Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first major trade of the NBA's 2013 free-agency period!
And no, the deal that'll send Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks doesn't count...unless Bargs somehow transforms into a game-changer for the cap-strapped Knickerbockers.
Rather, I'm talking about the three-team trade between the Los Angeles Clippers, the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks, which Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports broke the first word about. The Clippers will receive JJ Redick and Jared Dudley in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler, both of whom are headed to Phoenix, while the Bucks will draw a second-round pick from each of the other two teams.
As with any trade of noteworthy complication, this one comes with its fair share of winners and losers. Read on to see who fits into which category.
With JJ Redick and Jared Dudley on their way to LA, the Clippers' summertime "To Do" list is nearly complete. They'd already taken care of finding a new coach when they sent a draft pick to the Boston Celtics for Doc Rivers and had Chris Paul's signature all but secured just hours after the opening of free agency.
Now, the Clips have shored up their weaknesses on the wing in one more fell swoop. In Redick and Dudley, LA has added two above-average three-point shooters, presumably to its starting lineup, at the shooting guard and small forward spots, respectively.
No more cycling between a should've-retired Chauncey Billups and a solid-but-underwhelming Willie Green next to Paul. No more hoping/wishing/praying that Caron Butler might actually be worth the beaucoup bucks he's owed.
Instead, the Clippers can look forward to fielding a complete starting five while moving on to their search for a backup big man or two, as well as a 2013-14 season in which their stigma as the league's historical laughingstock will at last be all but forgotten.
The two players heading to LA did pretty well in this deal themselves.
At the start of this past season, JJ Redick and Jared Dudley were toiling away on two of the worst teams in the NBA in the Orlando Magic and the Phoenix Suns, respectively. Redick upgraded at the trade deadline, but only slightly, as the Milwaukee Bucks were summarily swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the eventual-champion Miami Heat.
Fast forward to the present day, and these two seasoned veterans find themselves eagerly awaiting July 10, when they can officially call themselves Clippers. Redick will take home $27 million over the next four years to serve as Chris Paul's sweet-shooting safety valve, while Dudley will leave behind Phoenix's rebuilding project for a move much closer to his hometown of San Diego.
What are the odds that Caron Butler thought he'd be part of a lottery-bound bottom-feeder that wasn't in LA when he inked his three-year deal with the Clippers prior to the 2011-12 season?
That doesn't matter now because he will be anyway. The 33-year-old forward could seek a buyout from the Suns, though his $8 million price tag won't make that easy.
On the bright side, Butler probably won't have to worry too much about playing time. His competition at small forward will be sub-par at best. That is, unless Michael Beasley decides to play up to his true talent.
Not that playing major minutes will cushion the blow of moving from a contender to a tanker for Caron. He'd been a starter in LA the last two years and probably would've done the same in 2013-14 had the Clips not sent him packing.
While the Clippers were out fortifying their already formidable roster for a run at the title in 2014, the Los Angeles Lakers were busy stumbling over themselves in a desperate attempt to keep Dwight Howard in the City of Angels.
All the billboards, tweets and presentations won't mean diddly squat if Howard opts to ink elsewhere. And even if he stays, the Lakers, with Steve Nash going on 40 and Kobe Bryant working his way back from a torn Achilles, will hardly be championship material next season.
Heck, they won't even be the best team in their own building! That's hardly news, though. The Clips swept the Lakers in a season series in 2012-13 for the first time in franchise history and took two of three from the Purple and Gold in 2011-12.
This was after sneaking in to acquire Chris Paul after David Stern nixed the initial trade between the Lakers and the then-New Orleans Hornets after the 2011 lockout.
My, how the tables have turned in LA.
The Phoenix Suns haven't done much right over the past few years, but this latest trade certainly qualifies.
To be sure, the picture isn't entirely rosy for the Suns. They've already piled up more than their fair share of underwhelming wings between Michael Beasley, Shannon Brown and the Morris twins. Caron Butler makes another—with an $8 million salary to boot.
And let's not get into what kind of money Phoenix will have to shell out to keep Eric Bledsoe, be it by fall extension or restricted free agency next summer.
But Butler's contract is set to expire in 2014, and if Bledsoe's as good when unleashed as a starter as many (including, apparently, the Suns) think he'll be, then the cap space spent will be well worth it.
The Phoenix Suns won't hand Eric Bledsoe the starting point guard gig on a silver platter. They might not even extend him before the window closes at the end of October.
But Bledsoe will get paid at some point by a team somewhere. More importantly, he'll have the best chance to compete for serious playing time that he's had since high school.
(Note: Bledsoe played with John Wall at Kentucky and was in his second pro year when Chris Paul came to LA. You could say, then, that minutes at the point have been few and far between for him over the past three years.)
If the Suns like what they see from Bledsoe, they'll probably look to move either or both of their incumbent point guards, Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall.
Chances are, Phoenix will be pleased with its newest acquisition. Bledsoe stepped up his game in a big way in 2012-13. He averaged 14.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per 36 minutes, shot nearly 40 percent from three and established himself as a force of nature at the defensive end.
All of that should translate to his presumed role as a starter in Phoenix, if his numbers in CP3's stead last season (14.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 43.8 percent from three) are any indication.
You could say that the Milwaukee Bucks did well enough to get something (i.e. two second-round picks) for JJ Redick, assuming the free-agent shooting guard was on his way out anyway. But as far as sheer asset management is concerned, this deal reeks of incompetence for general manager John Hammond and the rest of Milwaukee's front office.
Remember, the Bucks pried Redick from the Orlando Magic at the 2013 trade deadline, along with Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith, in exchange for Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb, Beno Udrih and cash. Redick struggled to adjust to his much-diminished role next to Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings and saw his shooting percentages plummet as a result.
Meanwhile, Harris looked like a star in the making in Orlando (17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists in 36.1 minutes), Udrih chipped in double digits as a scorer before bolting for free agency, and Lamb showed some promise as a perimeter shooter (10-of-21 from three).
In essence, then, the Bucks gave up three players, ranging between useful and promising, and cash for two second-rounders.