Monday, August 17, 2009
Updated: August 18, 10:23 AM ET
Sources: Bucks to acquire Delfino
By Marc Stein
The Toronto Raptors are on the brink of swinging another trade in perhaps the most active offseason in franchise history.
NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com on Monday that the Raptors have agreed in principle to a sign-and-trade deal that will send swingman Carlos Delfino and guard Roko Ukic to the Milwaukee Bucks for power forward Amir Johnson and guard Sonny Weems.
ESPN.com reported earlier Monday that the Raptors and Bucks were in talks on a deal headlined by Delfino and Johnson. One source said the deal could not be finalized before Tuesday because Delfino must fly from Argentina to formally sign the contract, which is expected to be a three-year deal with the Bucks holding a team option in Year 3.
The Raptors retained Delfino's rights while he played in Russia last season, giving them the ability to sign-and-trade him. Delfino prefers to return to the NBA as opposed to staying in Europe, but Toronto has acquired three other players this summer who play at shooting guard or small forward: Marco Belinelli, Antoine Wright and lottery pick DeMar DeRozan.
Johnson was acquired by Milwaukee in late June as part of the three-team swap with San Antonio and Detroit that routed Richard Jefferson to the Spurs, and he was briefly projected as the Bucks' new starter at power forward after Charlie Villanueva left in free agency to sign with Detroit.
But Milwaukee was able to sign Hakim Warrick to a one-year, $3 million deal earlier this month after the Grizzlies unexpectedly withdrew their qualifying offer to Warrick, turning the restricted free agent into an unrestricted free agent.
The deal signals that the Bucks consider fortifying their depth at shooting guard and small forward -- which Delfino would address -- as more vital than keeping Johnson.
Striking a Delfino deal would enable Toronto to add to a large contingent of newcomers that already features Hedo Turkoglu, Jarrett Jack and Reggie Evans in addition to Belinelli, Wright and DeRozan.
Turkoglu arrived via sign-and-trade, Evans and Belinelli joined Toronto in separate trades and the Raptors signed former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani to a five-year, $50 million contract extension early in free agency.
Johnson, 22, was drafted by Detroit out of high school with the 56th overall pick in 2005, when Bucks general manager John Hammond was still working with the Pistons as Joe Dumars' top front-office aide.
The power forward is entering the final season ($3.9 million) of a three-year, $11 million contract extension he received from the Pistons in the summer of 2007 despite barely playing in his first two seasons as a pro on a veteran-laden team.
Johnson started 24 games last season and averaged 3.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 14.7 minutes per game. In summer league play in Las Vegas with the Bucks, Johnson averaged 10.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks as Milwaukee posted a 4-1 record.
Delfino, 26, has averaged 5.8 points and 17.1 minutes per game in four NBA seasons before joining the Russian team BC Khimki last summer.
His only season in Toronto in 2007-08 was Delfino's best season in the NBA, as he averaged 9.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game.
In speaking to Toronto-based reporters last week, Raptors president Bryan Colangelo conceded that the likelihood of re-signing Delfino had diminished after the drafting of DeRozan and the trade for Belinelli, and acknowledged that a sign-and-trade was a possibility.
"The likelihood that he's going to sign here is less," Colangelo said then of Delfino. "Not only is he going to be leaving some money on the table in Europe, but one of the things that was attractive about coming here was that he'd have ample opportunity to play and maybe start. And that doesn't appear to be as open now."
After a disappointing 33-49 season in 2008-09 that included the February trade of Jermaine O'Neal -- its marquee offseason acquisition a year ago -- to the Miami Heat, Toronto has reshaped its roster aggressively this summer partly in hopes of persuading 2010 free agent-to-be Chris Bosh to re-sign with the Raptors.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.