Bucks Rumors

2021 NBA Offseason In Review: Milwaukee Bucks

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2021 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s offseason moves and look ahead to what the 2021/22 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Milwaukee Bucks.

Free agent signings:

Note: Exhibit 9 and 10 deals aren’t included here.

  • Bobby Portis: Two years, $8.91MM. Second-year player option. Re-signed using Non-Bird rights.
  • George Hill: Two years, $8MM. Signed using taxpayer mid-level exception.
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo: Two years, minimum salary. Second-year player option. Re-signed using minimum salary exception.
  • Rodney Hood: One year, minimum salary. Signed using minimum salary exception.
  • Semi Ojeleye: One year, minimum salary. Signed using minimum salary exception.
  • Justin Robinson: Two-way contract.


  • Acquired the draft rights to Sandro Mamukelashvili (No. 54 pick), the draft rights to Georgios Kalaitzakis (No. 60 pick), either the Pacers’, Cavaliers, or Jazz’s 2024 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable), and either the Pacers’ or the Heat’s 2026 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable) from the Pacers in exchange for the draft rights to Isaiah Todd (No. 31 pick).
    • Note: If the Cavaliers’ and Jazz’s 2024 second-round picks are the two most favorable of the three, the Bucks would acquire the least favorable of those two picks.
  • Acquired Grayson Allen and cash ($1MM) from the Grizzlies in exchange for Sam Merrill, either the Pacers’, Cavaliers, or Jazz’s 2024 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable), and either the Pacers’ or the Heat’s 2026 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable).
    • Note: If the Cavaliers’ and Jazz’s 2024 second-round picks are the two most favorable of the three, the Grizzlies would acquire the least favorable of those two picks.

Draft picks:

  • 2-54: Sandro Mamukelashvili
    • Signed to two-year, two-way contract.
  • 2-60: Georgios Kalaitzakis
    • Signed to three-year, minimum-salary contract. First year partially guaranteed. Second and third years non-guaranteed. Signed using taxpayer mid-level exception.

Contract extensions:

  • Grayson Allen: Two years, $17,000,000 (base value). Includes $2.55MM in incentives. Starts in 2022/23.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

  • Signed head coach Mike Budenholzer to three-year contract extension.
  • Signed general manager Jon Horst to a long-term contract extension.

Salary cap situation:

  • Remained over the cap and above the tax line.
  • Carrying approximately $155.5MM in salary.
  • $964,742 of taxpayer mid-level exception still available ($4,925,258 used on George Hill and Georgios Kalaitzakis).
  • Three traded player exceptions available, including one worth $1.62MM.

The Bucks’ offseason:

Following a half-century climb to return to the NBA mountaintop, the Bucks have a new – and just as difficult – challenge: How do they stay on top? For the most part, Milwaukee chose to stick with a winning formula.

The Bucks have the same starting five, including the Big Three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. They also re-signed key frontcourt reserve and fan favorite Bobby Portis to a team-friendly two-year deal.

The biggest offseason acquisition, Grizzlies swingman Grayson Allen, was something of a surprise. The Bucks didn’t have to give up much to acquire Allen, who started 38 of 50 regular-season games for Memphis last season. He’ll give the team another perimeter threat (38.0% on 3-point attempts) and a dependable free throw shooter (83.2%). He essentially replaces Bryn Forbes, who knocked down 45.2% of his 3-point tries during his lone season in Milwaukee.

The Bucks thought enough of Allen to hand him a tw0-year extension that can be worth up to $19.55MM. That deal, finalized right before the October 18 deadline, gave the Bucks some coverage in case they don’t re-sign Donte DiVincenzo as a restricted free agent next summer.

Milwaukee didn’t show much interest in re-signing 36-year-old P.J. Tucker, even though Tucker averaged 29.6 MPG during the championship run. The Bucks instead chose to add Semi Ojeleye, who’s 10 years younger than Tucker. Ojeleye was a rotation player with Boston for the last four seasons, and while he won’t contribute much offensively, he’s a versatile defender.

