Photo Illustration: Jeremy Jannene
Mo Williams had to be one happy-go-shooting point guard Wednesday after the Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City finalized a trade that sent Mo to the Cavs and brought point guard Luke Ridnour from OK City to the Bucks.
To make the trade happen, the Bucks sent forward Desmond Mason to OK City and accepted the final year of former Buck Damon Jones‘ contract at $4.5 million.
Also coming to Milwaukee is 34-year-old journeyman forward Adrian Griffin from OK City (still nameless out of Seattle). In addition to Mason, OK City receives Cavs forward-center Joe Smith, a Bucks fan favorite (2003-06) many had hoped would be coming back to Milwaukee in this trade.
Why is Mo happy? The Bucks best shooter last season leaves a lottery team where his growth as an offensive player caused rifts, and goes to a title-contending team where pushing the ball and shooting jumpshots will be a big part of his job description playing with Lebron James.
That the Bucks had to add more than Mo into this trade (Mason) and take Jones off the Cavs hands was no surprise.(See yesterday’s post). The Cavs had balked at taking on Mo’s 5-year $43 million contract and $8.35M salary, and needed more incentive. This trade had to get bigger in order to happen, and Bucks GM John Hammond stepped up to absorb the messy side of it, all but guaranteeing that the Bucks would be viewed as the team that got the worst end of this deal.
BUCKS: The fact that Hammond was willing give up Mason while taking Jones’ contract shouldn’t be interpreted as a statement that coach Scott Skiles thinks Luke Ridnour is his answer at point guard. It is, however, a statement that Hammond and Skiles could not foresee moving forward with Mo. It also says fairly loudly that Mason, never the type of game-changing small forward who delivers wins, was expendable on the Richard Jefferson Bucks. Bucks GM Hammond didn’t say much in the official Bucks press release, but offered this comment to JSOnline’s Charles Gardner when it was suggested that the Lebron-Mo combo could be explosive:
“At the end of the day, you have to evaluate your own situation,” Hammond said. “Does it help us, first and foremost? The evaluation was that it did.”
How does it help the Bucks?: Gardner didn’t ask but I’ll fill in.
1) The trade removes a potential headache in Mo. This is not a criticism of Mo as much as it is a recognition of bad blood that exists on the Bucks roster from previous losing seasons. It was apparent at the games that Mo no longer had much tolerance for “the Michael Redd show” and invested part of his final season as a Buck in proving to anyone who cared that he was just as prolific a scorer as Redd. Bucks fans have seen quite enough of the Mo-Redd backcourt, and Hammond and Skiles were wise not to reboot it for one more run. In Brewhoop’s estimation, Mo was “the odd man out” when it became clear that Redd was staying after the Jefferson trade.
2) The trade relieves the Bucks of Mo’s 5-year, $43 million contract. Ridnour is a two-year, $13M commitment. In trading Mason and Mo, the Bucks cleared out about $14.3M in salary while taking in $12.7M – an immediate $1.6M more in wiggle room under the luxury tax limit, most of which they used to sign Francisco Elson the day of the Mo trade. The Bucks remain about $2M under the luxury tax limit and could free up another $1.7M by cutting Griffin, whose salary is not guaranteed. Next year the Bucks will save $2.36M (the difference between Mo and Ridnour’s salaries) but the big benefit comes in 2010, when Ridnour’s contract expires and the $9.3M Mo is set to be paid becomes free and clear — giving the Bucks some room to grow.
3) Acquiring the 27-year-old Ridnour, a point guard in Scott Skiles’ image, takes Ramon Sessions out of the fire next season. Sessions, 22, is a focus of Bucks development but has only seven starts under his belt and may need some more time to grow into the starting point guard position. He may not need more time, but that’s something for Skiles to sort out in preseason, knowing that he has Ridnour at his disposal and veteran Tyrone Lue behind them. And Jones, if he’s allowed to suit up.
4) Ridnour could find an NBA rebirth of sorts in Milwaukee; and in Skiles, he couldn’t ask for a better point guard coach. He’s not a player Bucks fans have had much of a chance to see (Seattle’s national NBA profile having been about as high as Milwaukee’s) but Ridnour thrived early in his career as Ray Allen’s backcourt mate. He started his second season in the league, as the Sonics won the Northwest Division and routed Sacremento from the playoffs before falling to the eventual champs, the Spurs. Ridnour averaged 11.5 pts, 7 asts that year, and drew comparisons to “a young Steve Nash.” But Ridnour lost his starting job to Earl Watson in his fourth year, and last season played 20 minutes per game in a backup role. He was the small (his 6′ 2″ listing is generous), flashy point guard Sonics fans loved but knew wasn’t good enough, or something like that.
Ridnour is a member of the 2006-08 Olympic Senior Men’s Basketball program (33 players) and last summer Seattle tried to trade him to Atlanta for the #11 draft pick but the deal fell through (the Hawks eventually traded for Mike Bibby). He reminds me of a smaller version of Scott Skiles, who became an effective NBA point guard with Shaq in Orlando. Ridnour does like to pass and he’s fun to watch, even when he’s falling down trying to guard Toronto’s Jose Calderon (see yesterday’s post).
Today we have MiniShaQ’s mix, “Lucky Luke Ridnour: Future of the Sonics” … the “young Steve Nash” interview is at the end.
A couple of other notes: I don’t know, obviously, what the roster plans are for Damon Jones or Adrian Griffin. I assume Jones won’t be on the active 12-man roster (barring injury, how he could he be with three point guards already on the roster?) and may be further removed still. Trading Jones, however, may be next to impossible.
With Griffin, it’s more difficult to say. The Bucks could send 2nd round draft pick Luc Mbah a Moute to the D-League (and/or Joe Alexander if he struggles) and Griffin could fill a stopgap reserve role at small forward. If they release Griffin, however, the Bucks would have $1.7M more to play with under the luxury tax limit should another trade come along or if free agent help is needed.
Whatever pans out with the Bucks new forward, you should read shamsports Adrian Griffin player bio.