February 19, 2009
A day before the flurry of mostly mundane trades that went down prior to the trade deadline the Chicago Bulls, Portland Trailblazers and Sacramento Kings pulled the trigger on a mildly interesting three-way swap that will put six players in new uniforms. Portland was at the forefront of rumors heading into the deadline with names like Caron Butler and Gerald Wallace to fill their hole at small forward, but they ended up being relatively quiet despite the chatter. Meanwhile the Kings were the biggest players in the market and made several moves, though none of them were earth shattering – this was the biggest.
You know the drill, let’s take a look at it from each team’s perspective:
Portland Receives: Michael Ruffin
It’s hard to get excited about the move from Portland’s perspective no matter how you look at it. Ike Diogu was a non-factor in their rotation and that didn’t figure to change any time soon. Michael Ruffin comes into town and will do little more than occupy Ike’s vacated chair at the end of the bench. The 1999 second-round pick is in his ninth season in the league, Portland will be his sixth team, and the journeyman has never even averaged 3 points per game in any season. He’s stayed in the league this long by being a rugged, physical defender who is willing to hit the boards and will never look for his own shot. He’s a hard worker, but a complete liability on offense.
Portland pulled the trigger because Ruffin makes nearly $2 million less than Diogu, which will save the team $4 million now that the Darius Miles fiasco has put Portland over the luxury tax. The trade also gives Portland a $3 million trade exception that they can use anytime before next year’s trade deadline.
Sacramento Receives: Ike Diogu, Andres Nocioni and Drew Gooden
The Kings were in full salary-dump mode, and that’s the only real reason they pulled this deal off. It’s a shame to see John Salmons go so cheaply – in terms of bang for the buck he’s been one of the most productive players in the NBA this season. Salmons has an extremely reasonable $5 million salary for a guy putting up an efficient near 18-4-4 line on the season, but he was the bait needed to make Chicago swallow Brad Miller’s contract that pays out $23+ million this year and next.
In addition to getting rid of Miller’s deal they take on Drew Gooden’s expiring $7 million contract and Diogu’s expiring $3 million contract – neither will be back. It was a straight salary dump from that perspective, as Miller and Salmons are clearly the most valuable pieces in the deal for this season. The final piece headed to Sac Town is Andres Nocioni, an intriguing combo forward who plays scrappy defense and can hit the outside shot. He’s an interesting trade chip going into the offseason and next year, but the contract is less than ideal: nearly $21 million in the three coming seasons with a team option for 2012-13. I’ll be surprised if he’s around that long.
Chicago Receives: Brad Miller and John Salmons
The Bulls come out of this deal smelling like roses. It is, by far, most beneficial to Chicago. They finally land that true center they’ve been lacking for years (Ben Wallace doesn’t count). Brad Miller has his warts, but the guy is a legit seven-footer who can shoot the basketball, passes well, and is a decent rebounder. He’s no stud, but it’s difficult to find a real center who can produce across the board as Miller does. Working some combination of Drew Gooden, Joakim Noah, and Aaron Gray at the five simply wasn’t going to cut it. Playing alongside the more defensive-minded Noah and Tyrus Thomas will play to Miller’s strengths as well. Currently sitting on the ninth seed, Miller’s interior offense will give this team the boost it needs to vault into the playoffs in his second stint in the Windy City. And even more convenient, his fat contract comes off the books just in time for the summer of 2010.
The final piece, John Salmons, has been perplexing in his seven seasons in the league. The 2002 first-round pick never produced consistently in his four seasons in Philadelphia, though he flashed offensive brilliance from time to time. Over the years Salmons has also earned a reputation as a selfish player who can be an acrimonious presence in the locker room. He’s slowly blossomed since coming to Sacramento though, and is having by far the finest season of his career. Thus far he’s posting 18 points, 4 boards, nearly 4 assists, 1 steal and 1.5 threes on a very efficient 47% FGs and 82% FGs. He’s a better player than the departed Larry Hughes on offense without question, though Hughes is the superior defender. In the locker room they’re a wash. That Salmons’ contract pays just $5 million this season, $5.4 next and $5.8 in 2010-11 is the icing on the cake. He does play a very similar role to Ben Gordon though, so look out for some potential strife over minutes.
Brad Miller photo credit: Icon SMI