Jae Crowder

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers

If Kentavious Caldwell-Pope picks up his $15.4MM player option or declines it and signs a new, more lucrative deal with Denver, the Nuggets will be over the second tax apron in 2024/25. That means they would be limited to offering free agents minimum-salary contracts.

With that in mind, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports lists 10 ring-chasing veterans who might be able to help the Nuggets next season (the players have to be at least 30 years old in ’24/25 and potentially available for the minimum). Some players on Wind’s list include Gary Harris (a former Nugget), Gordon Hayward and Jae Crowder.

According to both Wind and Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (subscriber link), several people within the organization are fans of Hayward’s game, though it’s unclear if he’d actually accept a minimum deal after making $33.3MM last season. The 34-year-old was largely a non-factor with Oklahoma City and has a lengthy injury history, however, so his market is tricky to gauge.

Durando answers a handful of offseason questions related to the Nuggets, writing that the team will likely make small tweaks to the edges of the rotation instead of doing anything drastic.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune (subscription required) argues the Timberwolves should pay the luxury tax to keep the core of the current roster together for next season no matter which ownership group ultimately prevails in their ongoing dispute for majority control. As Souhan writes, the Wolves just made the Western Conference finals for the second time in franchise history, and this team is much better positioned for continued success than the group from 2004.
  • The Timberwolves‘ roster should look similar in ’24/25, assuming ownership is willing to spend, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune (subscriber link). “They’ve been nothing but supportive with us,” head coach Chris Finch said of the team’s owners. “In many ways, this run that we’ve been on has pushed all of that to the background, and they’ve been 100 percent committed to the team, the team’s efforts and enjoying the success. That stuff will be what it will be. They’ve all pledged that no matter how it shakes out, that they’re going to give us every opportunity to be successful and continue to build, build a winner and a champion and all the things that we’re all trying to do together.”
  • The Trail Blazers held a pre-draft workout with six prospects on Thursday, tweets Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report. Those players were French wing Melvin Ajinca (No. 48 on ESPN’s big board), Minnesota guard Cam Christie (No. 34), G League Ignite guard Thierry Darlan (No. 85), Michigan State forward Malik Hall (unranked), North Carolina forward Harrison Ingram (No. 42) and Arizona forward Keshad Johnson (No. 49). Portland controls four picks in the 2024 draft, including a pair of second-rounders (No. 34 and No. 40).

Central Notes: Bucks, Middleton, Cavaliers, Donovan, Pistons

Bucks coach Doc Rivers responded to the team’s late-season swoon by holding a film session on Saturday, according to Eric Nehm and Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The meeting involved the team’s nine veteran rotation players — Giannis AntetokounmpoDamian LillardKhris MiddletonBrook Lopez, Malik Beasley, Bobby PortisPatrick Beverley, Pat Connaughton and Jae Crowder — and each of them was given the opportunity to share his perspective on the team’s recent slide and offer suggestions on how to address it.

“It’s only the start of these tough and necessary conversations,” a source told Nehm and Charania.

While the session may have cleared the air, it didn’t help Milwaukee end its slump as the Bucks fell to New York on Sunday while getting outscored 72-48 in the second half. Although they remain in second place in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks are now just one game ahead of the Magic and Knicks and a game-and-half up on the Cavaliers, as home court advantage in the first round is no longer a guarantee.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Middleton’s bad luck with injuries continued Sunday as he had to leave the game after being accidentally struck in the face by Donte DiVincenzo, Nehm and Charania add. Rivers said Middleton had to make an emergency trip to the dentist, which is why he didn’t return to the game. “You just feel bad for him. The guy can’t catch a break,” the Bucks‘ head coach said. “I mean, what are the odds you go into a game, ‘OK, tonight, it will be my tooth gets knocked out.’ He’s having one of those seasons right now, but that’s OK because it can all turn for him. I thought he came with great spirit tonight, too, so just tough luck.”
  • The Cavaliers had a disastrous end to their five-game Western swing as they let a 26-point lead slip away in Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Cleveland went 1-4 on the trip and returns home in fifth place in the East. “Just a very disappointing loss,” said Isaac Okoro, who was able to return after missing four games with pain in his big toe. “Think we all know right now we need wins. Wanted this one bad.”
  • Head coach Billy Donovan admits that the Bulls aren’t having the type of season he expected, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago is just a game ahead of Atlanta for ninth place in the battle to host next week’s play-in game between the two teams. “I certainly didn’t come here [when I was hired in 2020] to say, ‘Hey, listen, let’s be a play-in team,’” Donovan said. “When I sat down first with [executive vice president of basketball operations] Arturas [Karnisovas] and [general manager] Marc [Eversley] about this, it was to try and build something. I still feel like we’re building something, but I don’t think anyone is happy with where we’re at.’’
  • James L. Edwards of The Athletic ranks the Pistons‘ best assets heading into the offseason. Not surprisingly, Cade Cunningham tops the list, with this year’s first-round pick coming in second, followed by Ausar Thompson, Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey.

