Milwaukee Bucks

Raptors Trade Greivis Vasquez To Bucks

11:26pm: The deal is official, the Bucks announced.

8:05pm: The Bucks have agreed to a deal with the Raptors that will send Greivis Vasquez to Milwaukee, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Marc Stein of ESPN.com (on Twitter) reported the sides were close. The Raptors will get the Clippers’ 2017 first-round pick, one that Los Angeles had previously traded to Milwaukee, and the 46th pick in tonight’s draft, Stein adds (Twitter link).

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri seemingly comes away with a coup, netting a lottery-protected first-rounder for his backup point guard. Vasquez goes into the mix with Michael Carter-Williams at the point in Milwaukee. He’s set to make $6.6MM next season in the last year of a two-year, $13MM pact he signed last summer.

Milwaukee’s guaranteed salary for next season will vault to about $41.6MM as a result of the swap, with another $4.25MM perhaps to come if Jared Dudley opts in. That doesn’t count the cap hold for the No. 17 pick. Still, the Bucks will likely have close to max-level cap room to go after reported targets Brook Lopez and Tyson Chandler while keeping Khris Middleton‘s small $2.725MM cap hold on the books before attempting to sign him to a more lucrative pact.

The Raptors also have the ability to chase major targets with only about $42MM in guaranteed salary for next season. Still, they won’t have the ability to use Vasquez, Kevin Durant‘s high school teammate, to recruit the former MVP when he hits free agency next summer.

Draft Rumors: Lakers, Okafor, Russell

The Lakers are leaning towards taking Jahlil Okafor with the No. 2 overall pick, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter).  However, Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com (on Twitter) hears that the Lakers are undecided with both Okafor and D’Angelo Russell in play.  Of course, the only word that counts will come from commissioner Adam Silver later tonight. Here’s the latest draft news..

  • Frank Kaminsky is moving up draft boards in the final hours, league sources tell David Aldridge of NBA.com (on Twitter).  He could very well go higher than No. 9, which is where the Hornets would like him.
  • Kings owner Vivek Ranadive was known to be very high on Willie Cauley-Stein but Sam Amick of USA Today Sports (on Twitter) isn’t hearing much of that today.
  • Several league sources tell Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter) that they expect Cauley-Stein to slip.   The big man didn’t shine in workouts or interviews and his ankle is a concern.
  • The Jazz are targeting Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow at No. 12 and they’re willing to trade up if they feel it’s necessary, according to Spencer Checketts of 1280 The Zone (via Twitter links).  If those trade-up scenarios don’t pan out, Utah could instead move down.  If they do move down, Checketts lists the Celtics (No. 16), Bucks (17) and, Rockets (No. 18) as possible partners.
  • Marcin Gortat during a press conference in Poland said the Pistons asked him about prospect Mateusz Ponitka, according to Sportando (on Twitter). Ponitka worked out for Detroit earlier this week.   The shooting guard looks to be a second round (or, undrafted) prospect.
  • The Bucks like UNLV forward Christian Wood, but feel that he’ll be chosen later in the first round, Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times tweets.  Milwaukee owns the No. 17 pick in the first round and the No 46 pick in the second.
  • David Pick of Eurobasket.net (on Twitter) hears that projected second-round pick Shawn Dawson hopes to slide under the radar and go undrafted.  Dawson is currently ranked as the No. 66 prospect in the draft by DraftExpress.

Latest On Heat’s Offer To Goran Dragic

WEDNESDAY, 8:48am: Miami’s five-year offer to Dragic is expected to be for between $90MM and $100MM, Jackson reports. That would still likely be less than the max. The max won’t be known until the end of the July Moratorium, but based on an estimated starting salary of $18.96MM, the most Miami could give him over five years would be $109.02MM.

SATURDAY, 11:57pm: The Heat plan to make a five-year offer of more than $80MM to retain Goran Dragic, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com, though an amount in the vicinity of $80MM would be less than the max. The expectation in the immediate wake of Miami’s trade deadline acquisition of the former All-NBA Third Team guard was that the team would offer him the max to stay, as Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com wrote at the time, but Stein points to concerns over Dwyane Wade‘s potential free agency as one reason they’d offer somewhat less. The chances of Dragic leaving the Heat increase if Wade does, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported last month.

Dragic has a $7.5MM player option for next season that he’s said he’ll turn down to instead hit free agency. Miami is the only team capable of offering Dragic a five-year deal, since it has his Bird rights. Dragic can make as much as $85MM on a four-year offer from another team while a max offer from the Heat would top $100MM, Stein estimates. The precise figures won’t be known until the league sets its maximum salaries after the July Moratorium. It nonetheless appears as though the Heat are banking on Dragic’s affection for the Heat and the city of Miami as they seek to take advantage of the ability to spread a similar amount of money over an extra year.

