Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell watches the Spurs like hawks watch field mice (as in, not casually, and with very good eyes). He weighs in on the news the Spurs have agreed in principle to acquire Richard Jefferson from the Bucks for Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas:
Old flames die hard. In February several news outlets reported that the Spurs were in talks with the Nets and Bucks to trade for either Richard Jefferson or Vince Carter. Apparently, those talks never died.
Chad Ford is reporting that the Spurs and Bucks have agreed to a deal that would send Fabricio Oberto, Kurt Thomas and Bruce Bowen to Milwaukee for Richard Jefferson. This is a no brainer for the Spurs, and it puts them right back in the championship hunt. Richard Jefferson is a monster upgrade.
Jefferson's skill set couldn't be a better match for San Antonio. He can score going to the hoop, is a capable defender, and shoots nearly .400 from the arc. His 19 ppg give San Antonio the 4th scorer they've needed for several seasons. Jefferson averaged a mere 2 TO per game last season as Milwaukee's best player. It's hard to imagine a better trade scenario. The Spurs just struck oil.
Relative to his salary, Richard Jefferson may under produce. His career PER is 16.7. That's a little low for a player owed 14 and 15 million the next two seasons. But he's only 29. And his production is vastly superior to anything the Spurs have had on the wing since Sean Elliott.
My best guess is that the Bucks will buy out Bruce Bowen and we'll see him return to San Antonio prior to training camp. If that happens, this trade goes from a homerun to a grand slam. The only downside is that the move leaves the Spurs thin upfront, but one suspects they have a back up plan in the works to replace Kurt Thomas. Oberto's best play is two seasons behind him, and the Spurs actually win by freeing up his roster spot. By adding Jefferson, the Spurs have converted Roger Mason Jr. into a potent 5th option or valuable trade chip. The ripple effects go from the center to shore, and I'm hard pressed to find a single negative in this move.
Aside from landing Jefferson, the other story here is that the Spurs have moved away from their 2010 cap strategy. Jefferson's salary eats up everything they had on reserve for a big name free agent run. But Jefferson is probably as good as any player they were likely to land next summer, so in that sense they've simply accelerated their rebuild with a player that can help them within Tim Duncan's window. They're not waiting on 2010 by sitting out 2009. This also means there is no reason for the team to play cautious with their checkbook. With their 2010 plan on the scrapheap, the team could theoretically make another trade for a player whose salary would push them against the taxline.
As I write this, my head keeps going back to something that might be missed in all this. San Antonio is good to its fans. Here is a team that is committed to winning. After being bounced in the first round, they could have faded from view just as everyone expected them to. But instead, they got off the mat and started swinging. They're a small market team with a relatively poor ownership group in a bad economy. And they just added a big contract to their books when half the league is trying to shed cap. Take note.