Beginning at 12:01 AM Thursday morning, NBA teams will be doing all kinds of embarrassing things in an attempt to lure free agents of varying talents to come spend their next three to five years with a brand new team. Email accounts for fans to write in saying how much they wish Player A would come to their team will be set up. Lavish airport ceremonies will be held. Expense accounts will explode. And in the end, a few guys will get overpaid and everyone will wish they could undo the whole thing before the player demands a trade and the organization laments the fact that they’ve made said player untradeable.
So what does this all mean for the Bucks? Not as much as it does for a lot of teams. Milwaukee wasn’t on the short list of teams allowed to grovel at the throne of King James. They don’t have the cap space for a big name free agent, or even probably a free agent with a two syllable name. Frank Madden of Brewhoop has painstakingly broken down the Bucks cap situation to a tee. According to Frank’s numbers, the Bucks are currently looking at $3,806,045 million worth of cap room to attack the open market with. This would explain why there’s more talk regarding John Salmons and Luke Ridnour, as the Bucks can exceed the salary cap to resign the two of them, as both of them have Bird Rights. The Bucks sit $15,706,045 million below the luxury tax and likely are once again using that as their de facto salary cap this summer.
With just roughly $4 million in cap room available, it seems the recent quotes from Bucks General Manager John Hammond regarding Milwaukee’s intent in working out a deal with Salmons were not just talk. Being able to circumvent the salary cap restrictions in signing Salmons makes him infinitely more attractive, as does the simple fact that he’s already had success with this Bucks squad. Initially, I believed the acquisition of Corey Maggette was a death blow to Salmons chances of remaining a Buck, now I’m not so certain. Given the interest in size and athleticism that’s swept over the Bucks decision makers this summer, the thought of pairing Salmons and Maggette on the wings must be enticing. But at what cost will Salmons come?
That’s the multiple-million-dollar question. The Bucks reportedly offered Salmons a four-year extension (including this year) at $27 million that wasn’t enough to prevent him from opting out of his contract. With the swings and misses that are likely to occur all over the league over the next 48 hours, it’s probable that Salmons and his agent are simply interested in waiting until things across the league shake out so they can see if any team becomes desperate. A team desperate to make a splash after whiffing on a few big names may be interested in upping the ante for Salmons along the lines of four years at $32 million or so. At least I’m sure that’s what Camp Salmons is thinking. Whether or not that’s realistic is up for debate. If worse comes to worse and Salmons does see a meaty offer elsewhere, I think Milwaukee would be hard pressed to overpay for the historically inconsistent Salmons, no matter how good the times they had together last year were. That’s where the Maggette trade begins to pay further dividends, it’s both a possible good match for Salmons and Salmons insurance.
The Bucks other free agent, Luke Ridnour, is supposedly already drawing some interest from the Knicks (favorites even), but color me a skeptic. Didn’t we do this dance last year with Ramon Sessions? Considering how emphatic John Hammond has been regarding his interest in bringing back Ridnour and that the Bucks hold his Bird Rights, it seems they are as much in the mix as anyone. One thing the Knicks may be able to offer that the Bucks absolutely won’t, is a starting gig.
One of the many consequences of the Knicks slashing over the past few years in order to try their hardest to make an offer to Lebron James that he probably won’t accept is that the Knicks are currently left without a starting point guard. Some think that Toney Douglas has the skills to take on that role eventually, but for the time being, Ridnour could probably push by him for minutes. Ridnour would then be looking at 30+ minutes a night in the Mike D’Antoni system with possibly a Joe Johnson and Carlos Boozer type next to him. Not too shabby I suppose. Ridnour is a guy who seems simple enough though. He doesn’t command the spotlight (few players seem less interested in meeting with the media, and I don’t mean he’s rude about it, just uninterested) and really flourished in a backup role last season. New York could give him an offer that blows Milwaukee away though, but I think we’re quite a ways away from that.
Aside from their own free agents and a possible veteran’s minimum type guy, I wouldn’t expect to see much out of the Bucks this off-season. Kurt Thomas could return on the cheap. Perhaps we’ll have a Drew Gooden sighting in Milwaukee or someone of that ilk, but the money just isn’t there for much more. There will be no jet setting trips this evening or luxurious presentations with delusions of grandeur. Just the reality of a team on the rise tweaking along the way.