News is circulating around Khris Middleton and the Milwaukee Bucks following Middleton’s comments to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jim Owczarski earlier this week.
The two covered several topics, including Middleton’s pending player option next season. Middleton, who signed a five-year, $177.5 million contract extension in 2019, is playing on the fourth year of his deal and has a player option for the 2023-24 season. During the conversation, he dropped this doozy of a quote which has sparked some controversy among Bucks’ fans, “I think everybody knows deep down that I want to stay. But also, you know it’s a business. Things change, things happen. You just never know. For sure I would love to stay.“
The Bucks acquired the three-time All-Star as a throw-in on a trade from the Detroit Pistons back in 2013. He quickly turned himself into one of the better three-and-D wings in the NBA before continuing his ascension to become a perennial fringe All-Star.
At 31-years-old, he represents an aging core and is just one of the major decisions the Bucks will face with their main guys who helped them win an NBA Championship in 2021. With Middleton under contract for $38 million this season, let’s check out his and the Bucks paths forward with his contract situation.
Option 1: Accept Player Option for 2023-24
Middleton originally declined a player option for the 2019-20 season that allowed him to sign the current deal he’s on. Now, he faces a similar decision with another player option looming for the 2023-24 season. The difference: His 19-20 option was worth a measly $13 million compared to the 23-24 option for $40.4 million. My, how far he’s come.
The factors he must weigh are his age (he’ll be nearly 33-years-old by the time he becomes a free agent if he accepts this option), timing, and what it means for his future contract. We’ll get into more of those details in the options below, but it’s not as simple as declining the player option and re-signing for less money (something that would certainly have the tampering police frowning upon).
Option 2: Contract Extension
The two sides are currently in a window where they can agree to a contract extension. Beginning back on July 11th and continuing until the day before opening night, he’s eligible for a deal worth up to $152.5 million and three years long in addition to his current contract. That would keep him as a Buck for several more years and cover the last of his prime.
Option 3: Decline Player Option for 2023-24
A third option he has is to decline his player option and open up his recruitment. He sort of hinted at that in the quote above, but if he goes this route it doesn’t mean he’d be leaving Milwaukee for sure. He’d become an unrestricted free agent and free to sign with any team, including the Bucks.
Middleton has been open about his strong relationship with Giannis Antetokounmpo, the franchise, and the city he plays in. The team has made all the right decisions on and off the court to support him and it would be very difficult to see him leaving a championship contender in search of a different career path.
Option 4: Decline PO and Sign Contract Extension
The final decision he has is to decline his player option and sign a contract extension with the Bucks. This option sits on the table until June 30th, 2023…with a couple of caveats.
If Middleton and the Bucks go this route, they couldn’t sign him to an extension for less money. The first year of his deal couldn’t be worth less than the player option he turned down ($40.4 million) and he’d be eligible for a deal up to four years and $200.9 million. A point to remember: These rules only exist if the two sides agree to an extension between now and June 30th.
This is the most lucrative path forward for Middleton and the Bucks might not have any choice in the matter. If he walks in free agency, Milwaukee won’t just be able to replace his salary with someone from free agency. Yes, he would take them way over the luxury tax, but that’s the price championship contenders pay.