2024 Free Agent Stock Watch: Central Division

For the rest of the regular season and postseason, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents during the 2024 offseason. We consider whether their stock is rising or falling due to their performance and other factors. Today, we’re focusing on a handful of players from the Central Division.

Patrick Williams, F, Bulls

  • 2023/24: $9,835,881
  • 2024/25: RFA
  • Stock: Neutral

The Bulls are in a tricky spot with Williams, whose season ended early when it was announced in February that he would undergo foot surgery that would sideline him for the remainder of ’23/24. He’ll be a restricted free agent if Chicago gives him a $12.97MM qualifying offer, which should be a lock.

Still just 22 years old, Williams is a former No. 4 overall pick who has shown glimpses of tantalizing two-way upside over his first four seasons. The problem is, those glimpses have been fleeting and have never been sustained for a prolonged period of time.

In fairness to Williams, injuries have certainly played a role in his up-and-down play — while he played 71 games as a rookie and all 82 games in 2022/23, he was limited to just 17 games in ’21/22 due to a wrist injury and only made 43 appearances this season due to foot and ankle issues.

I’m sure the Bulls would have loved for Williams to have a breakout season in ’23/24 and cement his place as a cornerstone to build around going forward. But his averages — 10.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.9 SPG and 0.8 BPG on .443/.399/.788 shooting in 43 games (27.3 MPG) — were basically in line with his career numbers. Not better or worse, just neutral.

Williams has a high ceiling on both ends of the court due to his size, length, athleticism and skills. His production hasn’t matched his talent level to this point though, and there are a wide range of outcomes for what his next contract could look like, depending on how much external interest he draws as a RFA.

Isaac Okoro, G/F, Cavaliers

  • 2023/24: $8,920,795
  • 2024/25: RFA
  • Stock: Up

Okoro was selected with the No. 5 overall pick in 2020 — right after Williams. And as with Williams, Okoro showed glimpses of being a productive rotation regular for Cleveland during his first three seasons.

So why is Okoro’s stock up and Williams’ stuck in neutral? The answer is subjective of course, but part of it has to do with expectations.

After playing a career-low 21.7 minutes per game last season, Okoro is up to 27.2 MPG in ’23/24, and he has played well both as a starter and as a reserve. Overall, he’s averaging 9.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.0 APG and 0.9 SPG on .498/.399/.686 shooting in 57 games, including 34 starts.

The 23-year-old has improved in the area most critical to his development: three-point shooting. His 39.9% mark from deep is a career high, and he’s Cleveland’s best perimeter defender.

Like Williams, Okoro will be a restricted free agent in the offseason if he’s tendered a qualifying offer. Given the Cavs’ salary cap situation, I don’t expect him to receive much more than the mid-level exception, which is projected to be worth about $13.8MM annually on a four-year deal.

Okoro’s future with Cleveland was looking a little shaky last summer after the team acquired Max Strus and re-signed Caris LeVert. But he has become more decisive and effective on offense on top of being an already-strong defender, and I’d be very surprised if the Cavs didn’t keep him around in the offseason.