Wade reportedly would welcome $20MM salaries if he is to turn down his $16.125MM player option, and he’s apparently open to leaving the Heat if necessary. The Heat would prefer that Wade opt in, according to Jackson, but a less lucrative offer to Dragic would offset all or part of the extra money the Heat would spend should Wade opt out and re-sign on a deal that pays $20MM next season. That savings would be particularly important with the Heat poised not only to pay the tax next season if they retain their existing players at market value, but also incur repeat-offender tax penalties for having been a tax team three out of four years.

The Lakers, whom Dragic reportedly saw as a “perfect fit” earlier this season, loom as likely suitors, as do the Knicks, Pelicans, Kings and Bucks, as Jackson reported. The Lakers, Knicks and Bucks all have the flexibility necessary under a projected $67.1MM cap to offer a four-year max contract to the client of Bill Duffy and Rade Filipovich.

Central Notes: Jackson, Bucks, Draft

If Emmanuel Mudiay were to fall to the Pistons, who hold the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, the team would consider selecting him and letting Reggie Jackson depart as a free agent, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com writes. “They’re not 100 percent sold on Reggie,” a league source told Berger. Detroit also likes Duke’s Justise Winslow and Croatian swingman Mario Hezonja at that spot, Berger’s sources also informed him. Jackson can become a restricted free agent this offseason if the Pistons tender him a qualifying offer worth $4,433,683.

Here’s the latest from the NBA’s Central Division:

  • Rumors persist that the Bucks would give up Michael Carter-Williams in a package that nets a top-10 pick, writes Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times, who suggests the Bucks could dangle John Henson, too, but strong indications are the Bucks are resistant to trading either, as Chris Mannix of SI.com hears (Twitter link). Milwaukee considers both core players, Mannix adds.
  • The Pistons held pre-draft workouts today for Gabe Olaseni (Iowa), Tekele Cotton (Wichita State), Aaron Harrison (Kentucky), Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington), Mateusz Ponitka (Poland), and Arturas Gudaitis (Lithuania), Keith Langlois of NBA.com relays (Twitter links). Gudaitis was the headliner at the workout, Langlois notes, and he could be an option for Detroit with the No. 38 overall pick.
  • With the Bucks still unclear on what kind of player Jabari Parker can be in the NBA, the franchise could benefit by adding more frontcourt depth through the draft, Genaro C. Armas of The Associated Press writes. Milwaukee has narrowed its draft wish list to four or five players, Armas notes. The team’s top needs are a big man who can rebound and defend, as well as an outside shooter, according to the AP scribe. “You know you hope you can maybe get a rotation player,” Bucks GM John Hammond said. “Sometimes in that range you can get a little luckier, maybe get a starter in a bit. Hopefully it’s a keeper piece and a player that can be a contributor.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Central Notes: Pistons, Vaughn, Cavs

The Pistons are not expecting their lottery pick to become a starter next season but they will keep the pick unless they get a superstar talent, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com reports. Coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy told the team’s beat reporters on Monday that with ample cap space — approximately $20MM even after the Ersan Ilyasova deal — that he’ll fill the starting small forward vacancy through free agency or a trade, Langlois continues. Tayshaun Prince, the starting small forward during the second half of last season, is an unrestricted free agent. Van Gundy virtually shut the door on reports that the Pistons were shopping the No. 8 overall pick, including one on Monday about a possible deal with the Knicks for guard Tim Hardaway Jr., Langlois adds. “The one thing we are firm on is – minus a superstar being available – we won’t trade out of the draft,” Van Gundy said. “For your salary structure and everything else, it’s too important. It’s probably unlikely that we trade back, but it’s not impossible.”

In other news around the Central Division

  • Van Gundy acknowledged during the same press conference that he was “not entirely optimistic” about retaining unrestricted free agent Greg Monroe, the Associated Press reports. Though Van Gundy indicated it wasn’t a foregone conclusion, Monroe is expected to find a starting job elsewhere. The trade for Ilyasova gives the Pistons a starting-caliber power forward to replace him.
  • Shooting guard Rashad Vaughn was among six players brought in by the Bucks in their final pre-draft workout, according to the team’s website. Vaughn is rated No. 19 on ESPN Insider Chad Ford’s Top 100 prospects list, twice as high as DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony, who pegs him at No. 38.  The group consisted of mostly late first-round and second-round prospects, including centers Mouhammadou Jaiteh and Josh Smith (Georgetown) and forwards Christian Wood, Cody Larson and J.P. Tokoto. The Bucks own the No. 17 and No. 46 picks in the draft.
  • Syracuse center Rakeem Christmas was part of a group workout with the Cavaliers on Monday, according to Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops (Twitter link). Christmas is rated No. 34 on Ford’s board and No. 43 by Givony. The Cavs hold the No. 24 and No. 53 selections on Thursday.

