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Here it is, everyone. The early leader for the honor of "worst trade of the 2011 offseason."
The 2010 winner, of course, was the Charlotte-Dallas trade in which the Bobcats gave away Tyson Chandler without saving any money. The Charlotte Bobcats are involved this time too, but this time they're on the good side of the ledger.
I can't say the same for the Sacramento Kings.
In a baffling trade that will steer only more criticism toward the Kings' much-maligned front office, Sacramento traded Beno Udrih and the No. 7 pick in the draft to Milwaukee for John Salmons and the No. 10 pick, which turned out to be Jimmer Fredette. The second part of this deal redirected the No. 7 pick (Bismack Biyombo) to Charlotte along with Milwaukee's Corey Maggette, with Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston and the 19th pick (Tobias Harris) going back to the Bucks.
We'll talk more about those two teams in a minute, but first let's deal with Sacramento.
This trade puts the "awe" in awful. How bad was it for the Kings? Let us count the ways:
• They moved down in the draft. This is fairly straightforward -- the Kings, who were picking seventh, ended up picking 10th. This is not an enormous drop, but it's not inconsequential either in a draft that appeared scarce on sure things. The Kings were targeting Fredette, so at least they got their man, and he might help them sell some tickets. But with The Jimmer ranked just 22nd by my Draft Rater system, local fans need to keep their expectations in check.
•They got a worse player. Measured by player efficiency rating, Udrih has been better than Salmons each of the past two seasons; last year the difference was pretty sizable, with Udrih at 15.70 and Salmons at 12.89. Salmons is a better defender; Udrih is a more preferrable teammate. While the difference between the two isn't large, it's bizarre to trade down in the draft to make this swap, especially given the next three considerations.
•They got an older player. John Salmons is 31; Beno Udrih turns 29 next week. For a rebuilding team such as Sacramento, going older is an odd stance to take. Moreover, the age difference shows in their recent performance. Salmons' output fell off last season after a career year in Sacramento and Chicago in 2008-09, while Udrih has put together two very solid seasons and appears to be peaking in his late 20s. Perhaps the Kings still think they're getting the player they traded two and a half years ago; if so, they're in for a rude surprise.
•They got a worse contract. Udrih has two years left at $15 million; Salmons has three years left at $24 million, plus a partially guaranteed fourth season. For a Sacramento team whose owners are basically broke, this seems like a very odd decision. Additionally, Salmons is owed a bit more money in 2011-12 as well, lessening the cap space trove that the Kings will take into the offseason.
• They crowded the roster. You could argue for the trade if it filled a need, but this deal basically did the opposite. Udrih was the only halfway decent point guard on the Kings' roster last season; yes, they got a guard at No. 10, but that option was also available at No. 7.
Meanwhile, Salmons is a shooting guard; the Kings have a fairly good player there already by the name of Tyreke Evans. It's possible they could play Salmons at the 3 or Evans at the 1, but again, the Kings' perimeter spots are already fairly crowded with Omri Casspi, Francisco Garcia, Marcus Thornton and the pick at No. 10. I have no idea how adding Salmons to this mix is in anyway helpful.
So yes, this is an absolutely awful trade for Sacramento, not in the sense that it damns them to eternal ruin or gives another team a championship (you're welcome, Dallas), but in the sheer mind-boggling anti-logic that allowed the Kings to proceed with such a swap.
As for the other two teams, it's pretty obvious that the Bobcats are going to be considerably more shrewd with new hire Rich Cho in the front office than they were in the past. I give the Bobcats kudos for their belated recognition that this thing is a full-on tear-down; they've been last in the Future Power Rankings that I do with Chad Ford precisely because of their lack of assets, young talent and cap space.
This deal begins to rectify that problem. Charlotte obtained a second lottery pick in return for swapping Livingston and Jackson for Maggette. Whatever they get from Maggette this season is gravy; he's a talented scorer but looked like he lost a gear (or three) in Milwaukee last season, plus he misses 20 games with injuries every season and doesn't play any defense. The Bobcats dumped a salary in Livingston, and the road map from here seems obvious: Put in your offers for Boris Diaw (and Maggette), everyone, and watch the Bobcats rebuild around the two lottery picks plus D.J. Augustin and Tyrus Thomas.
Cho, by the way, earns some kind of special recognition for trading the same draft pick three times in nine months -- the No. 19 pick was originally the Hornets' before Cho, as the GM of the Blazers, traded Jerryd Bayless to New Orleans just before the season started in return for it. Then, at the trade deadline, he sent the pick to Charlotte in the Gerald Wallace deal. Now, as Charlotte's GM, he dealt it again.
As for Milwaukee, this basically a Ctrl-Z on a couple of moves from last summer. The Bucks hoped Maggette would kick-start their offense after acquiring him from Golden State, but his lack of juice was a big factor in the Milwaukee attack being worse than ever. Salmons, meanwhile, was a mistake contract as a five-year, $40 million deal; the Bucks have to consider themselves lucky to get out of it.
Instead, they have Jackson to be their go-to perimeter scorer, a more workable situation given that he's so durable and plays much better defense than Maggette. Udrih and Livingston, meanwhile, should be able to play together as a backup backcourt because of their size, and the Bucks now have enough quality at the point guard spot to withstand an injury to Brandon Jennings -- a setback that knocked them sideways a year ago. It wouldn't shock anyone if they move Udrih or Livingston again at some point (or Keyon Dooling, for that matter) but they can go forward with this roster and likely get back to the playoffs.
Milwaukee is also still in the draft at No. 19, where it appears a talented 2-guard may fall (like Alec Burks, if they're lucky) and allow them to build a succession plan for Jackson. They could also go big; it appears several decent 4s will be on the board in that range.
So kudos to the Bobcats and Bucks, both of whom appear to be in better shape today than they were 24 hours ago. As for the Kings, I'm as puzzled as you are.