cover

I’m changing my name to Durant Kevin. Let’s see how far I can take this.

Exciting news! John Salmons’ time as a member of the Toronto Raptors is (reportedly) over! In his stead, we get a combo guard who isn’t quite as effective as he once was and a promising young big. Take it away, Marc Stein and Adrian Wojnarowski:

 

So essentially, in a nice little turn of trick, Masai Ujiri managed to turn cap room into a one-year rental, and a former first-rounder.

Let’s start with Lou Williams. He’s a combo guard who hasn’t quite been the same since suffering a devastating ACL injury. Pre-injury, Williams was a crafty combo guard who could effectively create his own shot and handle the ball. He was one of the league’s best bench players between 2011-2013, averaging 14.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game while getting to the line a fair bit.

However, Williams went down with an ACL injury in 2013, which forced him out of action for approximately 10 months. He has since returned and stayed largely healthy, but is noticeably worse, especially in getting to the basket (and hence, the line). Check out the graph below:

graphAt 6-foot-2, under 200 pounds, he’s too small to guard any position other than point guard, but his purpose on the court is not to defend — he’s a scorer. Hopefully he can continue to do that. Hey, he’s much better than John Salmons at this point.

He has one more year left on his deal at $5.5 million. Essentially, the Raptors are taking a chance on him, hoping he returns to health. As I stated earlier, at his height, Williams was one of the league’s best bench scorers. He boasted a PER of 19.0 (near All-Star per-minute production) between 2010 and 2012. He used to be very good. Use #LouTrillVille to communicate your excitment on Twitter with your internet buddies. They’ll know.

Moving on, Nougiera is a prospect, perhaps best known for his hilarious draft-day appearance (pictured above). He’s a 21-year-old center that was drafted by the Hawks (via the Celtics) last year with the 16th overall pick. He has a 7-foot-6 wingspan (like Bruno) and is Brazilian (again, like Bruno).

Last season, he played in the Spanish ACB, averaging 6.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks  in 16.6 minutes per game. I’ve only seen a few minutes of Youtube highlights of him, but it certainly seems like he has potential. Last I checked, he was reportedly forgoing the last year of his contract in Europe to make his way to the NBA, but I’m not sure if his buyout process is complete as of yet. His buyout is $600,000, of which can be paid in full by the Raptors. He’ll be here next season.

Something else of note: he did suffer a bout of tendinitis in his knees last season, which kept him from play for 2 months.

Here’s his DraftExpress video. More video footage of Nogueria is available online. Also of note, his nickname is “Bebe”, so feel free to make your Hurricane jokes here.

The ramifications of this deal is two-fold. First, the Raptors just got better both in the short-run. In giving away Salmons’ cap room for one season, they’ve landed themselves an upgrade in Williams, who should, at worst, be a good ball-handler and decent shot-creator in a team bereft of both. Williams’ addition will not affect the Raptors’ ability to re-sign Lowry, Vasquez or Patterson as they own the Bird rights to all three, although it could press the Raptors closer to the luxury tax cap. The Raptors should also have the full Mid-Level Exception, worth around $5 million, if they want to get any more upgrades.

Second, it brightens the team’s long-term prospects. Salary flexibility is maintained for 2015, as Williams will be expiring along with Fields and Hayes, which comes out to ~$20 million. Meanwhile, this also nets a prospect for the future. Nougeira is really young, has flashed signs of being a decent rim-defender, and has good size. He’s a little light at the moment, but I’m sure he’ll fill out once he gets into an NBA training regimen. He’s the same age as Jonas.

The move also makes sense for Atlanta, who look poised to make their move. It’s not like the Hawks got fleeced or anything. There’s a clear motive in their actions here. Shedding Williams and a Nogueria sheds about $6-7 million in salary for next season, which gives them over $20 million in cap room to chase a superstar. With Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and a cadre of capable role-players, the Hawks are one star away from joining the upper echelon of the East. Of course, that could be said for just about every team in the conference. But keep your eye on Atlanta. They could be really, really good next season.

TL;DR: Raptors trade away one year of cap space, pick up a better player, a first-rounder, while not compromising future salary considerations. Masai gonna Masai