Milwaukee’s front office was intrigued by the potential of Johnson, 22, who was drafted by Detroit out of high school in 2005. Immediately after dealing Richard Jefferson to San Antonio for Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto in June, the Bucks sent Oberto to Detroit for Johnson.
Johnson became more expendable when the Bucks signed Hakim Warrick, a move that came after Memphis rescinded its qualifying offer to the restricted free agent.
The financial aspect of the deal will be felt at the end of next season.
Johnson has just one year and $3,666,667 (all figures U.S.) left on his contract while Ukic had an option for $1,450,000 in the 2010-11 season. Weems will make the league minimum of $736,420 next season with no guarantee beyond that.
And with the expectation that the salary cap and luxury tax thresholds will drop next season, any long-term savings will help to keep some kind of financial flexibility for Colangelo, team president and general manager.
But giving up on Ukic is a gamble, even for a Toronto team with a surfeit of point guards.
The deal cannot officially be completed until next week at the earliest because of contractual details and the never-simple machinations of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Since the deal brings two new players to Toronto while sending out just one – Delfino, who played in Russia last year but was not on the Raptors’ roster since the sides could not come to an agreement on a contract – the Raptors are now up to 15 players, the maximum allowed on an NBA roster.
And if Colangelo remains quiet until training camp kicks off in late September in Ottawa, he will have certainly deserved the break. His level of activity makes this off-season one of the most eventful in team history.
From a basketball standpoint, this deal would make a lot of sense for the Raptors. They have already brought in Antoine Wright, DeMar DeRozan, Marco Belinelli and Heod Turkoglu to be in the mix at the SG/ SF spot. Johnson would bring some needed depth up-front. The Raptors have already brought in bunch of new talent this off-season. Up-front, they have added Reggie Evans and Rasho Nesterovic to play with Bosh and Bargnani. Johnson could be the first forward off the bench there.
Some behind the scenes Flip Cam footage of Raptors Rookie DeMar DeRozan at the 2009 NBA Draft
The 6-foot-6-inch Delfino is the key man in the trade for the Bucks, a player who can provide depth at small forward, still a major concern after the departure of veteran Richard Jefferson in a June 23 trade. That was the same deal that netted Johnson from the Detroit Pistons.
But the 6-9 Johnson became more expendable in the Bucks’ thinking after they signed free agent Hakim Warrick to a one-year, $3 million deal earlier this month. Warrick will have a chance to gain a starting spot at power forward.
The Bucks also are encouraged by the development of young power forward Ersan Ilyasova, who signed a three-year deal earlier this summer, and they have veteran Kurt Thomas to provide depth at power forward and center.
I honestly don’t know how Delfino will shake up the 2/3 rotation, as it’s very possible Delfino ends up getting burn at the 2 (more his natural position) and forces Bell or Meeks (sadly) out of the lineup. And while I’d throw Thomas in as the backup center for now, that’s mostly because I’m hoping to see a lot less of Elson and Gadzuric. Where does Joe Alexander fit in all of this? Who knows. He’ll still be fighting for minutes at the 3/4 spots, and with the lack of proven players at those positions he’ll certainly get a chance to play–it’s just a question of whether he can take advantage of it.
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 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.
But even with the hockey-centric fans and the struggles they have had outside of the GTA, Calderon is staying upbeat, maintaining that he feels the support of the country.
“I see Raptors jerseys all over the world,” he said. “I think the other teams are just playing for a city but we play for a country. I feel a lot of support in Toronto. It’s true that hockey is the first sport in Canada, but we are working on that.”
Jay Triano – The Raptors Coach chats on the Morning Show with Don Landry and Paul Hendrick about the changes to the roster for this upcoming season.
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