George Hill is back for a second stint with the organization. The 35-year-old Hill will back up Holiday after the Bucks chose not to re-sign Jeff Teague. The club also took a flyer on swingman Rodney Hood, a 36.7% 3-point shooter whose career has been sidetracked by injuries, most notably an Achilles tear in December 2019.

GM Jon Horst and head coach Mike Budenholzer were rewarded with long-term extensions for a job well done.

The Bucks’ season:

The Bucks caught some breaks during their postseason run and had the talent and toughness to take advantage of their good fortune.

If Kevin Durant hadn’t stepped on the 3-point line in Game 7 at the end of regulation, the Bucks would have gone home after the conference semifinals and Budenholzer would probably have been seeking other employment. Milwaukee also got favorable matchups in the final two rounds, downing a pair of upstart contenders without significant playoff experience – the Hawks and Suns – in the Eastern Finals and NBA Finals.

There’s no reason for Milwaukee to be anything but a major contender to win it all again. The team has a two-time MVP in the prime of his career flanked by two All-Star caliber veterans. The chemistry of the first unit is undeniable and the Bucks’ continuity will make it nearly impossible to rattle them when they enter the postseason this spring.

Still, there are some questions, namely whether the second unit has enough answers to keep the starters from getting gassed by the end of the 82-game grind. As a taxpaying team, the Bucks don’t have a lot of leeway to make in-season adjustments. They may need to explore the buyout market after the trade deadline to fortify the bench.

Provided they stay generally healthy, the Bucks will provide their fans with plenty more thrills this season, and perhaps another long and rewarding journey to the Finals.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Spotrac was used in the creation of this post. Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Details On Starter Criteria For 2022 RFAs

The NBA’s rookie scale, which determines the salaries first-round picks earn during their first four seasons, also dictates how much the qualifying offers will be worth for those players when they reach restricted free agency after year four. However, the value of those qualifying offers can fluctuate depending on whether or not a player has met the “starter criteria.”

Here’s how the starter criteria works in a typical year:

  1. A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency.
  2. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games one year and 32 the next, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons is 41.

The first method of meeting the starter criteria will remain unchanged this season, but that second method will look a little different due to the truncated nature of the 2020/21 season.

For starter criteria purposes, the number of starts and minutes a player logged last season will be prorated upward by 82/72 to account for the 72-game schedule, Hoops Rumors has learned.

For example, Suns center Deandre Ayton started 69 games last season. Typically, Ayton would require 13 more starts this season to meet the starter criteria, since 82 total starts would get him to the required average of 41 over the last two seasons.

However, Ayton’s 69 starts last season came in just 72 regular season games. Prorated across a typical 82-game schedule, he would’ve made 78 starts. That means he’ll only need four starts this season to meet the starter criteria. In other words, he should get there next Wednesday, barring an injury.

Hornets forward Miles Bridges, meanwhile, only started 19 games last season, but he played 1,932 total minutes in Charlotte’s 72 games. That works out to 2,200 minutes when prorated across an 82-game schedule, meaning he’d require just 1,800 more this season in order to meet the starter criteria. Since he’s part of the Hornets’ starting five now, Bridges could also meet the criteria by simply getting to 41 starts in 2021/22.

A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
  • For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

In most cases, a qualifying offer is a mere placeholder that allows a team to retain its right of first refusal on a restricted free agent — very few players actually accept the one-year offer. Still, a player who fails to meet the starter criteria could have his free agency reshaped by an adjusted qualifying offer.

For instance, Kings big man Marvin Bagley III would be in line for a qualifying offer worth $14,762,309 if he meets the starter criteria or just $7,228,448 if he doesn’t.

Bagley would need to start 35 games this season in order to meet the starter criteria, which might be a long shot, given that he’s out of the rotation for now. Still, a $7.2MM qualifying offer could be more palatable to the Kings – or whichever team has him on its roster by the end of the 2021/22 season – than a $14.8MM one would be. Somewhat paradoxically, Bagley may have a better chance of actually receiving his QO if he starts fewer games this season.

Collin Sexton (Cavaliers), Lonnie Walker (Spurs), Donte DiVincenzo (Bucks), and Josh Okogie (Timberwolves) are some of the other top candidates to meet the starter criteria this season. We’ll be keeping an eye on them and the rest of 2022’s RFAs-to-be over the next several months.

