Assuming that the trade does go through, the timing is not at all surprising.
When the Raptors acquired Salmons as part of the deal that landed Rudy Gay in Sacramento, they were able to take on a contract that was only partially guaranteed for next season. In particular, the five-year, $39.1 million deal that Salmons signed with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2010 came with the option of buying out the final year for just $1 million if he was waived by June 30.
Toronto has traded John Salmons to Atlanta for Lou Williams and Bebe Nugiera, source tells Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 30, 2014
Due to the flexibility that his contract provided to the Raptors, it was pretty much understood that he would not be brought back for 2014-15. The 6’7″ shooting guard would either be bought out to create space under the salary cap or he would be packaged in a trade to upgrade the roster.
Completing the deal with Atlanta by the end of Monday is absolutely essential because it would allow for the Hawks to take advantage of the option to let Salmons go before his $7 million salary for next season becomes guaranteed.
Makes sense for both teams
The Hawks are clearly willing to part ways with the more talented player in this transaction in order to shed salary and position themselves for a run at a top-tier free agent, though not likely in the realm of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.
As for the Raptors, they get to take a look at a combo guard in Williams who only has one year and $5.45 million remaining on his deal. Drafted 45th overall in 2005, Williams holds career averages of 11.4 points and 3.1 assists in 22.6 minutes per game.
On the strength of the career-high 14.9 point scoring average that he posted with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011-12, the now 27-year-old inked a three-year, $15.6 million contract with the Hawks. The downside, however, is that Williams suffered a knee injury in February 2013 that required reconstructive surgery and kept him out of action until November of the following season.
Worth a look
But when Williams did return to the court, he was able to show that he hadn’t lost his touch, scoring in the range of 10-19 points 25 times and in the range of 20-29 on another five occasions. For the 2013-14 season, the former McDonald’s All-American who made the jump from high school to the pros averaged 10.4 points and 3.5 assists in 60 games.
Williams has drawn comparisons to Jamal Crawford in the sense that he provides instant offense off the bench — an area of the roster where it never hurts to improve.
Furthermore, what I like about Williams is that he has mainly contributed in a reserve role throughout his career, making just 54 starts in 554 games over nine seasons. He would be a major spark for the Raptors’ second unit, if he continues to be comfortable as a backup.
The other player heading to Toronto is a 7’0″, 225-pound center drafted 16th overall in 2013. Having played in Spain last season, he will join Brazilian countryman and 2014 pick Bruno Caboclo as prospects who the Raptors will try to develop into rotation players over the next couple seasons.
For now, though, the focus is on Williams and the main question is what this acquisition means for Toronto’s offseason plans.
Three’s not a crowd
While Williams would act as somewhat of an insurance policy if either or both of Lowry and Vasquez are not re-signed, he would also fit quite nicely into the backcourt rotation. Coach Dwane Casey has been known to play two point guards on the floor, especially late in games, so this would only add to his available options in that respect.
Overall, general manager Masai Ujiri has shown an ability to make trades that benefit his team in the present as well as in the long run. This was evident in the trading of Andrea Bargnani last summer and Gay in December.
In a year from now, or perhaps sooner, I think that will also hold true in the case of Louis Williams.