“Trader John” did it again.
Bucks general manager John Hammond cemented that reputation Thursday, essentially flipping the albatross deals of John Salmons and Corey Maggette for well-traveled swingman Stephen Jackson, veteran point guard Beno Udrih and former can’t-miss prospect Shaun Livingston, still only 25.
It wasn’t a perfect deal, but the question is this: Who would you most want to be after the ink was dry on this three-team surprise?
Certainly not Sacramento, which may have may have mortgaged its already bleak future for a guy who couldn’t guard a ham sandwich and could be a bust if pro scouts have at all misjudged his ability to score at this level. Charlotte acquired a first-rate talent in Kemba Walker to go with long-term project Bismack Biyombo, but as ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy noted, they’re in “get bad to get good” mode.
It seems teams rarely see that approach through, so I’ll take what the Bucks did any day. Hammond knows his team’s offense was historically bad, and these moves help that. Give the former Executive of the Year credit for swallowing his pride and cashing out on bad deals while retaining a first-round draft pick.
Of course, there’s no guarantee these moves will pan out better than last offseason’s, but I’ll let the Journal Sentinel’s Michael Hunt play the role of curmudgeon and give the new Bucks a shooter’s chance. Here’s a quick take on each:
Jackson: The guess here is that reports of his unhappiness with the deal are overblown, as coach Scott Skiles already has talked with him. Jackson will score and distribute as a shooting guard and figures to win over fans with his effort more than frustrate them with occasional headcase moments. Jackson didn’t have issues while winning a title in San Antonio, and Skiles has some Gregg Popovich in him. Any player who gets good reviews when leaving is worth taking a flier on.
Udrih: Think Luke Ridnour with more upside. Udrih averaged 14 points and five assists in 79 games (64 starts) this season. The Bucks now have a capable injury replacement for Brandon Jennings, and Skiles will try playing them together at times. The tandem also could produce minutes at small forward for Jackson.
Livingston: Won’t play much if the team is healthy. He persevered in coming back from two serious knee injuries, so anything the Bucks get here is a bonus. Acquiring him means the end of Earl Boykins in Milwaukee.
Tobias Harris: In a draft that stinks like a Wisconsin cow pasture, why not take a guy ESPN’s Jay Bilas described as “versatile, smooth and hard to speed up” with a “high basketball IQ.” This one’s all about potential, but Harris seems like a worthy risk.
Jon Leuer: Potential treat for Badger fans. The guy’s a shooter and moves well for his size. The Madison faithful know hard he works, and I’m not betting against him making the roster and gaining favor with Skiles. At number 40, there’s no downside to this selection.
In sum, the Bucks improved themselves Thursday night. On the one night a year everyone has hope, that’s all you can ask for.