Eastern Notes: Celtics, Wood, Smith

The Celtics face long odds in their quest to deal for a lottery pick, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. Boston is expected to continue its effort right through draft night, but trading into the top 14 is much tougher than fans realize. Blakely points out that draft-night trades to enter lottery territory have only happened five times in the last decade. “It takes two to trade,” said Austin Ainge, the Celtics’ director of player personnel. “We can’t force that on anyone else, nor is that always smart. The [New England] Patriots have done very well moving back.” If the Celtics are able to swing a deal, Blakely writes that they would be interested in frontcourt help, possibly Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein or Texas’ Myles Turner.

There’s more news from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Celtics could pull off a surprise and draft a point guard with one of their two first-round picks despite selecting Marcus Smart last June, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald speculates. They could consider Jerian Grant, Delon Wright or Tyus Jones with the No. 16 overall pick, while Terry Rozier might be an option at No. 28, Murphy adds.
  • The Bucks have made a last-minute decision to work out UNLV’s Christian Wood, tweets Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times. Wood’s workout session will take place Monday. Milwaukee holds the 17th pick in Thursday’s draft.
  •  The CavaliersJ.R. Smith is thankful to be in Cleveland, but that doesn’t guarantee he will opt in this summer, according to Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Smith, who has a $6.4MM player option for next season, went from the bottom of the league to the NBA Finals thanks to a January 5th trade that got him out of New York. He was effective during the regular season, but had an up-and-down performance in the playoffs. Smith has stated that he would like to opt out and then re-sign with Cleveland.

Dana Gauruder contributed to this post.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Khris Middleton

Although Milwaukee reportedly insisted on Khris Middleton‘s inclusion in the Brandon Jennings trade, many saw him as merely a throw-in. Two years later, he’s a top-three player on a playoff team. His outstanding 2014/15 season, wherein the 23-year-old showcased his all-around game, put him in line for a lucrative second contract this offseason as a restricted free agent.

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Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Middleton has expanded his shooting range since coming into the league. He isn’t a high volume shooter, but he is an efficient one. The Texas A&M product shot over 40% from behind the arc in each of the last two seasons. He doesn’t need the ball to impact the game offensively. His presence on the floor allows his teammates to have better opportunities, similar to how Kyle Korver helps the Hawks. Opposing defenders can’t pack the paint because they can’t veer away from Middleton for fear he will make them pay with his knock-down jumper.

His impact on defense may surpass his on offense. He was the best defender among shooting guards last season, according to ESPN’s Real Defensive Plus/Minus. That doesn’t tell the whole story because he played more minutes at the four spot than any other position, as Basketball-Reference shows. Still, Tim Duncan and Anthony Davis are the only power forwards with a higher Real Defensive Plus/Minus than Middleton’s 4.10. Middleton needs help defending some behemoth power forwards, such as Zach Randolph or Derrick Favors. With fewer teams taking the traditional approach of having two big men on the floor and instead transitioning to small-ball, the 23-year-old’s ability to defend any non-center position becomes more valuable.

The precise value of his next contract is difficult to predict, as Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors explains in Milwaukee’s Offseason Outlook. A league executive told Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that Middleton would draw an offer of around $15MM annually. Such an offer would be very close to the max, which will be an estimated $15.8MM for a player with his experience level. An Eastern Conference executive who spoke with Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times expressed doubt about that figure and estimated the 23-year-old will only receive $9MM per year on his next deal. It only takes one team to float an offer and drive up a player’s value, just like the Jazz encountered with Gordon Hayward‘s contract situation last offseason. I’d speculate that some team gives Middleton a similarly bloated offer sheet because of his age and defensive ability.

The Bucks are likely to match any offer sheet that Middleton signs and Middleton expressed his desire to re-sign with the team. “I hope to be back here,” Middleton said. “I feel we have a great young team, going in the right direction.

