As expected, Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton has declined his $13-million player option for next season.
That means the 27-year-old forward will become an unrestricted free agent.
Milwaukee fans shouldn’t worry, just yet, about losing the all-star. Middleton and the Bucks are working on a long-term deal, according to ESPN.
If maxed out, Middleton could get as much as a five-year, $190-million contract in Milwaukee. If he opts to sign elsewhere at the max — the Dallas Mavs have been rumored to be pursuing him — Middleton could get a four-year, $141-million deal elsewhere.
Last season, Middleton averaged 18.3 points and career highs in rebounds (6.0) and assists (4.3), as the Bucks finished with the best record (60-22) in the NBA and got out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Middleton is just one piece of a giant puzzle for the Bucks and it could take some savvy salary cap moves to keep the team intact.
Along with Middleton, Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic are unrestricted free agents.
George Hill has a team-option for $18 million next season that will likely be declined.
Lastly, Malcolm Brogdon is a restricted free agent meaning the Bucks would have to match any contract another team offered him. Sometimes, teams will go above and beyond what a player is worth to lure him away or make the retaining team keep him. Other times, teams won’t offer the restricted free agent a contract at all, because it’s completely obvious the retaining team will match.
Brogdon probably falls in that earlier category, meaning the Bucks may end up paying him more than they want. But, if and when they do sign all these players back, the salary cap won’t matter much and the only reason to not re-sign anyone would be for the billionaire owners to save some money.