Jae Crowder, F, Bucks

  • 2023/24: $3,196,448 (minimum salary; $2,019,706 cap hit)
  • 2024/25: UFA
  • Stock: Down

Now in his 12th NBA season, Crowder has far exceeded the careers of most second-round picks (he was selected No. 34 overall back in 2012). But he also appears to be at the tail end of his career.

The 33-year-old’s lengthy holdout with Phoenix last season was one of the more bizarre decisions for a player who was about to become a free agent. He was eventually moved to Milwaukee — his preferred destination — but at a significant cost: he made $10.2MM in ’22/23, and re-signed with the Bucks on a one-year, minimum-salary contract last summer.

Crowder hasn’t shown anything this year to prove he’s worth more than the veteran’s minimum going forward, averaging 6.1 PPG and 3.4 RPG on .421/.353/.692 shooting. He  has only appeared 36 games (23.8 MPG), having missed 31 games early in the season after suffering a left adductor and abdominal tear, which required surgery.

Perhaps things will change if Crowder has a strong playoff performance, but to my eyes, he’s at least a half-step slower on defense than he used to be, and that was always his calling card. At his age, it’s rare for that trend to reverse.

Jalen Smith, F/C, Pacers

  • 2023/24: $5,043,773
  • 2024/25: $5,417,386 player option
  • Stock: Up

Smith, who turns 24 years old today (happy birthday), is actually the third former lottery pick from 2020 on this list, as he was selected No. 10 overall in the same draft as Williams and Okoro. However, he has had a much different NBA path than his fellow draftees.

Smith didn’t play much for the team that selected him, Phoenix, and the Suns declined their third-year team option on his rookie scale contract in 2021. He was traded to Indiana in February 2022, eventually re-signing with the Pacers on a three-year, $15.1MM deal with a player option for the final season.

In 2022/23, which was Smith’s first full season with the Pacers, it seemed like the team was a little unsure about how best to utilize him. He opened the season as the starting power forward, but it was an awkward fit on both ends of the court, and he was eventually moved to the bench, mostly playing backup center. Overall, he averaged 9.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 0.9 BPG in 68 games (18.8 MPG).

Smith’s counting stats in ’23/24 — 10.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 0.6 BPG in 47 games (17.7 MPG) — are very similar to last season’s. There’s one huge difference though: he has been one of the most efficient offensive players in the NBA.

After posting a below-league-average 56.5 true shooting percentage in ’22/23, Smith is at 70.7 TS% in ’23/24, more than 12% above league average. He’s shooting 71.8% on twos and 44.2% on threes.

Given his elite offensive efficiency, decent defense, and age, it’s hard to imagine he’ll pick up his $5.42MM player option. The big man market is pretty thin in 2024, and Smith is in line for a raise — the two-year, $16MM deal Moritz Wagner signed with Orlando last summer should be his floor.

The Pacers will have cap room and Smith’s Early Bird rights if they want to bring him back. But they also have to pay Pascal Siakam, and third-year center Isaiah Jackson will be entering the final year of his rookie scale deal. Money could be a sticking point in negotiations.

Bucks’ Jae Crowder Set To Return Wednesday

Bucks forward Jae Crowder, who underwent surgery in November after suffering a left adductor and abdominal tear, has been cleared to return to action for Wednesday’s game in Cleveland, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Crowder was a key part of Milwaukee’s rotation early in the season, averaging 27.9 minutes per night in his eight healthy games. He registered 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per contest with a .543/.533/.600 shooting line in those eight games before sustaining his injury in his ninth appearance on November 11. He has missed the past 31 games.

The Bucks had the NBA’s fourth-best defensive rating in 2022/23 but rank just 19th in that category so far this season, so they’ll benefit on that end of the court from Crowder’s return. The veteran forward is a versatile defender with size who is capable of matching up with bigger wings.

Although Crowder started a couple games for the Bucks in the fall, he’ll likely come off the bench as long as everyone’s healthy, since the club has settled on a starting five consisting of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and Malik Beasley.