On defense, Middleton fits perfectly with the Bucks’ philosophy. Coach Jason Kidd wants every player to switch assignments on every pick. For that to work, the team essentially needs five interchangeable parts on defense and with the midseason acquisition of Michael Carter-Williams, the Bucks are closing in on that goal. The team just needs someone with top defensive ability to man the center position. Milwaukee has the 17th pick in the upcoming draft, which is unlikely to be high enough to select Willie Cauley-Stein. The Kentucky center would be a perfect fit for the team because has the quickness and length to guard any position on floor, as Dana Gauruder of Hoops Rumors explains in his profile of the 7-footer.

Instead, the franchise will have to go the free agency route if it wants to improve the position. The team is reportedly going to take a run at a few veteran big men in free agency. The Bucks have only about $36MM in guaranteed salaries against a projected $67.1MM cap after their salary-clearing Ersan Ilyasova trade. Middleton’s cap hold is set at slightly more than $2.725MM. That alone makes it more likely that Milwaukee retains the former Aggie, as the team can use its cap space for other transactions and have the ability to sign Middleton afterward.

If an opposing team is going to steal Middleton away from the Bucks, offering a contract right as the July Moratorium ends would likely give it the best chance. If Middleton signs an offer sheet, Milwaukee will have three days to match. Unless the Bucks can use their cap space in that time, matching for Middleton would lift his cap hold to whatever the starting salary in his new deal is, making it more difficult for the team to chase Brook Lopez and other marquee targets. The forward is represented by Mike Lindeman of Excel Sports Management, which was founded by Jeff Schwartz, who represents Kidd. It’s not inconceivable that Middleton is aware of the team’s cap situation and chooses to wait to sign any deal. A source told Woelfel that a quick agreement is in the offing for Middleton and the Bucks, and if Middleton commits to the Bucks right away, the team can quietly hold off on making an official signing until a more convenient time and use cap space in the interim.

The 23-year-old will likely have no shortage of suitors if Milwaukee is not where he wants to reside for the next few years, though it will probably take a bloated offer to dissuade the Bucks from matching. The Sixers are a dark-horse possibility for Middleton based on his age, his favorable advanced stats and Philly’s cap situation, as I explained in the team’s Offseason Outlook, although that is merely my speculation. Another team that would be a good fit for Middleton would be the Magic, but again, it is only my speculation. Orlando has a tough choice to make with Tobias Harris‘ next contract, as Dana Gauruder of Hoops Rumors writes in the Magic‘s Offseason Outlook. Harris did improve this season, but he isn’t nearly the shooter that Middleton is. Replacing the Tennessee product with someone who can spread the floor will be crucial if the Magic intend on having the poor shooting trio of Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon lead the team in the future.

Middleton isn’t the type of player who will lead a team to victory; he isn’t the centerpiece of your meal. He’s similar to Draymond Green in that he can provide more to a team with other spectacular players already in place. Milwaukee has a few potential stars in Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak isn’t completely developed yet offensively and if he is going to share the floor with MCW, the opposite wing will need to be able to shoot the lights out. Middleton has that ability and if Milwaukee’s executives are truly connoisseurs of good basketball, they will do whatever it takes to keep the perfect complement to its rising stars on the roster.

What do you think Middleton will make on his next deal, and where do you think he’ll end up? Let us know in the comments.

Central Notes: Blatt, Bucks, Love

LeBron James‘ attitude and demeanor toward Cavaliers coach David Blatt during the NBA Finals was unbecoming and inappropriate, Marc Stein of ESPN.com writes. Stein references LeBron essentially calling his own timeouts and making substitutions, as well as eschewing Blatt for assistant coach Tyronn Lue. James also nixed a number of plays that Blatt had drawn up during timeouts, which only served to undermine the coach in the eyes of the rest of the team, Stein notes.

Here’s more out of the Central Division:

  • While some have speculated that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert might make a play for former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, a number of Cleveland’s front office personnel insist that Gilbert is Blatt’s biggest supporter, Zach Lowe of Grantland tweets. GM David Griffin downplayed any issues between Blatt and James in today’s season-ending news conference, saying, “Sensationalism sells. LeBron said David’s a hell of a coach,” Sam Amico of FOX Sports.com relays (Twitter link).
  • Griffin said that he expects James and Kevin Love to both opt out of their deals this summer, but he anticipates that both will re-sign with the Cavs, Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group tweets. While this news isn’t a surprise as far as LeBron is concerned, it does run counter to what Love told Haynes back in January that he planned to do.
  • The Bucks held workouts today for Josh Gasser (Wisconsin), Keifer Sykes (Wisconsin-Green Bay), Olivier Hanlan (Boston College), Cady Lalanne (Massachusetts), Amere May (Delaware State), and TaShawn Thomas (Oklahoma), the team announced (via Twitter).
  • Cavs veteran forward Shawn Marion confirmed today that he is indeed retiring after 16 years in the league, Stein relays in a separate article. “I wanted to go out on my terms,” Marion said. “The biggest thing is having a son. I got attached to him. Seeing him periodically is hard. Watching him grow up on pictures and videos is hard.” The Matrix’s final career numbers through 1163 contests are 15.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game.
  • Bucks coach Jason Kidd is excited about the team’s possibilities for tweaking its roster this offseason, Genaro C. Armas of The Associated Press writes. “Yeah, I like what [GM John] Hammond has done, the position he has put us in pre-draft,” Kidd said. “We’ll see what happens,” Kidd continued. ”You’ve got a lot of different things, possibilities that you’re not landlocked to get better, and that means not moving a major piece.

And-Ones: Stephenson, Oubre, Asik

Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers didn’t acquire Lance Stephenson from the Hornets for the swingman to step into a starting role, Arash Markazi of ESPN.com writes. Instead, Rivers envisions Stephenson as a role-player who can be utilized off the bench, and the team will look elsewhere to add a starting small forward this offseason, Markazi adds. “I like that [Stephenson] can play multiple positions — really 2, 3 and 1 — because he’s a terrific passer,” Rivers told The Beast 980. “I don’t know if I made the trade for him to be a starter, per se; I look at him really more to be a utility player that can come in and play literally three different positions for us. When you look at us, we needed toughness and more athleticism and we get that.

Rivers believes that Stephenson’s defense will be a valuable asset to the team, Markazi adds. “I like what he can bring for us on the defensive end first,” Rivers said. “I like his body type. I think he’s a tough kid and a very competitive kid. And that has gotten him in trouble at times, but the one thing he has shown in major playoff games is that he can be a top-tier defender, so that’s where we start with him is on the defensive end.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Kansas swingman Kelly Oubre has turned down an invitation from the Bucks to work out for the team, Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times relays. Oubre is convinced that he’ll be off the board by the time the Bucks pick at No. 17, Woelfel notes.
  • The Lakers are expected to bring back Nebraska guard Terran Petteway for a second workout, Woelfel adds. Petteway could be in play for Los Angeles with the No. 27 overall selection.
  • Unless he is willing to accept a significant pay cut, the Pelicans would be best served to let center Omer Asik leave as a free agent this summer, Jimmy Smith of The Times Picayune opines. Smith cites Asik’s offensive limitations, spotty defense, and occasional lack of hustle on the break as reasons why New Orleans shouldn’t consider paying the big man a salary north of $10MM, which Asik will likely be seeking as an unrestricted free agent.

Central Notes: Boylen, Bucks, Pistons

The Bulls have officially named Jim Boylen as associate head coach on Fred Hoiberg’s staff, the team announced. “I am very excited to add Jim to our staff as our associate head coach. His track record speaks for itself with nearly 30 years of coaching experience and three NBA championships on his resume,” said Hoiberg. “His work ethic and attention to detail will help our team every day, and I look forward to working with him as we prepare for next season.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Also being considered for a spot on Hoiberg’s staff with the Bulls is Pete Myers, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune tweets. Myers had previously been an assistant in Chicago, but was let go when Tom Thibodeau was named head coach. Myers last served as an assistant for the Warriors, but he was not retained when Steve Kerr took over for Mark Jackson as coach.
  • The Bucks held pre-draft workouts today for Ziga Dimec (Slovenia), Jerian Grant (Notre Dame), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Bobby Portis (Arkansas), Terry Rozier (Louisville), and Brad Waldow (St. Mary’s), the team announced.
  • The Pistons will work out Cady Lalanne (Massachusetts) and Kendall Gray (Delaware State) today, Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops relays (Twitter link). Detroit will also host Jonathan Holmes (Texas), Levi Randolph (Alabama), Aaron White (Iowa), and Rayvonte Rice (Illinois), Keith Langlois of NBA.com adds (via Twitter).
  • Cavs coach David Blatt credits his players with continuing to fight even as injuries continued to mount during the playoffs, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. “This is a process,” Blatt said. “You don’t wake up one morning and fall out of bed and expect to win the NBA Championship. You hope that you can, but it doesn’t always work that way, and our guys did more than anyone could expect to put themselves and put our organization in this situation.
  • Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy is breathing easier now that his starting lineup for 2015/16 is beginning to take shape with the acquisition of Ersan Ilyasova, Shawn Windsor of The Detroit Free Press writes. “It was a little scary thinking about going into the summer and saying you might have to go get two starters,” Van Gundy said. “Now we feel like we’ve got four starters that we are really happy with.