Richard Jefferson Trade Should Cool Hot Talk of San Antonio Spurs Demise

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IJune 23, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 13:  Richard Jefferson #24 of the New Jersey Nets goes up for a shot against Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs during game five of the 2003 NBA Finals on June 13, 2003 at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Spurs won 93-83.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by:  Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Ah, the allure of expiring deals.

From getting his shot blocked in the NBA Finals by Tim Duncan to now helping the league's best power forward get there again.

From asbestos-infested New Jersey to the dearth of Milwaukee to sweaty San Antonio.

From run-on sentence after run-on sentence to a bold declaration.

With the acquisition of forward Richard Jefferson, the Spurs front office has guaranteed the team will at least sweat into the second round of the 2010 playoffs.

The financially stranded Milwaukee Bucks unloaded Jefferson for the expiring deals of Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas.

Instinct says Milwaukee fans, if there are any left, will remember and curse Robert "Tractor" Traylor. If Dirk Nowitzki gives the Bucks faithful chills every time his Dallas Mavericks visit the Bradley Center, maybe Jefferson will do the same with the Spurs.

This transaction is also fitting, considering the banal Bucks are the only team with a winning record against the Spurs in the Duncan era. Milwaukee beat San Antonio in both meetings this season.

The incentive for general manager John Hammond to donate his team's most complete player—reports suggest Bowen and Oberto could be bought out—is at first difficult to pinpoint.

Thomas, Bowen and Oberto are bit role players—long in the teeth—who have more value in San Antonio than anywhere else.

With $15 million more in cap space this summer, Hammond can at least afford to re-sign restricted free agents Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva.

He'll need to dip into a free agent pool loaded with great support players to make this more than a one-sided affair.

Jefferson didn't fit with Milwaukee in the same way Pau Gasol didn't fit in Memphis. That much makes sense for Scott Skiles' scrappy bunch.

The Bucks turned down offers for Jefferson from Portland and Cleveland at the trade deadline. Surely, as with the Gasol abomination, Hammond could have struck a better deal than this.

For the Spurs, Jefferson represents the biggest offseason acquisition since Stephen Jackson or Hedo Turkoglu.

One could argue that his 20 points per game make him the most complete prospect to land in San Antonio over the summer since Duncan.

It took Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili several years to become All-Star, Hall of Fame-caliber contributors.

Jefferson joins the organization in his prime, with his All-Star talent tapped but not tapped out.

He can dunk, something the Spurs famously don't do much, and score from any area of the floor with reliability.

His shooting might be streaky on a lottery team like Milwaukee, but it will be a boon alongside San Antonio's "Big Three."

Another huge plus for the Spurs: he is capable of playing excellent defense, and despite minimal reports of egotism and arrogance, will put his teammates first.

His price tag offers the only bit of concern. Jefferson is due $29 million over the next two years.

This expensive acquisition could eliminate the Spurs as players in the heralded 2010 market, provided management extends Ginobili for a few more years.

The financial drawback is small, though, when Jefferson's abilities factor in to the equation.

Plus, San Antonio fans should appreciate an owner in Peter Holt who's willing to spend money to be competitive. Holt agreed to fork up an addition $1.5 million to net Drew Gooden earlier this year.

The Spurs also pulled off a deal for an athletic wing without surrendering George Hill, Roger Mason Jr., Duncan, Parker or Ginobili—the five players with market value in terms of talent, not contract length.

That feat alone deserves serious kudos.

However, before anyone starts planning a fifth parade down the Riverwalk or even a takedown of the Los Angeles Lakers, critical questions about the Spurs roster remain.

Can Ginobili stay healthy for 82 games and 16 victories in the playoffs, or has he entered a perpetually injured state of his career?

How will the Spurs replace Thomas' toughness and tremendous post defense?

Can these four All-Star talents stay healthy for a full season?

Will Jefferson's mercurial talent mesh with three superstars who have won three championships together, or will it clash?

Still, there is a lot to love about this trade on the San Antonio side.

Provided the Spurs can lure a big man through free agency, say a Rasheed Wallace or Antonio McDyess, this trade should make them a lot better.

How much better? I would bet they'll be closer to a championship than a first-round flameout at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks.

The Spurs managed a no-sweat deal in a climate of unyielding perspiration.

It should at least cool off those fans still irked about a first-round exit.


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