The Clippers have traded forward Jared Dudley and a conditional first-round pick in 2017 to the Bucks for forward Carlos Delfino, center Miroslav Raduljica and a 2015 second-round pick.
Dudley, 29, averaged 6.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in 2013-14, his only season with the Clippers. The seven-year veteran is owed $4.3 million this year and next, and he holds a player option on the 2015-16 season. Dudley originally arrived in L.A. from Phoenix thanks to a three-way trade that also involved Milwaukee. In that deal, the Clippers received Dudley and J.J. Redick in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, who went to the Suns, and Caron Butler, who went to Milwaukee. As part of that trade, the Clippers sent a 2015 second-round pick to the Bucks; Tuesday's trade returns that same pick to L.A.
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Delfino, 31, missed the entire 2013-14 season due to a foot injury after signing a three-year, $9.8 million contract with Milwaukee last summer that includes a team option on the final season. Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that the Argentinian wing could miss a portion of the 2014-15 season due to the same injury. When he last took the court, Delfino averaged 10.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 67 appearances for the Rockets in 2012-13.
Raduljica, 26, signed a three-year, $4.6 million contract as an undrafted free agent last summer, but his contract is only guaranteed through this season. The 7-foot Serbian center averaged 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in 48 appearances as a 26-year-old rookie, and he's on the books for $1.5 million in 2014-15.
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Talk about an opportunity lost for Dudley, who seemed to have the world at his feet last summer when he was traded by the rebuilding Suns to the contending Clippers. There wasn't much more he could ask for: a big city, superstar teammates, a respected coach and a defined role. Unfortunately, Dudley made the least of his opportunity, posting his worst numbers since his second year in the league and struggling with his shot all season. Always candid, Dudley owned up to his poor play on social media during the season, perhaps as a way to motivate himself, but nothing seemed to work. Even as L.A. endured a string of wing injuries, Dudley was unable to fill minutes productively. By the time the postseason rolled around, Dudley was more or less out of the rotation entirely, logging more than 10 minutes in just two of the Clippers' 13 playoff games.
The Clippers are serious about contending — especially now that hyper-competitive owner Steve Ballmer has teamed up with president Doc Rivers — and carrying dead roster weight simply isn't an option. Rivers can still turn to Redick, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes and Reggie Bullock on the wings, making Dudley the odd man out.
This trade will reduce the Clippers' salary obligations by a total of $3.8 million (not including luxury taxes). Perhaps more importantly, it cleanly wipes Dudley's $4.3 million from L.A.'s salary cap books next summer.
USA Today Sports reported Tuesday that L.A. may use its stretch provision to release Delfino, which would spread out his $3.3 million salary for 2014-15 over multiple seasons, thereby freeing up a little wiggle room to accommodate a free-agent signing under the hard cap. Stretching Delfino would not create enough room to add an impact player, but it could give Rivers the flexibility to address a perceived weakness in his rotation.
Dudley is the biggest loser in this trade, as he heads to another rebuilding situation in which his game won't be of much use, but the Clippers — now and retroactively — aren't too far behind. Last season, his first in Phoenix, Bledsoe showed flashes of All-Star potential down the road, and all the Clippers have to show for that asset now is Redick, who missed more than half of last season with injuries. Although it was also able to escape paying Butler, L.A. now must forfeit a 2017 first-round pick for the right not to pay Dudley. Hindsight certainly makes this series of trades look like a mess for L.A., unless Rivers finds a way to salvage things by stretching Delfino and using the new-found flexibility to add a true difference-maker. The return of the second-round pick helps keeps this move from being a flat "F."
The Bucks were horrible last year, they're practically guaranteed to be horrible again next year and they're not yet in position to say they have a strong core they feel good about. Yes, 2013 first-round pick Giannis Antetokounmpo and 2014 No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker bring the promise of better days, but GM John Hammond's first job remains asset accumulation and he did that job very nicely here. Milwaukee has cap room to spare this year and next, and it can easily absorb Dudley's contract without incurring any sorts of penalties. In fact, this trade slightly reduces Milwaukee's 2014-15 payroll, and it's always possible that the final year of Dudley's contract could be flipped to a contender next summer if he manages to return to form.
Acquiring a first-round pick simply for relieving another organization of $3.8 million worth of salary obligations is a no-brainer. This trade was worth doing even though Milwaukee will need to be patient to cash in its pick three years from now. This trade was worth doing even if the Clippers are likely to remain one of the league's better teams in 2017, as All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are under contract through at least 2016-17, while DeAndre Jordan can be signed to a new contract next summer. Buying a first-round pick for less than $4 million, even if it figures to be late in the draft order, is always a good idea.
Parting with the traded players — Delfino and Raduljica — was almost certainly not a major factor in Milwaukee's thinking on this one.