Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic elected to trade J.J. Redick to the Milwaukee Bucks instead of potentially losing him for nothing in free agency, but was this deal better than just re-signing him?
The biggest deal at the 2013 NBA trade deadline sent J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith to the Milwaukee Bucks for Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb. After considering several offers for Redick, the Magic eventually moved the impending free agent without receiving the first-round pick they prized. But was it still a worthwhile deal?
Let's consider this for each side.
In the end, the Magic didn't get the first-round pick they wanted. Instead, they get an expiring contract, one OK prospect in Harris and one that probably won't amount to anything in Lamb.
The grade on this deal mostly depends on what you think of Harris. He was starting and playing decently earlier in the year, then weirdly got buried in the small forward rotation. Part of the issue was that it was a numbers game in Milwaukee. He originally played only because Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was hurt and Mike Dunleavy was better off the bench. Once Mbah a Moute got healthy, there was nowhere for Harris to go. Harris lacks shooting range, but when paired with the right combo forward, his athleticism, defense and post game can be valuable. That might be a sneaky pickup for Orlando.
But Harris also has to contend with Maurice Harkless for minutes, and the Magic want to develop both of them. Harris' presence could add to the level of competition, or it could create more problems with finding minutes to foster both's rise. Picking one of the two might be better for Orlando's purposes.
The main question, considering all that: would it have been better for the Magic to just re-sign Redick? As Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post notes, Redick has fit in well in lineups alongside Arron Afflalo despite playing the same position. Redick's presence has also been very beneficial to all of Orlando's youngsters, mostly because of his ability to occupy defenders' attention coming off screens. His price tag was potentially going to rise, but he is only 28 and plays the kind of game that ages well. Would it be that absurd to keep Redick and look to trade Afflalo or Jameer Nelson instead?
The answer to that question will ultimately depend on Harris' development. I'm not sure he'll ever be the kind of asset that Redick will be, even if Redick receives a decent raise on his current contract. Dealing Redick for something is better than losing Redick for nothing in free agency, but I probably would have chosen Door No. 3 and re-signed him rather than accepting this package.
The Bucks got a player they had been chasing for a while and really didn't give up very much for him. Harris showed a lot of promise in Summer League and earlier in the season, but he has played a total of 14 games since November. Lamb also showed some promise when he played, but he is a second-round pick that was buried in the rotation. Udrih is a useful player, but is a fellow free agent that was unlikely to be signed. In terms of a pure talent exchange, the Bucks come out way ahead here.
Transferring minutes from Monta Ellis to Redick, assuming that indeed happens both this year and going forward, is also a plus. Redick is a solid off-ball player that takes good shots, moves the ball, keeps plays popping and is a net neutral defensively. Ellis, while explosive, remains prone to taking poor shots and does not defend. Redick is also a much more natural fit with Brandon Jennings, and the Bucks continue to give indications that Jennings will indeed be a part of the team's future.
That said, I do wonder about Milwaukee's long-term vision. One would think the Bucks would re-sign Redick over the summer to a deal that starts at slightly above the mid-level exception, much like forward Ersan Ilyasova. One would also think that Ellis will exercise his early termination option and opt out of the final year and $11 million on his contract. (If he doesn't, the Bucks will probably deal him to whoever is interested). The Bucks' books are mostly clear next summer, but adding in a starting salary around $7 million for Redick and $10-12 million for Jennings closes up a lot of space. Milwaukee also has to save some future powder to re-sign Larry Sanders, so don't expect an additional huge splash in free agency.
After all that? You get a core of Jennings, Redick, Ilyasova and Sanders, with some decent young talent and one more mid-level-type contract. That's not bad, but it's not too far removed from the mediocrity that the Bucks currently have. It's probably better than building around a Jennings-Ellis-Josh Smith core, but it's also one step removed from a needed full-scale rebuild.
So, judging this trade depends on whether you think the Bucks can afford to truly blow it up in a small market. If you don't think they can, this was a good deal. If you think they should commit to a clearer path, this won't help a lot. We'll split the difference.
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