2.4MM) both have player options for the 2021/22 season, but are expected to turn down them in search of new contracts, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype said on his latest podcast with Yossi Gozlan. Since Milwaukee only has Non-Bird rights on both Portis and Forbes, it’ll be a challenge to bring them back, Gozlan notes.
Scotto and Gozlan discussed a handful of other free agency situations on the HoopsHype Podcast, examining the likelihood of P.J. Tucker returning to the Bucks, exploring whether Kyle Lowry is a realistic target for the Pelicans, and suggesting that the Hornets may be in the market for multiple centers – rather than just one – on the free agent market.
Here are a few more items related to the NBA’s upcoming free agent period:
- In an Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a closer look at which teams will realistically have cap room this offseason, which will be limited to the mid-level exception, and which will only have the taxpayer mid-level available. As Marks observes, in order for teams like the Heat, Mavericks, Thunder, Bulls, and Pelicans to gain meaningful cap space, they’ll have to renounce important free agents and/or trade exceptions.
- There’s a significant gap between John Collins and the rest of this year’s free agent power forwards, including Lauri Markkanen and Paul Millsap, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes in his breakdown of the position’s free agent class.
- Hollinger also uses his model to evaluate 2021’s free agent centers, identifying Richaun Holmes, Jarrett Allen, Andre Drummond, Kelly Olynyk, and Daniel Theis as players whose projected value exceeds the mid-level.
- A series of team beat writers for The Athletic considers whether their respective clubs are logical Spencer Dinwiddie suitors this summer. The Raptors, Celtics, and Pistons are among the long shots, while the Clippers, Knicks, and Mavericks are a few teams The Athletic’s writers think might make more sense.