Bucks’ team salaries challenging in immediate future
But an interesting summer could be ahead, with the expectation that the salary cap and luxury tax levels could be lowered for the 2009-’10 season.
The Milwaukee Bucks have a payroll for the current season of $70.1 million — ranking 13th in the league — and are about $1 million below the luxury tax threshold. If the threshold dips to the $65 million to $68 million level next year, it will put quite a squeeze on the Bucks and other NBA clubs.
The Bucks already have about $64 million in committed salaries for next season, including $41 million for three players: Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut. Ten players are under contract for next season, and a certain amount also will be budgeted for a first-round draft pick.
And that doesn’t include the money the team will need if it decides to retain one or both of its restricted free agents: Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions.
But general manager John Hammond thinks the franchise will be able to navigate in the rough waters through the next two seasons.
He wants to keep the Bucks pointing ahead, after a marked improvement in his first year as general manager and under the guidance of coach Scott Skiles.
“We have retained optimism because we like our roster moving forward,” Hammond said. “We like the fact that bringing Redd, Jefferson and Bogut back, we think we will remain a competitive team.
“Could we, should we be a playoff team? We hope so. And we know we have tough financial constraints, but we realize there is light at the end of the tunnel for us from a financial position, in two years.”
The Bucks will have greater financial flexibility at the end of the 2010-’11 season, when the contracts of Redd, Jefferson and Dan Gadzuric come off the books.
In that season, Redd will be paid $18.3 million in the final year of his six-year, $91 million deal, and Jefferson will make $15 million in the final year of a deal he signed while with the New Jersey Nets.
Gadzuric will make $7.25 million in the last year of a six-year, $36 million contract he signed in the summer of 2005.
At that point the Bucks could become a team with significant room beneath the salary cap and might be able to rebuild the way the Detroit Pistons did when Hammond was an executive there. The Pistons made moves to acquire Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton as they became a dominant team in the Eastern Conference.
The Bucks could be $12 million or $15 million beneath the cap in two years, or they might have the potential to re-sign Redd and/or Jefferson, if they decided to go that route.
But the immediate future clearly is challenging for the Bucks.
“It could affect us,” Hammond said of possible changes in the luxury tax threshold. “If it were to go down, it would be a factor for us.”
Teams pay a dollar-for-dollar penalty for exceeding the luxury tax. Seven NBA teams are expected to pay the tax this season.
It’s the reason so many teams, including the Bucks, considered dumping salary at the trading deadline and acquiring expiring contracts. The Bucks and Portland Trail Blazers had discussions about the expiring deal of forward Raef LaFrentz, a contract that would have given Milwaukee some salary flexibility entering the offseason.
But the price would have been quite high, involving the departure of Jefferson to the Trail Blazers.
With the Bucks still fighting for a playoff spot despite the losses of Redd and Bogut to serious injuries, Hammond did not want to break up his team or hinder its chances of playing in the postseason.
The Bucks also will face difficult decisions this summer on Villanueva and Sessions, who should receive significant interest from other teams.
Bogut will begin his five-year contract extension next season, a deal that will guarantee him $60 million through the 2013-’14 season.