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

With the NBA regular season underway, most teams are taking full advantage of their ability to carry up to 17 players, including 15 on standard contracts and a pair on two-way deals. As our roster counts page shows, 23 of the league’s 30 teams have full 17-man squads.

Most of the teams not carrying a 15th player on a standard contract are either over the luxury tax line or are bumping up against it, and have opted for financial savings for now. Those clubs are all decent bets to add a 15th man by season’s end, but likely won’t be in any rush to do so unless they face depth issues.

Here are the teams that are currently carrying just 14 players on their standard rosters:

  • Miami Heat
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Utah Jazz

Of these six teams, three – the Bucks, Blazers, and Jazz – project to be taxpayers, while the Heat and Wolves would go over the tax line if they were to add a 15th man. The Suns are the only team in this group with no pressing tax concerns.

Meanwhile, there are two teams with an open two-way contract slot:

  • Orlando Magic
  • Phoenix Suns

The Magic’s inclusion here is a little surprising. They’re a rebuilding team with their own G League affiliate — it seems as if they’d benefit from taking a shot on a young prospect with that spot, and perhaps they will soon.

It’s less surprising that Phoenix is on this list. The Suns sold their G League affiliate last year, so they don’t have their own NBAGL team where they could send two-way players. Phoenix’s lone two-way player, Chandler Hutchison, will essentially serve as the team’s de facto 15th man for the time being.

Central Notes: Tucker, Brogdon, Pistons, Bulls Offseason

Forward P.J. Tucker was surprised and disappointed the Bucks didn’t make a competitive offer to retain him, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Tucker wanted to stay but Milwaukee didn’t show interest in doing so despite his contributions to its championship run.

I was pretty surprised,” said Tucker, who signed a two-year, $15MM deal with the Heat. “You win a championship and you are part of winning something special like that, you would expect that. A chance of it not happening? There’s a chance. It didn’t happen. … You watch role guys in series in the past, usually those guys go back.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • One of the reasons why the Pacers agreed to an extension with Malcolm Brogdon is the way he embraces his leadership role, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files notes. “Malcolm Brogdon is a special player and a special person, and he’s our leader,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And one of the reasons I feel so great about this extension is that he really wants to be here. He wants to be in a position of high responsibility and leadership. He’s stepped those things up to a very high level.” Brogdon signed a two-year, $45MM extension.
  • The Pistons could have the youngest starting five in the league this season and coach Dwane Casey hopes they can establish a hard-nosed identity this season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. “We’ve got to be patient. We’re a young group,” Casey said. “One thing we can control is how hard we come out and compete. We’re going to coach to win each and every possession – not every game, every possession – and compete as such. We want to establish who we are.”
  • The Suns’ ability to make the Finals with a young group fortified by key veteran additions helped convince Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to take an aggressive approach to the offseason, Chris Herring of Sports Illustrated writes. “It was very motivating to see how big a jump a team like Phoenix was able to make,” Karnisovas said. Herring takes a close look at how the pieces acquired by the Bulls could fit together.

Cap/Contract Notes: Taxpayers, Allen, Carter, Shamet, Gafford

Now that all 30 regular season rosters have been set, 10 teams project to be taxpayers, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The Warriors, Nets, Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, Jazz, Sixers, Celtics, Trail Blazers, and Raptors are currently over the luxury tax threshold.

Some of those teams are in better shape than others. While the Warriors ($159.9MM) and Nets ($110.4MM) project to have nine-figure tax bills, the Raptors are barely into tax territory and should be able to sneak below the line, perhaps by waiving one of their two players who have partially guaranteed deals.

Besides Golden State and Brooklyn, the Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, and Jazz all have projected tax bills exceeding $33MM, according to Marks. The Sixers, Celtics, Blazers, and Raptors would owe less than $8MM each based on the current numbers.

Of course, these numbers can and will change over the course of the season as teams make roster moves, since tax bills are determined by the team’s year-end salary. For now though, the 20 non-taxpayers project to receive year-end payments of $12.7MM, Marks notes.