Central Notes: Crowder, Pacers, J. Johnson, Osman

Bucks forward Jae Crowder is nearing his return after being sidelined since tearing his left adductor muscle in a November 11 game, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Crowder underwent surgery three days later and has been steadily increasing his activity level, with three five-on-five practice sessions upcoming this week.

“I did have a set target to get to this point,” Crowder said, “and I pushed myself to get to this point and took care of my body and tried to do the things I needed to do while I’m away from the medical staff, while I’m at home doing the little stuff that I needed to do to get myself back to where I need to be.”

Crowder had been dealing with an adductor issue since the first week of training camp, so the surgery eliminated the pain he was playing through in the early part of the season. He hopes to return soon to boost Milwaukee’s defense, which currently ranks 22nd in the league. He’ll spend some practice time with the G League Wisconsin Herd as he works his way back, and although a target date hasn’t been set, Crowder believes he’ll know when he’s ready.

“I just want to get back to feeling what I want, what I need to feel,” he said. “I think ultimately that I’ll be better. I think I’ll be better than I was before pre-injury, honestly. Just taking on the challenges of what we need to do, like helping these guys, taking on that matchup of stopping the best offensive player. I think I’ll be much better off than I was before and I felt like I was doing a decent job at it before.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers are interested in “just about every starting power forward possible,” Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports said in an interview with The Trade Deadline (video link), adding that Indiana was pursing OG Anunoby before Toronto traded him to the Knicks. Fischer confirms that Buddy Hield is available after he failed to reach an extension with the team last summer, but says the Pacers have “pretty much rebuffed any teams’ interest in T.J. McConnell.”
  • The Pacers were hoping to re-sign James Johnson after last season, but they didn’t have an open roster spot until they reached a buyout agreement with Daniel Theis in mid-November, per Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (subscription required). “We had talked about it really since the exit meetings last year,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “With the moves that were made early in July, we were gonna have 15 guaranteed contracts. Just weren’t sure about bringing him into camp and then having to cut him if it was going to be that kind of situation.”
  • After being traded to the Spurs last summer, Cedi Osman still has fond memories of Cleveland, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Osman will make his return to the city on Sunday as his new team takes on the Cavaliers. “They really do care about their sports teams, with the Guardians, the Browns, the Cavs,” Osman said. “I always felt their support during games, even during a bad stretch. In my second and third year when we were kind of rebuilding, they were supporting us no matter what.”

Central Notes: Weaver, Crowder, White, DeMar

The Pistons are currently mired in a league-worst 17-game losing streak. If Detroit isn’t able to somewhat right this ship, even while clearly headed for the lottery this year, general manager Troy Weaver should be fired so a new front office can thrive, opines Shawn Windsor of The Detroit Free Press.

Windsor writes that the Pistons are currently on a 7.5-game win pace for the rest of the season, which would shatter the current record for a full 82-game NBA slate.

Given that the club will have lots of space under the league’s projected salary cap next summer, through which it could add veterans and make significant transactions to improve, Windsor submits that Weaver should not be in a decision-making role with the Pistons at that juncture — barring some kind of growth this year.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Following a November 14 surgery to correct a partial tear in his left adductor, Bucks reserve forward Jae Crowder is on the mend, having resumed individual on-court work within the last week, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “When I touched the ball, I was like, ‘All right, I’m getting close,’” Crowder said. The 33-year-old combo forward was a solid two-way contributor for Milwaukee when healthy this year. In his nine healthy games, he’s logging 8.1 PPG on .532/.416/.583 shooting splits, along with 3.9 RPG, 1.7 APG and 0.8 SPG.
  • Bulls starting point guard Coby White is enjoying an excellent start to the season for a struggling 7-14 Chicago club. His willingness to shoot from distance early and often has played a part in the team’s current two-game mini-win streak, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The 6’5″ guard is averaging 15.0 PPG on .427/.403/.846 shooting splits, 4.2 APG, 3.1 RPG and 0.9 SPG. He’s connecting on a career-best 40.3% of his career-most 7.1 three-pointers per night.
  • Bulls All-Star small forward DeMar DeRozan seems to be rediscovering the passing game that he developed during his three-year stint with the Spurs, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. To wit, he notched a season-most 10 dimes during Chicago’s surprise 124-118 win over the Pelicans on Saturday. “Just being unselfish, pushing the pace,” DeRozan said of his — and the team’s — approach to the victory.

