On the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast, host Michael Scotto is joined by HoopsHype’s Yossi Gozlan. The duo discussed the offseason for the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, including the free agencies of Bobby Portis, PJ Tucker, and Bryn Forbes. The duo also discussed the rumors surrounding the New Orleans Pelicans having interest in free agent point guard Kyle Lowry and four teams expected to be in the mix for free-agent center Richaun Holmes.
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1:18 Bobby Portis and Bryn Forbes free agent outlooks
Scotto: Bobby Portis has a $3.8 million player option, and Bryn Forbes has a $2.4 million player option. Both of those guys exceeded those contracts exponentially, and they’re both expected to opt out. It looks to me, especially for a guy like Portis who played really well, it’s going to be tough for Milwaukee to keep him. It’s going to be interesting to see if Bobby, who is adored by fans in Milwaukee, is maybe willing to give the organization some type of a discount.
Gozlan: From a salary cap perspective, I feel like the Bucks might end up doing the least in free agency… Bringing back both Portis and Forbes will be challenging. I think there’s a pretty good chance Portis could leave since he’s going to get offers close to the $9.5 million mid-level exception or even higher. The most the Bucks can offer him would be the $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception… I wouldn’t totally rule him out returning. It wouldn’t shock me if he returned on a one-year deal where he’d be losing money upfront, but then he’d have Early Bird Rights next year, and he could re-sign a long-term deal then. He’d be passing up some big offers if he did that… I think there’s a good chance (Forbes) could end up getting the taxpayer mid-level exception.
7:18 PJ Tucker’s free agent outlook
Scotto: The Bucks have, from a salary cap perspective, the best chance of keeping another key free agent, PJ Tucker. Giannis Antetokounmpo gave PJ a glowing review during the Brooklyn series. Giannis said, “He keeps making everything tough on KD (Kevin Durant). He’s vocal. He’s a leader. He pushes us to be great. He’s definitely a big piece of this organization and this team. He’s going to keep helping us. We definitely need him moving forward.” … To me, there’s no reason why, from a financial perspective, Tucker shouldn’t be back with the Bucks. I think he’s best valued on a playoff-type team. Most of those teams are only going to have the mid-level exception to work with, including a few exceptions like the New York Knicks, for example. I think Milwaukee has the best chance to keep him… I think PJ’s going to have suitors from other teams around the league. I think declining that two-year, $17 million extension offer (From Houston), I think he’s going to end up doing better than that after his playoff run.
11:55 Donte DiVincenzo and Brook Lopez extension possibilities and Bucks luxury tax concerns
Gozlan: Lopez can get a maximum of $54 million in three years on an extension… The Bucks could end up with a $40 million tax bill just by re-signing Tucker if they give him a similar salary like he had last year and they use the taxpayer MLE on somebody. I’m expecting that it’ll probably be even higher the following year because they can extend DiVincenzo, and maybe they sign another guy with their MLE by then. Winning the title gave Jrue Holiday an incentive that pushed the Bucks into the luxury tax this season. That’s going to get them in the repeater tax sooner, and most likely, they’re going to end up in the repeater by the 2023-24 season.
18:08 Is Kyle Lowry to the Pelicans realistic?
Scotto: Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe were two guys that some executives I had spoken to around the league felt could be tradeable guys for New Orleans. If you’re going to try to offer Lowry the type of money he’s looking for in free agency, they have to move one of those guys… The interest in Lowry makes sense for New Orleans trying to get better. I don’t think he’s this Chris Paul type of player who can elevate them to where the Suns were as a championship contender, but he’d certainly make them better for the short term.
Gozlan: If we’re just talking about who’s easier to move salary-wise, it would be Bledsoe mainly because next year he only has $3.9 million guaranteed, so there’s a lot more wiggle room there. Right now, the Pelicans can get to approximately $14-15 million in cap space, assuming they let go of all their free agents, including Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart… If they salary dump Adams or Bledsoe, you basically get to roughly $30 million, so now you can really make an aggressive offer. They can also stretch Bledsoe since he only has that $3.9 million guarantee next season. If they were to stretch him this offseason, he would only account for $4.4 million over the next five seasons. I wouldn’t recommend that. I’m pretty against stretching, for the most part, but that would get them there as well to around the $25-27 million range.
25:48 Four teams to monitor for Richaun Holmes in free agency
Scotto: I look at four teams that we need to keep an eye on as we near free agency for Richaun Holmes, including the Sacramento Kings, who have his Early Bird Rights, the Dallas Mavericks, the Charlotte Hornets, and the Toronto Raptors. Holmes loves Sacramento. He touched on that in a podcast interview with me on HoopsHype. They’re going to have to make a trade to free up some cap space if they want to keep him, most likely. I think he’s going to get more than what Sacramento can pay him. He’s loved Sacramento as the franchise that gave him an opportunity on the court and the ways the fans have treated him off the court.
Gozlan: Richaun has Early Bird Rights, so the maximum he can get is projected at four years, $47 million, which would give him a starting salary of about $10.5 million. This is the same type of contract that Reggie Jackson and Cameron Payne, for example, are also going to be looking at with their teams this summer… With several teams with cap space pursuing him, he should get offers exceeding that amount, which will put the Kings in a tough spot if they’re serious about retaining him. If they want to offer more than his Early Bird Rights amount, they’d have to get off some salaries and create cap space to re-sign him. A couple of ways they could do that is to salary dump players like Delon Wright or Marvin Bagley III. They could also consider trading Buddy Hield or Harrison Barnes… I’ve got (Hornets) at close to $24 million in cap space while also being able to re-sign Devonte Graham after. They will have more than enough to make a big offer for Holmes.
Scotto: Regarding the Charlotte Hornets, any time I talk to agents that represent big men in this market, the number one thing they talk about in terms of potential fits for their guys and the centers in the league is playing with a guy like LaMelo Ball is going to open up a lot of easy lob opportunities on offense and the team has a great need for not just one center but possibly two. Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller’s futures are up in the air as free agents and whether they’ll come back or not… What’s going to happen with Richaun Holmes is going to dictate the free agent market for the rest of the big men, including Nerlens Noel. Ultimately, Cleveland runs the show with Jarrett Allen being a restricted free agent. If they got Evan Mobley, that could change the dynamic, maybe. If you’re a free-agent center, you’re hoping Cleveland doesn’t end up with Mobley because then Cleveland would have a real decision to make. If you’re a free agent on the market, you’re hoping Cleveland gets a guard in the draft and moves off Collin Sexton as opposed to a sign-and-trade with Allen. Cleveland loves Allen. I don’t think you can play Mobley and Allen together.