John Hammond appears to have made the first big statement of his tenure as Bucks GM, agreeing in principle to trade Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons for Nets small forward Richard Jefferson. Both ESPN and SI are reporting this deal as being close to done. No draft picks are apparently involved.
Initial reaction: wow. We won't really be able to draw any final conclusions on this until we figure out if Yi can be a legitimate NBA big (still a major question mark), but for the time being it's clear the Bucks are shifting into win-now mode while the Nets are making a play for 2010 cap space. While Simmons is owed $9.92 and $10.56 million over the next two years, the 28-year old Jefferson will earn $13.2 and $14.2 million and has an early-termination option for $15.2 million in 2010/2011--don't expect him to opt out at those dollars. Still, this doesn't change the Bucks' potential luxury tax issues all that much in 2009/2010.
Jefferson bounced back from ankle problems in 2006/2007 to post 22.7 ppg in 82 games last year, and he's clearly a defensive upgrade for the woeful Bucks. So it's really all about time horizon--if you want the sure thing, then the Bucks clearly win this deal. If you want a younger prospect with upside, then you'd prefer to have Yi, though opinions of him will vary a great deal. The Nets seem content to rebuild (albeit with Vince Carter around) and then make a run at LeBron in the summer of 2010, and so they've been understandably shopping Jefferson. In the meantime, Yi should be a great marketing fit for the Nets and he'll certainly be thrilled to be near NYC (and a real Chinatown, too).
Andy Katz reports the Bucks still like Joe Alexander with their 8th pick, but the move does raise more questions about the Bucks' interest in Alexander and Anthony Randolph, both of whom John Hammond has referred to as small forwards. Alexander could play a bit at PF right away because of his strength and athleticism, but would probably be a bit undersized, while Randolph has the length to be a PF but is far too light (197 lbs) to play there in the next year . Chad Ford suggests the Bucks could also look to go guard, depending on the availability of Jerryd Bayless and Russell Westbrook.
Another obvious conclusion is that the Bucks might believe they can get UCLA big man Kevin Love with their 8th overall pick to replace Yi, a possibility that will largely hinge on Memphis' decision at number five. Many expect them to trade the pick. However, if the Yi trade was dependent on the Bucks acquiring Love, then you would expected the Bucks to wait until they actually have Love on the board to pull the trigger. I'd say Alexander might be the guy in theory, but I'd have to go with Love if he was on the board. Alternatively, perhaps the Bucks will continue to shop their pick as well--we just know they won't be looking to acquire a veteran small forward.