August 17, 2009
This has to be a steal of sorts for the Toronto Raptors.
I understand the fascination with Roko Ukic(notes). Tall point guards will always sway basketball junkies, even as we watch types like Ukic or Jeryl Sasser stink it up more than they star it up. When he's on, Ukic is truly lovely to watch. But he's rarely on. And he's 25. And you need a power forward. A center, too.
The Raptors are about to acquire both, in Amir Johnson(notes). They'll also pick up Sonny Weems(notes) for under a million bucks, in a sign-and-trade deal with the Milwaukee Bucks that will land the Bucks Ukic and Carlos Delfino(notes). The deal apparently goes down as soon as Delfino jets into North America to put pen to paper on a new deal with Toronto, inking for two years (with a team option for three) and immediately seeing his rights shipped to Milwaukee.
The big name here really is Ukic; but let's face it, he's barely an NBA player. It hardly matters if you're a rookie or veteran — when you have a single-digit PER at age 24, you're just not cut from the cloth saved for starters. Or even rotation players. And he turned 25 during the offseason. Don't bank on a breakout, Milwaukee.
Delfino is different. He's not a starter, but he's a solid rotation wing helper who will probably be inked to a rather modest salary. Solid production for a cheap-o price. Not bad, by any stretch.
But Toronto still wins this. Johnson can play, he can block shots and finish and work well at two positions. He's also on the last year of a contract that can be shopped, further aiding in Toronto's attempts to make nice for Chris Bosh(notes) next summer. Weems is a toss-in whose stats in 55 minutes played last season were pretty awful, but his D-League work was mighty fine, and he could sop up minutes at a more efficient rate than Ukic.
It's not that Milwaukee made a bad deal, here. It's just that Toronto made a very good one. Johnson and newly-acquired Reggie Evans(notes) will provide carom insurance that is badly needed on a team full of long rebound-creators, and as promising as Ukic looked at times, his bottom line just wasn't worth Toronto's time.
The deal doesn't exactly guarantee 45 wins for either club, but it's always nice to see sound moves created during the dog days of the offseason.