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By acquiring Bogdan Bogdanovic in a sign-and-trade, the Bucks triggered a hard cap for next season. Milwaukee is also trading for Jrue Holiday, whose incentive-laden salary could be higher than the outgoing players’ combined salaries next year. (The highest-possible salary a player could earn counts toward the hard cap.)

That puts the Bucks in a pinch.

A key way to gain flexibility under the hard cap: Signing second-round picks.

Second-round picks who sign minimum contracts count $898,310 toward the hard cap. Free agents (including undrafted free agents) who sign minimum contracts count $1,620,564 toward the hard cap.

Milwaukee got the No. 60 pick from the Pelicans in the Holiday trade and now adds the No. 45 pick from the Magic.

Magic release:

The Orlando Magic have acquired two future second round draft picks from the Milwaukee Bucks (a second round pick owed to Milwaukee from Indiana in either 2022, 2023 or 2024 and Milwaukee’s second round pick in 2026) in exchange for the Magic’s second round draft pick (45th overall) in the 2020 NBA Draft.

This gives the Bucks – give or take Bogdanovic’s starting salary – about $2 million of maneuverability below the hard cap with a roster otherwise filled with minimum salaries.

Perhaps, Bogdanovic will take less than expected. Milwaukee needn’t carry a full roster all season, either. The Bucks could also acquire additional second-rounders tonight.

As for the outgoing future second-rounders in this trade…

The next time the Pacers pick 31-44 in the second round (or, if that hasn’t happened yet, wherever they pick in 2023), they’ll send their second-rounder to the Nets. The following year, Indiana’s second rounder – via Milwaukee – will go to Orlando. The Pacers could be anywhere by that point.

Likewise, the Bucks’ are unpredictable in 2026. Even if Giannis Antetokounmpo signs a super-max extension, he could hit unrestricted free agency and leave in 2025.

With so much uncertainty, it’d be fairly reasonable to project both picks’ median outcome as in the middle of the second round – exactly where the one incoming pick is.

This was not a good asset play by the Bucks. But in these desperate circumstances, it makes sense. Milwaukee had to prioritize the present with its championship window open and Antetokounmpo’ super-max decision approaching.

That’s the Magic’s gain. Generally, two middling second-round picks – even that far out – are better than one