The Milwaukee Bucks are officially on the clock.
After what has seemed like an eternity, but in actuality was only a few months, Ramon Sessions has signed an offer sheet with the Minnesota Timberwolves for four years and $16 million. As we all know very well by now, Sessions is a restricted free agent, which means the Bucks have seven days to match the offer or bid Sessions adieu.
Adding three million dollars onto this season’s payroll would push the Bucks into luxury tax land. As is, the Bucks sit at $68,316,940 and that’s including Sessions’ million dollar qualifying offer. The luxury tax for 2009-10 will be $69.92 million. Add three million to the Bucks current number and the Bucks will pay roughly $2.8 million ($1.4 million matched dollar for dollar) in tax money. It’s been widely believed for some time now that the Bucks threshold with regard to matching was/is $3 million annually for Sessions and therefore will not be matching this offer.
But let’s just sit and think logically about things for a second here.
Yes, a team that will likely miss out on the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year and slashed it’s payroll dramatically by dealing last seasons most dependable player for a retiree, trade bait and more potential trade bait, doesn’t need to be paying extra money for the right to it’s players. I totally agree. But why jeopardize future success because of mistakes made in years past? What I mean is, why give up an asset as valuable as Sessions just because Michael Redd and Dan Gadzuric have inflated contracts?
Bucks GM John Hammond has spent virtually the entire summer discussing the value of having assets in the NBA. The whole Richard Jefferson trade was based on having flexibility to make more moves and freeing up cap space. I agreed tenfold on the Jefferson deal. His pay far outweighed his production. One of the most important parts of running a successful NBA franchise is to balance pay to performance ratio. You can’t have a bunch of guys who are making way too much when considering what they are giving you. Jefferson was pretty good last year, but worth in the ballpark of $14 million? No way. Between he, Michael Redd ($14 million) and Dan Gadzuric ($6 million) alone, the Bucks were taking a beating in pay/production ratio.
Whenever it’s possible to lock up developing players at affordable rates, teams have to pounce. Everyone and their mom knows Sessions would have gotten the full mid-level exception in nearly any other summer and had it extend to five years. That equates to nearly $30 million. This is a HUGE opportunity to lock this same guy up for roughly half that. I’m not saying he’s necessarily “worth” thirty million, but in the often inflated world of NBA salaries he is. This is the rare chance to get a player for his actual worth, and maybe even a little bit less than that. That’s a terrific asset. If Brandon Jennings is even more ready than most people think, Sessions likely becomes highly sought-after trade bait. If Brandon Jennings isn’t ready this year, Sessions is holding down the fort much better than Luke Ridnour could.
Who knows, maybe Sessions and Jennings end up sharing some time in the same back court and give the Bucks what the T’Wolves were hoping to get with Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn. To have too many good players will never be a problem in a small market town like Milwaukee. The Bucks are always going to be playing the “try and stay under the cap as far as possible while not losing every game” game and having assets that can boost the value of dead weight contracts can only help a team succeed in that game. That’s why not matching this contract to avoid paying an extra $2.8 million in taxes is so ludicrous.
$2.8 million in taxes is only $1.4 million over the tax threshold. The luxury tax penalty is based off the payroll of teams on the final day of the regular season. That means the Bucks would have more than seven months to free up an additional million and a half and avoid paying the luxury tax. That means the Bucks could spend the year trying to trade trusty veteran Kurt Thomas, or expiring contract Luke Ridnour or lusted after scorer Michael Redd. If they make literally any move to free up money the Bucks will avoid the tax and keep a great asset in Sessions. And if they can’t make a move?
It’s easy to say throw three million dollars away when it’s not your own money, but what’s three million dollars? The Bucks have been bleeding money for a number of years now. Why all of a sudden get cost conscious with the one player who will be getting signed at a great value, just because it’s going to cost a little more for one year. It’s not even like the Bucks are facing this salary cap hell for the next few years. Through the Jefferson deal Hammond already made significant steps in keeping them from doing too much damage for the next couple years.
But who knows what the Bucks will do. I’d say there is probably a 70% chance they let Ramon go. But with all of the twists and turns this Ramon Sessions restricted free agency has had already, nothing that happens in the next seven days will surprise me.
Tick tick tick.
I thought I’d throw some other links about Sessions on here: