Khris Middleton

Khris Middleton Declining 2019/20 Player Option

As expected, Bucks swingman Khris Middleton will opt out of his contract, declining his 2019/20 player option to become an unrestricted free agent, agent Mike Lindeman tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

That option would have been worth $13MM, but Middleton is expected to command a long-term, maximum-salary deal on the open market, Wojnarowski tweets. According to Woj, Middleton and the Bucks intend to work together to reach a new contract agreement.

[RELATED: NBA Player Option Decisions For 2019/20]

Middleton, who will turn 28 in August, earned his first All-Star nod in 2018/19. In 77 total regular season games, he averaged 18.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 4.3 APG with a shooting line of .441/.378/.837, helping the Bucks to reach the Eastern Conference Finals this spring.

While Middleton may not quite qualify as a star, his two-way abilities as a three-and-D will ensure he secures a big-time payday this summer. In addition to finishing the season as Milwaukee’s second-leading scorer, he was often tasked with the most challenging perimeter assignment on defense. He was the Bucks’ primary defender on Kawhi Leonard in the Eastern Finals, for instance.

Middleton will be eligible for a five-year contract with the Bucks worth up to a projected $189.7MM. Rival suitors could offer him up to $140.6MM over four years. If Milwaukee reaches an agreement with him early in free agency, the team could hold off on making it official, since his cap hold will only be $19.5MM — keeping that figure on the books and then eventually going over the cap to sign Middleton would allow the Bucks to maximize any cap room they might open up.

It will be a crucial summer in Milwaukee, as Malcolm Brogdon, Brook Lopez, and Nikola Mirotic are all up for new deals as well. The Bucks have reportedly explored moving Tony Snell and/or Ersan Ilyasova for added flexibility.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: Clippers, Nets, Knicks, Kyrie, KD, More

While the Clippers are generally grouped together with the rest of the Los Angeles and New York teams leading up to free agency as the big-market franchises looking to make a major splash on the free agent market, the Clips’ plans may look a little different than what those other clubs have in mind, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

As Buha explains, the Clippers are unlikely to pursue top point guards like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker due to their “steadfast belief” in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has been considered untouchable in trade talks.

Additionally, the Clippers likely won’t attempt to sign a second- or third-tier free agent like Khris Middleton or Tobias Harris unless it’s on a short-term deal, according to Buha, who points out that the team traded away Harris because it didn’t want to cap the roster’s ceiling at “good” instead of “great.”

Instead, the Clippers will focus on the top two free agents in this year’s free agent class – Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard – as well as top trade candidate Anthony Davis. If L.A. is unable to land one of those superstars, the organization figures to remain patient, avoiding a reactionary signing or trade and instead shifting its attention to re-signing its own free agents and making smaller moves, says Buha.

As we wait to see how that plan plays out, let’s round up a few more rumors and notes related to free agency:

  • Within his full report on Kyrie Irving‘s agent change, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski shares some intriguing tidbits on two of this summer’s top free agents. Sources tell Wojnarowski that Irving remains “intensely interested” in the Nets, with the Knicks expected to remain competitive for the star point guard. Both New York teams are still interested in signing Irving and Kevin Durant together, even after KD’s Achilles tear, according to Woj.
  • There’s a feeling in both NBA circles and in the Nets‘ front office that Brooklyn will land at least one star free agent this offseason, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post explores some potential Plan Bs for the Knicks in the event that they miss out on Durant or back off their pursuit of the two-time Finals MVP at all following his Achilles injury.
  • The Jazz appear likely to lose veterans Ekpe Udoh and Thabo Sefolosha in free agency, according to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune, who examines the impact the duo had on Utah’s locker room over the last couple seasons.

Team USA Announces 20-Player Camp Roster For World Cup

USA Basketball has officially announced the group of 20 players that will participate in training camp this summer in advance of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The camp will take place from August 5-9, and will be used to select the 12-man roster for this year’s World Cup in China.

The 20-man training camp roster is as follows:

  1. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  2. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  3. Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
  4. Andre Drummond (Pistons)
  5. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  6. James Harden (Rockets)
  7. Tobias Harris (Sixers / FA)
  8. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  9. Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
  10. Brook Lopez (Bucks / FA)
  11. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  12. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  13. CJ McCollum (Trail Blazers)
  14. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  15. Paul Millsap (Nuggets)
  16. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  17. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  18. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  19. P.J. Tucker (Rockets)
  20. Kemba Walker (Hornets / FA)

“I am excited about getting to training camp in August and working with all of the players that have been selected to attend the USA National Team training camp in Las Vegas,” Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich said in a statement. “We’ve got an excellent cross-section of veteran USA Basketball and NBA players, as well as some exciting younger players who possess amazing versatility.

“I’m appreciative of commitment that our National Team players continue to make, and the eagerness of the new players to become involved,” Popovich continued. “Selecting a 12-man team will be extremely difficult.”

It will be an eventful summer for many of the players on the 20-man Team USA training camp roster. Besides Harris, Lopez, and Walker, who are all headed for unrestricted free agency and could be on new teams by August, players like Barnes, Middleton, and Millsap could reach the open market if their player or team options are declined. Others – including Davis, Gordon, Kuzma, Tatum, and Tucker – have been mentioned in trade rumors.

Kuzma and Mitchell are the only players on the roster who haven’t played internationally for Team USA in the past. Five player on the roster (Barnes, Davis, Harden, Love, and Lowry) have won gold medals for USA Basketball at the 2012 or 2016 Olympics, while two others (Drummond and Gordon) have taken home gold at previous World Cups.

Previous reports indicated that Zion Williamson, John Collins, and Marvin Bagley are expected to be among the players named to a 10-man select team that will scrimmage with Team USA’s 20-man roster at the training camp in August.

More Names Revealed For Team USA World Cup Tryouts

Team USA’s training camp roster for the FIBA World Cup will be announced next week, but four players have already been confirmed, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Anthony Davis, James Harden, Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker will definitely be part of the team, while the other 14 slots are still being worked out. The roster will be trimmed to 12 when the players gather in Las Vegas in early August to prepare for the tournament, which takes place from August 31 to September 15 in China.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski drops a few more names in a full story on the World Cup tryouts, which sources tell him are also expected to include Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Bradley Beal and Kevin Love. Others planning to be part of the camp include Eric Gordon, Jayson Tatum, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond and Kyle Kuzma.

P.J. Tucker will attend training camp as well, tweets ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, and league sources tell Woj that Paul Millsap also plans to be there. Other names leaked for the camp are Tobias Harris (Twitter link from Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer) and Myles Turner (Twitter link from Scott Agness of the Athletic).

Zion Williamson, expected to be the first pick in the draft later this month, has been invited to camp as part of the 10-man select team that will scrimmage against the 18-man roster, Stein tweets. Williamson will be given a chance to play his way onto the final roster if he has a standout performance in that role, according to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo (Twitter link).

The select team will also include John Collins and Marvin Bagley, tweets Tim Bomtemps of ESPN.

The camp will be held from August 5-8, with exhibition games to follow before the start of World Cup play. Gregg Popovich will serve as head coach.

Bucks Notes: Kaminsky, Lopez, Hill, Giannis

In the market for a big man who could stretch the floor at the trade deadline, the Bucks made an effort to acquire Frank Kaminsky from the Hornets, but were turned down, sources tell Sean Deveney of Sporting News. Having missed out on Kaminsky, Milwaukee instead sent a handful of second-round picks to New Orleans to acquire Nikola Mirotic.

With Mirotic and Brook Lopez both headed for unrestricted free agency this summer, however, Deveney expects the Bucks to circle back to Kaminsky, who will be eligible for restricted free agency. Milwaukee’s ability to land him will depend on a number of factors, including how serious the Hornets are about re-signing him and what happens with the Bucks’ own free agent bigs. Still, it’s a potential pairing to watch, particularly if Kaminsky becomes unrestricted and is available at a discount.

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • In a separate article for Sporting News, Deveney previewed the Bucks’ offseason, suggesting that the team will make Khris Middleton its top priority in free agency this summer over Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon, and others.
  • After the Bucks’ season ended last weekend, Lopez said he’d “love to be back,” while George Hill – who is expected to be waived to avoid his full $19MM guarantee – said that money has never been the most important factor for him in free agency, as Malika Andrews of relays.
  • In an interesting piece for The Athletic, Eric Nehm spoke to Giannis Antetokounmpo about what the Bucks star learned during his first extended playoff run, and how he’ll apply those lessons going forward. “There are so many things I thought were tough in the regular season,” Antetokounmpo said after playing three rounds of postseason basketball. “They’re not.”
  • The Bucks recently worked out UNC forward Cameron Johnson, per Gery Woelfel of Woelfel’s Press Box (via Twitter). The 21st player on ESPN’s big board, Johnson may no longer be available by the time Milwaukee picks at No. 30.

Bucks Co-Owner: “Our Goal Is To Keep Everybody”

Several players who started or played major minutes off the bench for the Bucks this season are headed for free agency this summer, but co-owner Marc Lasry remains hopeful that the franchise can keep its core intact, as he tells Frank Isola of The Athletic.

“Our goal is to keep everybody,” Lasry said. “And we’re going to do everything in our power to keep the nucleus of our team.”

While the Bucks may not retain “everybody” on their roster who will be a free agent this offseason, there are three key players the team figures to prioritize. As Isola writes, Khris Middleton is expected to be offered a maximum-salary contract or something close to it, and the team would also like to bring back Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez. Nikola Mirotic and George Hill will also likely reach free agency.

Outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led the Bucks in minutes during the Eastern Conference Finals, Middleton, Brogdon, and Lopez were the team’s three most-used players in that series vs. Toronto, so bringing them back will be Milwaukee’s No. 1 offseason goal. Brogdon’s modest cap hit (just under $2MM) and restricted status should help give the Bucks some cap flexibility as they weigh their options.

As for Antetokounmpo, he’s not up for a new deal quite yet, as his current pact runs through 2020/21. But he became eligible for a super-max extension by making an All-NBA team for a second straight year, and could sign that five-year extension during the 2020 offseason.

Like Lasry, Giannis recently said he’d like to see all the Bucks’ key free agents return. As long as the team proves it’s willing to invest financially to maintain a title contender, Milwaukee’s co-owner believes the team’s star will be interested in sticking around long-term.

As long as we keep doing well and Giannis believes we’re doing everything we can to win I feel good about our chances,” Lasry said. “… I believe he wants to be here. I have no reason to believe otherwise.

Bucks Notes: Giannis, Middleton, Snell

Now that their season is over, the Bucks will shift their focus to free agency, as several of the team’s key contributors don’t have contracts for the 2019/20 season. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is locked up through 2020/21, said today in his end-of-season session with reporters that he doesn’t want to get involved in front office decisions, but he hopes Milwaukee can re-sign all of its top free agents (Twitter link via Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

“Obviously, I want everybody back,” Antetokounmpo said, per Malika Andrews of “Great fricking team — unselfish players that play basketball the right way. They’re winners. We had a great atmosphere. We didn’t have no — I want to be polite. I want to say the A-word — we didn’t have no buttheads. Obviously, I want everybody back. I’m going to let my teammates know that.”

Khris Middleton, perhaps the Bucks’ most important free-agent-to-be, spoke today about having unfinished business with Giannis and the Bucks as a whole, tweets Velazquez. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee he’ll be back though. As Andrews tweets, Middleton said that his top two priorities will be what’s best for his family, followed by his fit.

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • Although Antetokoumpo was disappointed not to win the Eastern Conference Finals, he’s confident that the Bucks are in position to make more noise in the playoffs in future seasons. “I think it’s just the start of a long journey,” Antetokounmpo said after Saturday’s loss, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “We’re going to get better. We’re going to come back next year and believe in who we are, believe in what we’ve built this year, and hopefully, we can be in the same situation and be the ones moving forward.”
  • Prior to the end of the Eastern Finals, Gery Woelfel of Woelfel’s Press Box wrote that some NBA officials believe the Bucks are eager – or even “desperate” – to dump Tony Snell‘s contract. Snell is owed $11.59MM in 2019/20 and $12.38MM in 2020/21. “I think the only way they can move him is if they package him with a pick,” one NBA executive told Woelfel. “But [the Bucks have] already traded two [future] No. 1s, so that won’t be easy to do that, either.”
  • It will be interesting to see how imperative it is for the Bucks to move off of Snell’s deal. If Milwaukee re-signs Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, and Brook Lopez (or Nikola Mirotic) to lucrative contracts, getting rid of Snell’s money could help the team avoid the tax. But if even one of those players departs, keeping Snell on their books for another year may not hurt the Bucks.

Winning Will Affect Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Contract Decision

Giannis Antetokounmpo became eligible for a super-max extension this week, but the Bucks may need a trip to next year’s NBA Finals to convince him to accept that deal, writes Malika Andrews of ESPN.

Milwaukee fell just short of that goal this season, falling to the Raptors in six games after posting the league’s best regular season record. A source tells Andrews that winning big is important to Antetokounmpo and that at least reaching the Finals will be a factor as he considers his future.

Antetokounmpo qualified for the super-max extension with a first-team selection on this year’s All-NBA squad, but he won’t be able to accept it until he has seven years in the league, which will happen after next season. It would be a five-year deal starting at 35% of the salary cap with a projected total value of about $247.3MM.

Since his rookie year, Antetokounmpo has expressed an affection for Milwaukee, Andrews notes, even moving his mother to the city. However, winning will be the prime consideration in his next contract, and he will have to be convinced that the Bucks can be perennial contenders.

Over the past year, Milwaukee GM Jon Horst made an effort to maximize Antetokounmpo’s talents by surrounding him with shooters and hiring coach Mike Budenholzer, who builds his offense around the 3-pointer. Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton were among the key additions, while Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon were told to shoot more often from long distance to create more inside space for Antetokounmpo.

Keeping the core of this year’s team together won’t be easy as the Bucks face several difficult free agent decisions. Lopez is due for a significant raise after playing for $3.382MM, and sources tell Andrews that re-signing him will be a priority.

Milwaukee also appears likely to pay whatever it takes to keep Khris Middleton, but may not be able to afford Brogdon as well. George Hill and Nikola Mirotic will also be free agents, and the organization is facing luxury tax concerns after giving Bledsoe a four-year, $70MM extension in March.

Bucks’ Success May Dictate Team Temperature on Luxury Tax

This season may be Milwaukee’s best chance at a title, as the team has many players set to hit the open market in free agency this summer. Sources tell Tim Bontemps of that ownership’s willingness to go deep into the luxury tax may be dependent on how far the Bucks advance.

Khris Middleton is likely to turn down his player option and hit the market. Malcolm Brogdon will be a restricted free agent. Brook Lopez will almost certainly want a raise on his one-year, $3.38MM deal. And Nikola Mirotic, who the team added at the trade deadline, will pursue a new contract as well.

The Bucks are not against becoming a taxpaying team. They have to do everything they can to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo with a strong supporting cast and give him every reason to sign a super-max extension once he’s eligible next summer. However, if the team with the best record in the league can’t get past the fourth-seeded Celtics, the decision to go deep into the luxury tax becomes a tough one.

The first of their many offseason decisions will likely involve Middleton, and Bontemps writes that the shooting guard is likely to see max contract offers. The Mavs reportedly will be among the teams looking to poach him from Milwaukee.

Mavericks To Target Khris Middleton, Kemba Walker In Free Agency

The Mavericks plan on pursuing Khris Middleton and Kemba Walker this offseason with the hope of landing one of the All-Stars, as Marc Stein of the New York Times details in the latest edition of his newsletter.

Stein cautions that Dallas is still laying out its free agency plans. The franchise is prioritizing shooting, athleticism, and veteran presence as it looks to surround Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis with an improved squad.

The Mavs have slightly under $46MM in guaranteed salary on the books next season against a projected $109MM salary cap. That figure doesn’t include Dwight Powell‘s $10.3MM player option nor does it include any of the team’s cap holds. Realistically, the team’s available space could be capped around $30MM, as I previously detailed.

However, should Dallas find themselves with the need for additional cap space, the organization could carve out room by using the stretch provision on Courtney Lee, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors explains. Other options included agreeing to a long-term deal with Powell that lowers his annual cap hit or trading away Tim Hardaway Jr., something that would likely mean attaching an asset to him.

There’s no indication yet about whether Dallas will be able to land a top player in free agency. Stein adds the Mavs may not get near players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Kyrie Irving, and also writes that Nikola Vucevic – who has previously been mentioned as a Mavs target – isn’t high on their free-agent wish list.