After years of being slapped in the face by the stasis that mediocre records create, and after the embarrassment of watching what was supposed to be a playoff season ending in the league’s worst record, the Milwaukee Bucks are finally rebuilding.
Weirdly, they’re continuing the process by dealing for a player that can actually help them win this year.
As first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bucks have acquired forward Jared Dudley and a first-round pick in exchange for Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Raduljica. Raduljica, a 26-year old center who played adequately in limited minutes last season, can possibly contribute to the Clippers. Otherwise, this is a total salary dump for Los Angeles.
The Clippers’ rotation is a formidable, and it is championship-worthy, but in a lot of areas it is also aging. Dudley was one of those aging contributors, because even though he boasts a fantastic basketball IQ and only just turned 29, his production (per-minute, per-game, name your area) fell off across the board last season.
The Clippers are close to the NBA’s little-known hard cap “apron” this season, after it signed Spencer Hawes, Jordan Farmer, and Glen Davis to the various exceptions the NBA allows teams over the soft salary cap. Because Los Angeles was over the luxury tax while using all those exceptions, they were perilously close to that hard cap of nearly $80.83 million next season.
Now, after this deal, they’re even closer.
The team’s payroll, after taking in Delfino and Raduljica’s contracts, will now top the $80.1 million mark (a half million higher than before), leaving the team just around $650,000 under that salary apron. This means, no matter what happens to this team’s roster in the 2014-15 season, the franchise has just that much money to work up potential trades, emergency signings, and the like. Minimum salaried add-ons, trades that bring back players that exceed that mark – it doesn’t matter. Verboten.
So why in the hell would the Clippers take on more salary, while giving up a first-round pick (reported by Eric Buenning to come in the 2017 NBA draft) along the way?
For one, the Clippers only had 12 players under contract prior to this trade, and league rules stipulated that the squad needs 13 on its roster. Secondly, Dudley bonuses include a $250,000 payout this season if his team makes the first and second round of the playoffs, and those bonuses (based on a playoff performance Doc Rivers’ squad fully intends to follow through on) already count against the salary cap apron.
The Clippers know that they’re on the losing end of this deal, but they’ll gladly trade that for the ability to pay Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and (to a lesser extent) DeAndre Jordan eight figures this season. And for the ability to round out its roster with Hawes, Farmar and Davis. The team won’t receive an injured player exception for Delfino (who will not play much or at all this season) because of its cap status, but the roster spots help, and Raduljica (if last year is any indication) can apparently play in a pinch. Toss that in with a few emergency five-figure midseason 10-day contracts, and you could have a roster situation that works.
Add that to the loss of Dudley’s $4.5 million 2015-16 salary (in an option he is surely to pick up) in order to push the Clippers even further under the luxury tax, and you have something that makes sense. Delfino and Raduljica’s contracts are not guaranteed in 2015-16, and every little bit helps in the summer of 2015 as the Clippers continue to evolve. It’s possible that Los Angeles could have found a better offer with one of the other NBA teams looking to rent out cap space in return for assets, but for now the Clippers have something that at least seems palatable.
The Bucks? They’re now one of those teams. They’re the Jazz, the 76ers, the Magic, and the Celtics. They have an intriguing young core, but they also have a bunch of athletes learning on the job, cap space, and future first-round picks. They’re rebuilding.
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