Bucks to benefit even more from Salmons trade

Admittedly, I wasn’t a big believer in Milwaukee’s decision to trade for John Salmons, but after his terrific play has ignited the Bucks’ recent run — 16-4 since the trade, with Salmons leading the teams in scoring 10 times — it doesn’t bother me that the Bulls will have enough cap space this summer to sign a max free agent. Salmons’ positive impact already outweighs whatever might happen this summer.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the aforementioned Bulls, because as a throw-in to the Salmons trade, the Bucks have the right to swap picks if Chicago picks outside of the top 10. The Bulls have won two straight, and are now sitting at 35-38, just a half game back of the Raptors for the #8 spot in the East. More importantly for the Bucks, Chicago is sitting in the #12 spot in terms of the draft, and outside of the Hornets (34-40), no one is going to slip past them.

What does this mean? Well, barring a complete meltdown by the Bulls, the Bucks will be able to swap picks, meaning that they’ll move up from their current position (#18) into the #11-#15 range. Per the mock draft at DraftExpress, that’s the difference between Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh and Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside.

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John Salmons’ impact on the Bucks

Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recaps John Salmons near-super human effort against the Kings and Nuggets last weekend.

John Salmons had to be a tired man after playing 92 minutes on back-to-back nights during the weekend.

But all Salmons’ work and perspiration was worth it as he helped the Milwaukee Bucks to a pair of satisfying victories, a double-overtime thriller at Sacramento on Friday night and a gritty decision in Denver on Saturday night.

Salmons’ impact on the Bucks’ fortunes is nothing short of amazing. Since his arrival at the trade deadline in February, Milwaukee has rolled to a 14-2 record and vaulted into the fifth playoff position in the Eastern Conference with a 38-30 overall mark.

The 6-foot-6 veteran provided more evidence of the “Salmons effect” with his play in the crucial stages against the Kings and Nuggets.

In the final minute of regulation in Sacramento, he sank 2 three-point shots, one coming off a double screen that the Bucks executed perfectly following a timeout. Then he grabbed two offensive rebounds and converted baskets in the first overtime period, and he finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists while playing a game-high 53 minutes in the Bucks’ 114-108 victory.

What to do for an encore?

Well, how about taking a defensive turn on Denver all-star Carmelo Anthony and getting to the free throw line in the fourth quarter to help the Bucks seal a 102-97 victory, snapping the Nuggets’ seven-game home winning streak.

Salmons ended with 26 points, four assists and three rebounds, and he was 9 of 9 at the foul line, including 6 of 6 in the fourth quarter.

As I’ve written before, Andrew Bogut deserves a lot of credit for the Bucks’ recent run, but there’s no denying that Salmons has brought a dimension to the team that has been lacking for some time.

The seven-year vet is averaging 20-3-3, while shooting better than 45% from the field and 38% from long range. With Michael Redd hobbled (and now injured), the Bucks were lacking a wing that could score consistently. Salmons has filled that void perfectly and has exceeded even the highest of expectations after the Bucks pulled the trigger to acquire him at the trade deadline.

It’s funny — watching him play, you wouldn’t think he’d be a Scott Skiles kind of a player. His expression rarely changes, and his constant blank look could be perceived as apathy. But he plays hard, so who cares what kind of face he makes? He is seemingly unflappable, and that’s a trait that makes him a dependable crunch time scorer.

Monday night update: Salmons had another great night scoring the ball, dropping 32 points against the Hawks on 12 of 19 shooting from the field. He also hit two free throws with under 30 seconds to play to give the Bucks the lead for good.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Here’s the problem with the Salmons deal…

As a long-time (and sometimes-proud) Bucks fan, my NBA objectivity goes out the window whenever my favorite team makes a big transaction. I start to look at it from the perspective of “my Bucks” and don’t really care what kind of an effect the move has on the other team.

But in this John Salmons-for-Elson/Thomas (or Warrick/Alexander) deal, the Bulls’ new-found financial freedom might come back to haunt the Bucks. Without Salmons’ salary ($5.8 million) on the books for next season, the Bulls would project to have more than $18 million in cap space heading into this summer’s free agency. That’s enough to sign LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. Without this trade, the Bulls would have a tough time signing a “max” player.

So by taking on Salmons and his contract, the Bucks may have increased their chances of becoming first round fodder in the postseason, but they also increased the chances of a top 5 player joining their bitter rival. They already have LeBron in the division — now they may have to deal with D-Wade, too?

While I can understand the deal that includes Kurt Thomas and Francisco Elson, I don’t get why the Bucks would include Warrick in the trade, seeing as how he has been a valuable rotation player — 10-4 in 21 minutes per game — throughout the season. In other words, I’m not sure how a Salmons-for-Warrick swap gets the Bucks that much closer to the postseason that it would justify the added expense next season and the increased likelihood that Dwyane Wade will land in Chicago.

