Draft day has been heavy on rumors and light on action so far, but now we have a three-team deal involving the Bucks, Kings and Bobcats. The particulars:
• The Kings traded the No. 7 pick to Charlotte and sent Beno Udrih to Milwaukee. Sacramento received the No. 10 pick from the Bucks and (gulp) John Salmons.
• The Bobcats snagged that No. 7 pick to go with the ninth pick they already own. To do so, they acquired Corey Maggette from the Bucks and sent Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston to Milwaukee.
• If you got all that, you know Milwaukee dealt Maggette (to Charlotte), Salmons and the No. 10 pick (both to the Kings) for Jackson, Udrih, Livingston and the No. 19 pick.
Let’s start here: If the Kings don’t have a second trade lined up for later Thursday, they have done something very puzzling here. They have voluntarily moved down three spots for the privilege of taking on Salmons, who is owed $24.16 million guaranteed over the next three seasons — and another $1 million for the season after that, just for kicks. Udrih is the only current player the Kings sent away in this deal; he is on the books for $14.3 million over the next two seasons.
In other words, the Kings took on an extra $11 million in payroll, dropped three spots in the draft and acquired a 31-year-old swingman who was one of the very worst heavy-minutes offensive players last season. In Salmons’ defense, he was banged up from the start, and he’s a much better scorer than he showed last season. He also fills a need in Sacramento because he can swing between shooting guard and small forward.
Even so, this is essentially an indefensible trade from Sacramento’s perspective, particularly considering that Udrih, though perhaps undersized for a shooting guard, is a pesky offensive player who was much more efficient than Salmons last season. Unless the Kings have another move to make, this looks like a loser for them. Salmons will bounce back, but this is a player who has put up an above-average Player Efficiency Rating just once in his career. And even if he bounces back to peak form, he’s not worth what the Kings are giving up.
Several sources reported that the Kings are prepared to draft Jimmer Fredette with the 10th pick. They could have picked him at No. 7 and spared themselves all these gymnastics, even if doing so might have looked like a reach and left Jimmer more competition for minutes.
The Bucks and Bobcats have much clearer agendas here. Milwaukee has done brilliantly to unload $45 million in long-term money attached to Maggette and Salmons. The Bucks are taking back about $38 million in future salary attached to Jackson, Livingston and Udrih, but none of these three deals run as long as the Salmons’ contract, and all three players could potentially help the Bucks.
Milwaukee was neck-and-neck with Cleveland last season as the league’s worst offensive team, shooting worse than league average from literally everywhere on the court. Jackson isn’t Mr. Efficiency or anything, but teams at least have to respect his jumper. Udrih is a sieve on defense, but he’s a very good mid-range shooter and has hit more than 70 percent of his shot at the rim — an elite number — for two straight seasons. He’ll help on offense, and Milwaukee is the kind of sound defensive team that can live with a weak link here and there — if that weak link can shoot, which Maggette could not last season.
Livingston joins a crowded point guard group that includes Brandon Jennings and Keyon Dooling. He should be a step up from Dooling at the backup spot. Dooling has shot worse than 40 percent for two straight seasons, though he is a good three-point shooter who can run an offense. Livingston, at 6-foot-7, can play at shooting guard alongside Jennings and can post up smaller point guards when he’s manning the offense alone. He’s a solid defender, and he’s due just $3.5 million next season and $1 million guaranteed in 2012-13. He’s a cheap gamble.
It might hurt to give up the No. 10 pick and drop all the way to No. 19, but it hurts less if you don’t covet any particular player in a draft with less distinction than usual between late lottery picks and those in the late teens/early 20s. Milwaukee could still get a usable frontcourt player at No. 19.
The Bucks would have made the playoffs last season had they been healthy. They look like a sure bet to get there now, and with Andrew Bogut manning a fierce defense, they will be an annoying out for anyone.
As for Charlotte, this works just fine, even if it’s not hugely exciting. The Bobcats now have two lottery picks, which is exactly what a moribund franchise needs. They’ll reportedly spend that No. 7 pick on Bismack Biyombo, coveted by Detroit at No. 8, and that’s the kind of high-risk/high-reward move you can make with the security of a second lottery pick. Maggette was the price for the second of those picks, but the Bobcats actually save money over the next two seasons in the deal. Maggette is set to earn $21.2 million over the next two seasons, while Jackson and Livingston will make at least $23.5 million combined.
Maggette might also help the Bobcats’ offense, which was not much better than Milwaukee’s last season. But we all said the same when the Bucks dealt some expiring contracts to Golden State for Maggette last year. Regardless of what Maggette contributes, this is a “plus” deal for Charlotte.