Here are a few more cap- and contract-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Grayson Allen‘s two-year extension with the Bucks features a base value of $17MM ($8.5MM per year) in guaranteed money, plus incentives, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The exact value of the incentives is $1.275MM annually, Hoops Rumors has learned. Currently, those are a mix of likely and unlikely bonuses, but since the deal doesn’t begin until 2022/23, those likely/unlikely designations will ultimately be based on what happens this coming season.
  • Wendell Carter Jr.‘s four-year extension with the Magic has a descending structure, Scotto tweets. It starts at $14.15MM in year one and dips to $10.85MM by year four. The deal is fully guaranteed, with no options.
  • In addition to having a team option on its fourth year, Landry Shamet‘s extension with the Suns has a non-guaranteed salary in year three, Hoops Rumors has learned. The last two years both have June 29 trigger dates, in 2024 and 2025. Only $19.75MM of Shamet’s $42.5MM deal is fully guaranteed for now.
  • Daniel Gafford‘s three-year extension with the Wizards doesn’t include any options or incentives, tweets John Hollinger of The Athletic.

Ayton, Sexton Among Players Who Don’t Agree To Extensions

While 11 players received rookie scale extensions this offseason, many notable players didn’t reach an agreement with their respective teams prior to Monday’s deadline.

As we detailed earlier, the Suns couldn’t come to terms with the No. 1 pick of the 2018 draft, Deandre Ayton. Phoenix was unwilling to offer Ayton a full max contract, which short-circuited any hopes of an agreement.

The Suns raised the concept of a shorter maximum contract — presumably for three or four years instead of the full five years — but never formally made the offer or broached the idea again with Ayton’s reps, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst report. Ayton is unhappy with the franchise’s consistent stance that it simply doesn’t view him as a max player, the ESPN duo adds.

That adds an intriguing subplot to Phoenix’s drive to make the Finals again. Ayton will be headed toward restricted free agent next summer. Will he be motivated toward proving the front office wrong or will his unhappiness create a major distraction? Ayton could be the most attractive free agent on next year’s market and receive a giant offer sheet, which would force the Suns to decide to match it or let their franchise center walk away.

Ayton has some company among his peers. The Cavaliers and guard Collin Sexton were unable to reach an agreement and he’s headed toward restricted free agency, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. Even though Sexton posted impressive offensive stats last season (24.3 PPG, 4.4 APG), his name was frequently mentioned in trade rumors this summer, a signal that the Cavs aren’t sold on the eighth pick of the 2018 draft as their long-term floor leader.

Sexton was hoping for a $100MM+, multi-year deal that aligned with his production over the first three years, Fedor reports. At one point this offseason, Sexton used De’Aaron Fox‘s five-year, $163MM extension in 2020 as a baseline. The Cavs were unwilling to go anywhere near that number and optimism waned in recent days about reaching an agreement.

The Hornets and swingman Miles Bridges also couldn’t come to terms, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets, nor could the Spurs and Lonnie Walker, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. Bridges averaged 12.7 PPG and 6.0 RPG last season, while Walker contributed 11.2 PPG in his third year.

Donte DiVincenzo, a key member of the Bucks’ rotation last season until he suffered a torn ligament in his ankle in July, is also headed to restricted free agency. DiVincenzo averaged 10.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3.1 APG last season. Some of the other notables who didn’t sign an extension or were not offered one include the Kings’ Marvin Bagley III and the Magic’s Mohamed Bamba.

The list of players who did and did not receive rookie scale extensions can be found here.

Bucks Sign Grayson Allen To Two-Year Extension

5:52pm: The Bucks have officially signed Allen to his extension, per NBA.com’s transactions log. The deal’s overall base value is lower than $20MM, according to Jim Owczarksi of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who reports that it can be worth up to $19.5MM if certain team and player incentives are met.

4:16pm: The Bucks have reached an agreement on a two-year, $20MM rookie scale contract extension with wing Grayson Allen, agent Mitch Nathan of CAA tells Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Allen, who is entering his fourth NBA season, had the best year of his career for the Grizzlies in 2020/21, starting 38 of 50 games and averaging 10.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 2.2 APG. The former Duke star has knocked down 39.5% of his 3-point attempts over the last two years while steadily increasing his volume.