Bucks’ Jae Crowder To Undergo Surgery, Out Eight Weeks

Bucks veteran forward Jae Crowder has a left adductor and abdominal tear and will undergo surgery on Tuesday, according to a team press release relayed by Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link). He’s expected to be sidelined for approximately eight weeks.

Crowder was originally diagnosed with a left groin injury on Saturday during Milwaukee’s game against Orlando. Further testing and evaluation determined the extent of the injury.

Crowder has appeared in all nine of Milwaukee’s games, including two starts, and is averaging 8.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 26.7 minutes per game.

It’s a tough blow for the Bucks, whose depth was depleted by the blockbuster Damian Lillard trade. Crowder’s minutes will likely by absorbed by some combination of Pat Connaughton, MarJon Beauchamp and rookie Andre Jackson Jr.

Crowder re-signed with Milwaukee on a one-year deal in July. Milwaukee shipped out five second-round draft picks to acquire him in a three-team exchange with the Suns and Nets last February.

Bucks Notes: Lillard, Antetokounmpo, Practice, Crowder

Fans will get an opportunity to see Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard share the court as teammates for the first time on Sunday in the preseason, head coach Adrian Griffin said on a recent episode of NBA Today (YouTube link). Milwaukee brought in the 11-year Trail Blazer in a September blockbuster trade, and now he’ll suit up as a Buck for the first time against the Lakers.

The start of the Antetokounmpo-Lillard era in Milwaukee is significant not only for the duo’s star power, but because it also realizes the efforts of the Bucks to remain firmly in the title hunt going forward. Offseason comments from Antetokounmpo caused a vortex of rumors regarding his future with the Bucks. Appearing on the same episode of NBA Today, however, general manager Jon Horst dismissed the notion the organization made the blockbuster move because of them.

Really not at all,” Horst said when asked if Antetokounmpo’s comments fueled their pursuit of Lillard. “I think we’ve done everything we can over the past few years to put the best product we can on the floor with Giannis, for Giannis, for our organization. There’s no doubt we are invested in him and this entire team and we felt like getting Damian Lillard was the best thing for the franchise now and going forward.

The next move for Milwaukee is to secure Antetokounmpo, who has a player option for the 2025/26 season, to a long-term deal. The Bucks, who swung for the fences when they traded for Jrue Holiday in 2020 before winning that year’s championship, are hoping this trade pays off in a similar fashion.

I think it’s important to understand that Giannis and what he says publicly and privately are very much aligned with what we believe as an organization,” Horst said. “It’s not just something recent. We’ve done everything we can every step of the way to put the best team on the floor each and every day, to constantly push the limits and try to compete at the highest level. … We think this trade is the most recent example of that.

We have more from the Bucks:

  • The environment around Bucks practices has been more physical and fired up than in previous years, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Griffin is pushing to have a more aggressive tone and environment in practice, according to Owczarski. “The way we approach training camp and the way we approach practice so far has been incredible because we are literally changing our identity,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’re being a little bit more scrappy. We will help one another. Obviously, we’ve been one of the best defensive teams in the league the last five years, so it’s not that you gotta come here and you change a lot of things, but I feel like, you just got to sharpen the tool, you gotta add more edge to the team.
  • Last season, Bucks forward Jae Crowder began the year by sitting out as a member of the Suns, spending the first four months of the season away from the team before he was traded to Milwaukee at the deadline. This year, Crowder isn’t taking playing time lightly, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. Now, he’s trying to help set the aggressive tone of Milwaukee’s training camp with his mindset. “I’m taking this training camp very seriously this year,” Crowder said. “Obviously, knowing that I missed last year. Just trying to blow it out in the terms of both ends, conditioning and learning-wise. Just trying to learn as much as possible before the real games start. So I’m taking this training camp more seriously than I would in the past few years.
  • Lillard opened up about his first week as a Buck in an interview with Nehm. The seven-time All-Star is seeing plenty he likes with the organization so far. “The discipline that I’ve seen, it’s not just this guy or that guy; it’s like everybody is on top of their stuff,” Lillard said. “And I think collectively that just equals success. I don’t see how it doesn’t. Nobody is like, ‘Look at me.’ Or, ‘Oh, I gotta do this.’ Or, ‘I gotta do that.’ It’s just like everybody is on point with what they have to be doing and it’s like adults, professionalism and people that care about it and take it serious.

