Following a strong second half of the season where he destroyed NBA defenses, Brook Lopez has a lot of choices. He could be one of the most sought after free agents this summer, if he decides to opt out of his contract, which would pay him $16.7 million net year. Or Lopez can wait till his contract expires a year from June. If he did that, he'd enter unrestricted free agency when the salary cap is set to spike to around $90 million in 2016, making max salaries as much as 30 percent richer.
Several teams have been connected to Lopez over the past several weeks, such as his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics ... and now, the Milwaukee Bucks, where his former coach, Jason Kidd, now works.
Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times floats the idea during his column on the Bucks' draft strategy, among other notes.
If Brooklyn center Brook Lopez opts out of his contract, which is for $16.8 million, one of the teams he may consider, according to some NBA officials, is the Bucks. Lopez has a good relationship with Bucks coach Jason Kidd, who coached him in Brooklyn last season.
It's not crazy to think the Bucks would go after Lopez. The team is thin in the frontcourt as Zaza Pachulia is an average center and John Henson isn't the threat Lopez is on the offensive end. Many think the Bucks are going to take a big at pick 17 in the Draft, but they could also load up on bigs in free agency, starting with the biggest in Lopez.
Is it possible, though? The Bucks have a little more than $50 million on the books next season as of now, according to HoopsHype. However, that number will be skewed if or when Khris Middleton signs a big contract with the team this July. Middleton has played his way into a contract that will likely be worth more than $40 million overall, if not a max deal. It's not known whether the Bucks will be able to retain the Texas A&M wing, but he's expected to get a large contract this summer. Assuming Middleton signs for $11 million per year (it will fall in that range), and Lopez signs for the max contract of four years. the seven-footer would make $18.9 million in the first year of his new deal, according to Basketball Insiders.
With the salary cap likely to be a little over $67 million next season, and the luxury tax threshold around $81 million , the Bucks could hypothetically sign both. They're going to need at the very least, $40 million in cap space. They certainly could find ways to reduce their payroll. Jared Dudley has a player option worth $4.2 million in 2015-2016, so if he doesn't return and the Bucks reject three team options on Jorge Gutierrez, Christopher Johnson, and Johnny O'Bryant, they would be able to carve out nearly $7 more million in cap space ... and would still have 13 players on the roster, including Lopez. Trade an expensive player like Ersan Ilyasova or O.J. Mayo, and that would add more flexibility.
Also, paying the luxury tax may not matter to Milwaukee, whose owners, New York investment bankers Marc Lasry and Wes Edens, are billionaires and whose coach would only be too happy to ruin Billy King's off-season.
How big of a fan is Kidd of Lopez? Hard to tell. He coached the big guy all of 17 games and everyone knows that Kidd likes an uptempo offense. Moreover, there were reports that just before he left Brooklyn for Milwaukee, Kidd wanted to deal Lopez and Teletovic for Larry Sanders and Ilyasova. Lots of questions and it's very, very early. A LOT more speculation is ahead.
- BUCKS BEAT Draft hopes take a hit : Basketball - Gery Woelfel - Racine Journal Times