Milwaukee Bucks general manager Jon Horst confirmed Friday that the team is progressing towards a four-year, $70 million contract extension that was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
This extension means that Bledsoe, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, won’t reach free agency until the 2023 off-season. The 29-year-old Bledsoe will earn $15.6 million next season, $16.8 million in 2020-2021, $18.1 million in 2021-2022, and $19.3 million in 2022-2013.
For Milwaukee, who currently holds the NBA’s best record (47-14) going into tonight’s marquee match-up with the Los Angeles Lakers, it became imperative to retain Bledsoe, who told ESPN in January that he considers Milwaukee to be home. It also allows the Bucks to have one less thing on their plate this summer, when Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, and Malcolm Brogdon are all set to become free agents.
Middleton will receive the largest payday out of the bunch, but Lopez, Mirotic, and Brogdon also figure to bring home multi-year agreements that will include an average annual salary of $10 million-plus. The timing of the Bledsoe extension makes it more likely that the Bucks will be able to retain their core around superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, and potentially avoid paying the luxury tax for the 2019-2020 season.
In franchise history, Milwaukee has only ever paid the luxury tax once, and that was in 2002-2003 when they paid $4.7 million, per NBA Salary Cap Expert Albert Nahmad. What could complicate Milwaukee’s salary sheet this summer is whether or not there is interest in re-signing Mirotic, who was acquired by the Bucks in-exchange for four-second round picks ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline. There’s expected to be mutual interest in both sides at reaching an agreement, and perhaps with a new arena in downtown Milwaukee in the Fiserv Forum and a championship roster, Bucks ownership may be more willing to pay the tax to maintain it’s deep roster.
A lot of what the Bucks are going to be able to do with their roster this summer likely hinges on what the market suggests Brogdon’s value. The Bucks will reserve the rights to match any contract offer he will receive as a free agent, but it’s highly likely that the Bucks would prefer to come to an agreement with Brogdon and not let another team potentially dictate the specific terms of the contract to make it harder to match the offer.
In-addition to extending Bledsoe, ESPN also reports that six-time NBA all-star Pau Gasol will sign with the Bucks on Sunday once his contract buyout is complete with the San Antonio Spurs. While Gasol is having the least-productive season of his NBA career to this point, he brings championship experience to a Bucks roster that seems to only be lacking that. Gasol has won two NBA championships during his career, with both of those titles coming during his tenure with the Lakers.
Bledsoe, who was acquired by the Bucks in a November 2017 trade, is arguably having the best season of his NBA career, averaging 15.7 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game, while shooting a career-best 49% from the field, and 32% from three-point territory. He recorded his fifth-career triple double in the Bucks’ 141-140 overtime win over the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night.
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