On Tuesday, the Milwaukee Bucks announced they had exercised options on center Thon Maker and forward D.J. Wilson, choosing to keep each player under contract for the 2019-’20 season. By picking up the options, the Bucks will pay Maker approximately $3.6 million next season and Wilson will receive a salary of about $3 million in 2019-’20.
Those salary figures are slotted by the NBA’s rookie-scale contract. The contracts of players picked in the first round of the NBA draft are guaranteed for the first two seasons followed by team options for the third and fourth years. The league-wide deadline for deciding on rookie-scale contract options is the end of October.
Neither player has made much of an impact this season. Maker, who has been a rotation-level player in the past and played a key role in the playoffs each of the past two years, has appeared in just three of the first eight games to open his third season. Wilson, coming off a quiet rookie campaign, has been sidelined by a right hamstring strain since early in training camp and has not yet been active for a game.
Bucks general manager Jon Horst recently spoke with the Journal Sentinel about the decisions to keep Maker and Wilson under contract for next season.
Q. What is it about Maker and Wilson that made you decide to pick up their extensions?
A. We talk about Bucks DNA, those guys fit it. They have a willingness to sacrifice, they have toughness and grit, they have high basketball IQs, they’re both, obviously, very talented. Going off of that, I would say Bud (coach Mike Budenholzer) and his staff have a great track record of developing young players. Even though neither of them had consistent minutes and really in D.J.’s case in his first year didn’t play a lot at all, we still think there’s a lot of development upside there with those guys. They’re good guys, they work hard and they can play, too. We’re fortunate that we have Brook (Lopez) and Ersan (Ilyasova) and Giannis (Antetokounmpo), and Christian Wood’s kind of come on, but we still want depth at that position and both guys can play, so they can give us depth at that position as well.
Q. When it comes to Wilson, people on the outside haven’t really seen him except for maybe a few games with the Wisconsin Herd or in summer league. That’s pretty much been it. What is that you’ve seen in him that made you decide he’s a player you wanted to commit to for another year?
A. I think, first of all, he was good in Oshkosh and he was good in summer league. Beyond summer league, he had a great summer with us. Playing in (Budenholzer’s) system, I think, has unlocked him some and we’re excited to see what he can do. Is there some unknown? Of course, there are always unknowns with young players. There is a commitment there, but it’s relatively minimal compared to what you pay to have guys that can give you depth and value on your roster. We believe in D.J. We believe that he’s a guy that can play for us not only this year but also going forward. We’re not ready to move on from that by any means yet and we’re excited, really, for how he’s going to fit into Bud’s system.
Q. With all the uncertainty with this coming off-season with players whose contracts are up or who have options, is it harder to decide you’re going to commit money now not knowing what’s going to come next?
A. It’s harder to commit money, of course, but you still have to have players. It’s not like, “Oh my gosh, we’re going to have an expensive roster so we have to pick six guys to pay and that’s it.” We have to have a roster. We have to have 13 to 15 guys on our roster and two-ways no matter what. So you want to have quality players on quality contracts. Both Thon and D.J., for us, represent quality players on quality contracts at the numbers we decided to pick up.
Q. Some might say Wilson hasn’t shown anything on the court and you’re just keeping him because he was your first draft pick as general manager and you can’t admit you got the pick wrong. How would you respond to that?
A. I would say they don’t know me very well. I have no ego in this business. I want to do what’s right for the franchise and keeping D.J. has nothing to do with me trying to prove that I was right. The first part of your statement is that D.J. hasn’t done anything yet and they’d be right. They’re exactly right. He hasn’t done anything yet. He played like 70 minutes in his rookie year. I don’t think we know if D.J.’s going to be great and I don’t think we know if D.J.’s going to be a bust. I think we know D.J.’s a great person, he’s got a high basketball IQ, he’s willing to sacrifice for his teammates, he fits into Bud’s system, he had a tremendous summer and he works really hard, so he has an opportunity to develop and be a good player on a good contract and that’s what we want to have in our franchise.