The Bucks acquired Allen from Memphis over the summer in exchange for Sam Merrill and a pair of future second-round picks. He’ll play a rotation role on the wing in Milwaukee this season and would have been eligible for restricted free agency in 2022 if he hadn’t worked out a deal with the team today.

Allen’s two-year contract will give the Bucks some insurance in the event that they can’t complete a new contract with Donte DiVincenzo, who is also on track for potential restricted free agency next summer if he doesn’t sign an extension today. Allen’s new deal will pay him approximately the equivalent of the full mid-level exception.

Allen will earn just over $4MM this season before his extension goes into effect in 2022/23.

Bucks Waive Four Players

The Bucks have trimmed their roster by waiving four players, according to NBA.com’s transactions log.

Jalen Lecque, Tremont Waters and Javin DeLaurier were all let go, along with Wenyen Gabriel, who was signed and waived today. All four are candidates to join Milwaukee’s G League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd, after clearing waivers.

Lecque played four games with the Pacers last season after getting into five the previous year as a rookie with the Suns. He signed a training camp deal with the Bucks on Friday.

Waters was a second-round pick by the Celtics in 2019 and spent the past two years in Boston. DeLaurier played for the Hornets’ affiliate in the G League last season and was with the Hawks during Summer League. Gabriel has appeared in 51 combined games with the Kings, Trail Blazers and Pelicans.

Bucks Sign GM Jon Horst To Contract Extension

10:20am: The Bucks have officially announced Horst’s extension.

“Jon’s preparedness, decision-making and leadership have been instrumental in the Bucks’ success during his tenure, and he has earned this extension,” Bucks co-owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens, and Jamie Dinan said in a statement. “We appreciate Jon’s hard work and creativity and are excited that he will continue to lead our basketball operations for years to come.”

10:09am: The Bucks and general manager Jon Horst have reached an agreement on a long-term contract extension, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

As Wojnarowski writes, Horst had been entering the final year of his existing contract. His new deal, which was finalized on Friday morning, will cover “several” years.

Horst first assumed control of the Bucks’ basketball operations department in 2017, receiving a promotion from his role as director of basketball operations to replace John Hammond as general manager. His original contract was for three years, and he had two more years tacked onto it in 2019.

The Bucks couldn’t have asked for much more from Horst during his first four seasons on the job. The team has a 206-103 record (.667) in the regular season during that time and won its first title in 50 years in 2021. Horst was also named Executive of the Year in 2019.

Milwaukee’s championship core remains in place for the next several seasons, with Giannis Antetokounmpo under contract through at least 2025, Jrue Holiday locked up through 2024, and Khris Middleton secured through 2023. While the Bucks may face tough decisions on role players in the next year or two, the team has now locked up its off-court leaders as well, extending both Horst and head coach Mike Budenholzer this offseason.

Bucks Sign Jalen Lecque To Camp Deal

The Bucks have signed guard Jalen Lecque to their training camp roster, according to Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The club opened up a pair of roster spots on Thursday by waiving Elijah Bryant and Rayjon Tucker.

Lecque signed with the Suns in 2019 as an undrafted free agent and spent his rookie season in Phoenix, playing limited minutes in five games for the club. The 21-year-old was sent to Oklahoma City during the 2020 offseason in the Chris Paul trade and was subsequently flipped to the Pacers. He spent most of the 2020/21 season in Indiana, appearing in four games, before being waived in March.

Although Lecque has only seen the court in nine games at the NBA level, he has been a G League fixture over the last two years, averaging 13.7 PPG, 3.4 APG, and 3.4 RPG in 47 games (27.7 MPG) for the Northern Arizona Suns and Fort Wayne Mad Ants. He has struggled with his efficiency in the NBAGL, however, posting an overall shooting line of .405/.232/.603.

Because no team holds Lecque’s G League returning rights, the Bucks can make him an affiliate player for the Wisconsin Herd if he’s waived in the coming days and then signs a G League contract. I’d expect that to be the plan.