After a shaky start — trading for Richard Jefferson, drafting Joe Alexander, trading away Mo Williams — GM John Hammond has had a nice year, unloading Jefferson’s huge contact, acquiring Ersan Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino, and most importantly, drafting Brandon Jennings. Unlike most teams, the Bucks are stockpiling cap space for the summer of 2011, when they currently project to have $25 million (or more) in cap space and only seven players under contract. He has the Bucks in position to bounce back over the next couple of seasons, but it won’t matter if Cleveland and Chicago are dominating the division.

Salmons, Hinrich trade talk

In Marc Stein’s latest trade deadline column, he discusses potential new homes for Sacramento’s John Salmons and Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich.

San Antonio, meanwhile, is in the hunt as well, pursuing Salmons — with an offer of Bruce Bowen and Ime Udoka — as a far more affordable trade target for its perimeter rotation than Vince Carter. New Jersey’s Carter has tempted the small-market Spurs for days but can be absorbed by them only in a hugely expensive and complicated deal.

There is another complication for interested parties: Sources revealed Tuesday that Salmons has a 15 percent trade kicker in his contract that would require the team that acquires him to pay him a bonus of nearly $2 million and add that figure to its payroll. Salmons otherwise would rank as one of the league’s better bargains, earning just $5.1 million this season while averaging 18.3 points and shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 41.8 percent on 3-pointers.

Salmons is playing heavy minutes this season and isn’t the same player coming off the bench, so if the Spurs were to acquire him, it would behoove them to insert him in their starting lineup. This might be a tough pill to swallow for a franchise that is all about chemistry and players knowing their role. If the Spurs can find a way to add Salmons without losing Roger Mason or George Hill, it would be a pretty nice move. Salmons can start, but he may not finish if Gregg Popovich goes with Mason and Manu Ginobili in crunch time.

Minnesota, according to NBA front-office sources, has strong interest in Hinrich and is pursuing the 28-year-old to address a void at lead guard that hasn’t been filled by Randy Foye (whose success this season came after a shift to shooting guard) or the undependable Sebastian Telfair.

The Wolves also have two expiring contracts of their own (Jason Collins and Rashad McCants) that they’re prepared to shed.

Wow, it’s interesting sometimes to see how far a guy’s stock has fallen. Kirk Hinrich has a very affordable contract — $26.5 million over the next three seasons — but an injury got him off to a slow start this season and he isn’t shooting the ball particularly well, so the Bulls may be willing to trade him to Minnesota for cap relief. Derrick Rose is the future at point guard and the move would allow them to re-sign Ben Gordon (though that ship has probably already sailed).

Hinrich could provide solid leadership in Minnesota. Prior to this year, he has averaged at least 6.0 assists for five consecutive seasons, and if the T-Wolves feel that Foye is really an off guard, then Hinrich should be a nice complement. With a core of Hinrich, Foye, Al Jefferson and Mike Miller (if Minny keeps him), the Timberwolves could be competitive.

Marc Stein’s trade talk: Amare, Chandler, Caron and more

Marc Stein wrote a nice piece discussing some of the bigger NBA trade rumors out there right now.

1. Can we really expect an Amare Stoudemire trade in the next two weeks?

Sources say it’ll happen in-season only if the Suns can find a deal that delivers a mixture of top young talent and payroll relief. Which won’t be easy.

2. A deal for Toronto’s Jermaine O’Neal remains readily available to the Miami Heat. The Sacramento Kings likewise would still love to send Brad Miller to Miami for Shawn Marion as long as they don’t have to take back Marcus Banks, too.

3. I’ve heard multiple rumblings in the past month that Washington has made rugged forward Caron Butler available. But our research disputes that.

4. Portland is naturally making calls to see what it can fetch with its LaFrentz chip, but it appears that there’s a much better chance that Kings swingman John Salmons will wind up with the Blazers — who have inquired about Salmons — than that Chicago’s Luol Deng will.

5. San Antonio’s desire to acquire one more big man (preferably a floor-stretching big man) to counter the Lakers and Boston is no secret.

Random thoughts…

I still can’t believe that the Suns are actually considering trading a former 1st Team All-NBA player in the middle of his prime, but apparently they are…Jermaine O’Neal torched the Lakers two nights ago and looked great doing so. If he joined the Heat, that would become a very interesting team to watch. The key is his staying healthy, however…The Wizards would be nuts to trade Butler away. He’s their best player and the cheapest of their big three…I don’t think I’d go after Salmons if I’m the Blazers unless they’re planning to start him. He doesn’t play well off the bench and given the team’s glut of wings, I don’t know that he’d be the best option in the starting lineup…I’d love to see what Rasheed Wallace could do in a Spurs uniform, but San Antonio doesn’t have any expiring contracts and the numbers just don’t work.

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