According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Milwaukee Bucks are close to signing Kenyon Martin to a 10-day contract:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Bucks have committed to add Martin to their roster this week, perhaps as early as Thursday, after letting a player go to open up a spot.
This news has been expected, and it seemed even more likely this week than it was last week when Jason Kidd first met with Kenyon Martin. Since then, Ersan Ilyasova has missed more games with a concussion and the flu that was keeping Larry Sanders out of the lineup turned into personal issues that have him out indefinitely. There’s no firm timetable for either of them to return.
We’ve also learned that, in addition to Jabari Parker, Damien Inglis will be out for the rest of the season as well. So Milwaukee’s down four members of its front court and only one, Ilyasova, seems at all likely returning in the next 10 days. So Martin’s addition makes sense on a very practical level.
But the Bucks have 15 players on the roster. As noted, Milwaukee’s battling some injuries though, so do they qualify for a roster exemption? Here’s a great breakdown on the idea of a roster exemption from Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:
What is a hardship exception?
It’s a temporary roster spot that must be granted by the league. It allows a team to exceed the 15-man maximum roster when it has at least four players who are sick or injured for longer than two weeks. Each of the four sick or injured players must miss at least three consecutive games during their two-week absence. An independent physician, not the team’s doctor, must decide whether each player is required to miss two weeks.
Given the sensitivity and difficulty of the Sanders situation and the possibility that Ilyasova may be able to return soon, it’s unclear that Milwaukee would be eligible. Given the language Stein uses above about letting a player go, it sounds like the league won’t be so generous as to gift Milwaukee another roster spot.
Absent an exemption, Milwaukee would need to clear a spot for Martin. How? A 2-for-1 trade would do it, as would a player-for-pick trade, but it sounds like Stein’s intel says Milwaukee will be releasing a player. The most likely candidates? Johnny O’Bryant comes to mind, as does Nate Wolters. Both have playd sporadic minutes, though O’Bryant has been starting out of necessity lately. Wolters seems worlds more polished and skilled than O’Bryant, but Milwaukee has a bit more depth at the guard position.
A release of a member of Milwaukee’s more regular rotation would be a surprise.
If Milwaukee’s going to release a guy with a future of some sort, it would be strange if Martin only stuck around for 10 days. No, they wouldn’t be sacrificing a significant building block, but Wolters and O’Bryant are young enough to still make an impact at some point. To dispose of a player like that for only 10 days of Martin seems curious. I’d expect Milwaukee, if pleased with his play, to look at investing in Martin for the rest of the season after a 10 day contract or two in the event they sacrifice a piece to bring him on.