Contract Details: Crowder, Grant, Powell, Green, Lewis

Jae Crowder‘s new one-year contract with Milwaukee is for the veteran’s minimum, league sources tell Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The Bucks held Crowder’s Bird rights, so they could have given him any salary up to his maximum. Obviously he was never going to receive anything close to $47.6MM next season, but it’s still interesting that he accepted such a significant pay cut after making $10.2MM in 2022/23.

Crowder just completed his 11th NBA season. As our list of minimum salaries for ’23/24 shows, the 33-year-old will earn about $3.2MM on his new deal, while the Bucks will carry a $2MM cap hit.

Here are more contract details from around the NBA:

  • Jerami Grant received the most lucrative contract in free agency in terms of total value, earning $160MM over five years to stay with the Trail Blazers. The fifth year of Grant’s deal is a player option, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.
  • Center Dwight Powell re-signed with the Mavericks as a free agent, inking a three-year, $12MM deal. Similar to Grant, Powell has a player option for the final season, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link). Powell reportedly drew interest from Houston, but decided to stay with Dallas.
  • Jeff Green‘s two-year contract with the Rockets features a non-guaranteed team option in 2024/25 and $1.6MM per season in bonuses that are considered likely to be achieved, sources tell Scotto (via Twitter). That means Green’s annual cap hits will be $9.6MM. ESPN’s Bobby Marks was first to report that the original terms of Green’s contract agreement had been amended, with Houston using cap room to sign the veteran forward.
  • The Lakers signed second-rounder Maxwell Lewis to a standard four-year contract using the new second-round pick exception, reports Khobi Price of The Southern California News Group (Twitter link). Lewis will receive guaranteed salaries of $1.1MM as a rookie next season (the minimum) and $1.4MM in ’24/25. Sources tell Price the third year of the contract is partially guaranteed for $100K, while the fourth and final season is a team option.

Jae Crowder Signs One-Year Deal With Bucks

JULY 9: Crowder’s new contract is official, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

JULY 1: Free agent forward Jae Crowder will return to the Bucks, according to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT (Twitter link), who reports that Crowder has agreed to a one-year deal with Milwaukee.

Milwaukee shipped out five second-round draft picks to acquire the 32-year-old vet in a three-team exchange with the Suns and Nets in February.

Exact terms of the agreement have yet to be reported. In any deal with an outside free agent, the Bucks will be limited to the veteran’s minimum after having committed big money to free agent starters Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez. However, because Milwaukee possesses Crowder’s Bird rights, the team could sign him to a contract above the standard minimum.

A journeyman 3-and-D role player for several high-level postseason teams, the 6’6″ power forward appeared in 18 contests for the Bucks as a reserve last year, averaging 6.9 PPG on .479/.436/.833 shooting splits, 3.8 RPG, 1.5 APG and 0.7 SPG.

He was cut from Milwaukee’s healthy playoff rotation by former head coach Mike Budenholzer during its five-game first round series loss to the Heat. Budenholzer reinserted the Marquette alum in limited minutes after All-NBA power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo injured his back in Game 1.

The Bucks’ salary obligations have them headed for the league’s new second luxury tax apron, which means they don’t have access to the taxpayer’s mid-level exception, valued at $5MM this year, or their bi-annual exception, worth $4.5MM.

Re-adding Crowder, who served as the starting four on consecutive Finals teams in 2020 (the Heat) and 2021 (the Suns), could be the kind of buy-low move that Milwaukee needs to nail if it hopes to return to playoff glory next spring.