Bucks send Jefferson to Spurs
The Spurs sent veterans Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto to the Bucks in exchange for the 29-year-old Jefferson, who averaged 19.6 points in his one season with the Bucks.
Milwaukee then dealt Oberto to the Pistons for forward Amir Johnson. The trades give the Bucks more financial flexibility, the Spurs a proven scorer and the Pistons a veteran big man at a lower cost than Johnson.
Spurs guard Tony Parker welcomed Jefferson into the fold, alongside Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. San Antonio is coming off its shortest playoff run since 2000 and faded down the stretch with Duncan hobbled and Ginobili sidelined by injury.
“He’s a great wing,” said Parker, speaking to reporters before the trade for Jefferson became official Tuesday. “It’s something we don’t have on our team.”
Milwaukee unloaded Jefferson’s contract, which has two years and $29.2 million remaining. Jefferson became the Bucks’ best offensive threat after Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut went down with season-ending injuries, but the Bucks’ tight financial situation made a move necessary.
Milwaukee does not want to pay the NBA’s luxury tax, which last year hit teams dollar-for-dollar once they reach $71.15 million in total payroll.
Redd, Bogut and Jefferson are scheduled to make more than $41 million combined this season.
The trade was a shock to at least one Bucks player: Charlie Villanueva posted “RJ traded to Spurs. Wow” on his Twitter account before the trade was official.
Bogut also chimed in, wishing Jefferson the best.
“Sad to see RJ go. He was a fun guy to be around and could play. We are building for the future, slow and steady. Patience grasshopper,” Bogut posted on Twitter.
The deal actually might allow the Bucks to keep Ramon Sessions or Villanueva, since both are restricted free agents.
Bowen and Thomas give the Bucks a veteran group and neither is signed beyond the upcoming season.
Johnson, 22, is a young power forward and another option down low for Milwaukee.
Johnson, a second round draft pick by Detroit in 2005, started 24 games for the Pistons and averaged 3.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. He is also in the final year of his contract, but makes slightly more than Oberto’s $3.5 million, which is partially guaranteed.
Bowen was a key cog in helping the Spurs win three championships, relishing his role as a shutdown defender tasked with guarding the best player on the floor. But the 38-year-old lost a step and saw his minutes cut significantly.
Bowen lost the starting job he held for six seasons and didn’t earn a spot on the NBA’s all-defensive team for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. He could still find his way back to San Antonio if the Bucks choose to waive the 13-year veteran.
Thomas, 36, is a 14-year veteran who averaged 4.3 points and 5.1 rebounds off the bench last season. Oberto, 34, spent four years in San Antonio and underwent a procedure earlier this month to correct an irregular heartbeat.
Jefferson gives the Spurs the additional scorer they craved in April, when the Dallas Mavericks ousted San Antonio the playoffs in five games. The Spurs were little more than a two-man show of Parker and Duncan, and coach Gregg Popovich said afterward that his team simply couldn’t match firepower.
Jefferson spent his first seven seasons in New Jersey and hasn’t missed a game the past two seasons. He shot a career-high 39.7 percent from three-point range last season.