Following up on Wednesday's post, here's some more chatter and analysis leading up to next week's trade deadline. Specific deal discussion is after the jump, but here are some broad things to keep in mind while sorting through the avalanche of rumors:
The cap/tax situation. Dealing Richard Jefferson helped the Bucks avoid the tax this year and it might even be more important for next year. They currently have about $50 million committed to nine players for 10/11, which gives John Hammond a fair bit of latitude to use expiring 09/10 contracts to take on 10/11 salary, when the tax will likely be somewhere between $60 and $70 million. If they hang on to those expiring deals then they'll have the flexibility to use their full MLE this summer, with Josh Childress potentially being in play at that price. Check out the math here (Link fixed).
Beyond that, the Bucks have Redd and Gadzuric coming off the books in the summer of 2011, so real cap room is still a couple summers away. The up side is that the Bucks have more flexibility than many teams to take on a big salary for next year--which makes it easier to do a deal with one of the teams seeking to free up 2010 cap space. That's especially important when considering someone like Troy Murphy (more on him later).
The curse of the 8th seed. The Bucks deadline strategy would be a lot simpler if they had 14 or 34 wins--at least then they could focus on being a seller or buyer, respectively. At 24 wins? Eh...you can easily argue both sides. John Hammond will likely be trying to have the best of both worlds: improve the Bucks' rotation for a playoff kick and try to get something of value for his expiring deals, all without sacrificing future flexibility or any of his younger talent.
Unfortunately trying to do all that at once means you're likely not to get anything done. The toughest call will probably be on Luke Ridnour, who would be useful to any number of teams but has also been a crucial cog in the Bucks' regular rotation. It'd be much easier to deal Hakim Warrick, Kurt Thomas or Joe Alexander, but it's not clear how much value any of those guys has at this point. We'll see.
The Bucks and Pacers have bandied about several players in exchange for the 6-foot-11 Murphy, who is averaging 14 points and 9.9 rebounds this season. One of those players is Ersan Ilyasova. The Pacers want Ilyasova, but the Bucks don’t want to give him up. Ilyasova is only 22, capable of playing both forward positions and has flashed signs of becoming a big-time scorer.
This backs up the story from earlier this week coming out of Cleveland, but do the Bucks really have a shot at getting Murphy for a good price? At this point it seems like half the teams in the league are trying to pry Murphy out of Larry Bird's hands, so it stands to reason that offering just expiring deals--like a package of Warrick, Thomas, and Alexander--probably doesn't get the Bucks that far. Adding Murphy's $12 million deal could also end up being a bit problematic if the tax level falls below $65 million or so.
The bigger problem is a more fundamental one--are these teams really good trade partners? Indiana would need to move more than just Murphy in order to open meaningful cap space this summer, though they're probably also mindful of their 10/11 tax number (already around $66 million). They'd no doubt love to dump T.J. Ford ahead of Murphy, but will have a harder time finding a taker for Ford. Not surprisingly, the talk is that Indiana wants young talent in return for Murphy, which is where Ilyasova or the Cavs' J.J. Hickson come into play.
Is it worth giving up Ilyasova for Murphy? Your answer to that probably depends on how much you want to make the playoffs this year. Personally, I'm a fan of Ilyasova and his modest contract, but his lack of consistency makes him better suited to being a sixth man right now, while Murphy's proven to be a consistent double-double guy for much of his career. Otherwise they're similar in many ways, but on paper Murphy would nicely complement the Bucks' existing frontcourt rotation. Long-term, however, there's no doubt that Ilyasova is a more useful asset--he's much younger (29 vs. 22), cheaper (just $5 million total the next two years) and not that far behind Murphy from a production standpoint either. For that reason I'd pass on a deal that requires giving up Ilyasova, but it would likely provide near-term benefits.
Newsday: Knicks interested in Ridnour
Alan Hahn from Newsday reports the Knicks are interested in Ridnour, which isn't surprising when you consider a) they've started Chris Duhon (yikes!) most of the year and b) are unwilling to take on salary beyond this season. The Knicks have no incentive to tank since the Jazz have their first round pick, but the Bucks are probably a bit wary of giving up a key rotation player to a team chasing them in the standings. Besides, what kind of package would the Knicks be willing to do for a two month rental of Ridnour? The Bucks wouldn't want Jared Jeffries (he's signed for next year at $6.8 million), so would Jordan Hill or Wilson Chandler be available? I'd assume not, though the teams could try to put together a more complicated deal to get around it.
Woelfel also mentioned that the Hawks have inquired about Thomas (apologies, I had originally thought it was Ridnour) for depth up front. Woelfel mentions Mo Evans as a possible target, who would be added to the swelling ranks of swingmen.