It had become common knowledge that either Michael Redd or Mo Williams would be leaving the Bucks this off-season. The Bucks made their choice: sending Mo Williams to the Cavaliers in a 3-team trade. The Cavs get Williams, the Bucks get Damon Jones, Luke Ridnour, and Adrian Griffin. The third team in the trade, the OKC TBD’s, will receive Joe Smith and Desmond Mason. So, who got the best of the deal? Let’s take a look.
The Cavs add a scoring point guard that has averaged over 17 ppg for the last two seasons. He will be the first teammate of Lebron James to score at such a rate. A gifted penetrator, Williams also possesses a good midrange shot (2nd best in the league by %). One person that may stand to benefit from Williams’ ability to get in the lane is Wally Szczerbiak. He struggled in the playoffs and his 3P% with the Cavs was his lowest since his second year in the league. The biggest danger for the Cavs is that Lebron stops penetrating and settles for shots. The Cavs traded Damon Jones who was firmly entrenched at the end of the bench by the end of the season, so no big loss there. They also traded Joe Smith who was their best offensive frontcourt reserve, but whose minutes could be absorbed by the addition of rookie JJ Hickson.
Perhaps the biggest loss will be Delonte West. As a restricted free agent, West sill remains unsigned and with the addition of Williams, it seems to point to West leaving town. West was the Cavs best distributor and backcourt defender not named Lebron. With a backcourt of Williams and Sasha Pavlovic the Cavs will need every bit of scoring. Pavlovic is not a good defender and while Williams is not bad per se, at just 6’ 1” he’s not someone that will be shutting opposing guards down.
So are the Cavs better? On the offensive end, the addition of Williams should be a welcome addition. The gain probably outweighs the lack of perimeter defense that will plague them. An interesting subplot to this trade is coach Mike Brown’s philosophy. Brown, a former Spurs assistant, has consistently had the Cavs in the bottom third of team scoring average, in the mold of Gregg Popovich. The Spurs, however, do not have Lebron James. The addition of Williams could make the Cavs, specifically Lebron, even more potent in the transition game. Anyone who has watched the USA team play can see that Lebron is most dangerous in transition when the defense is not set. Will Coach Brown allow these two to run? The true value of this trade for the Cavs, may lie in that answer.
For the Bucks, they chose Michael Redd over Mo Williams. Perhaps it was because of Redd’s contract which may have limited their ability to move him. New coach Scott Skiles has also shown a preference to bigger guards, a mold Williams did not fit. Next season they will have Tyronn Lue, Damon Jones, Luke Ridnour and Ramon Sessions at the point guard position. Neither Lue, nor Ridnour nor Sessions are tremendous scorers, but Session showed tremendous distributing ability late last season, amassing double digit assists in his last 5 games, all of which were losses, however. Damon Jones has been a good shooter, and could look to revitalize his career, as he enters a contract year. With their other new addition, Adrian Griffin, 34 years old and entering the final year of his contract, appears to be just a financial necessity of the NBA salary cap. With Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson, the Bucks did not need a third backcourt scorer, so moving Mo Williams make sense. Redd’s contract is bloated for what he brings and hindered the team’s ability to move him, so while the return in terms of players does not match up, they added 2 expiring contracts and Ridnour, whose moderate salary expires in 2 years. The fans will miss Williams’ flash, but the team won’t be wanting for PG options.
The third team in the deal, the Oklahoma City Wind/Thunder/Broommakers, also picks up two expiring contracts. Desmond Mason will be returning to the state where he played college ball, and reuniting with the team that drafted him, albeit in a different city. OKC will be his third team in three seasons and he should serve as a backup for Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant, right up until his contract expires (or his contract is traded once more). Joe Smith’s role could be limited in terms of playing time, but his role in practice could prove beneficial to the surplus of young post players on their roster. The departure of Ridnour means the team has been pleased with draft pick Russell Westbrook’s performance in the Summer League and practice. This team has tremendous salary cap flexibility and within a few years should be competing with the elite teams in the West.
This deal made sense for both OKC and Milwaukee. The real question, though, is did Batman finally get his Robin, or is Mo Williams just going to be next in the line of Carlos Boozer, Larry Hughes, and Drew Gooden as failed sidekicks. With the salaries on the Cavs roster, this team has maybe one or two more moves it can make before Lebron becomes a free agent. For the sake of Cavs fans, this trade has to work.