Bucks swingman Pat Connaughton has decided to exercise his player option for 2022/23, putting off free agency for another year, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Having opted in, Connaughton will assure himself of a $5,728,393 salary for next season.
Connaughton, 29, had the best season of his seven-year career in 2021/22, averaging 9.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game in 65 appearances (26.0 MPG). He also established new career highs in three-pointers per game (2.2) while knocking them down at a 39.5% clip. Connaughton’s emergence on the wing was one factor in the Bucks’ decision to trade Donte DiVincenzo at the 2022 deadline.
Connaughton’s option decision comes as a bit of a surprise, since he likely could’ve earned a raise if he had chosen to test the open market. John Hollinger of The Athletic (Twitter link) says he felt Connaughton was worth twice as much as his $5.7MM salary and got the sense that a number of teams agreed.
Now that his option has been exercised, Connaughton will be eligible to sign a contract extension for up to four years and approximately $59MM. As Hollinger notes in a follow-up tweet, it’s possible the veteran wing and the Bucks have already discussed the possibility of an extension and reached a mutual understanding contingent on Connaughton opting in.
Theoretically, the Bucks could commit to paying Connaughton the same amount over the next few seasons with an opt-in and extension as they would have if he’d opted out and signed a new free agent contract. Locking in a lower ’22/23 salary should benefit Milwaukee financially, with team salary projected to be well over the luxury tax line next season.