The Bobcats have agreed to acquire guards Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour from the Bucks for guard Ramon Sessions and forward Jeff Adrien, according to ESPN.com. The Charlotte Observer was first to report that a deal built around Neal had been reached.
The basic framework of this deal -- an exchange of Neal for Sessions -- has been in the works for days, though Bucks owner Herb Kohl had not signed off on a transaction that would add a few million to Milwaukee's payroll. To complete the deal, Charlotte agreed to take back the remainder of Ridnour's $4.4 million salary for this season, shifting the financial burden. In total, Milwaukee reduced its cap figure $1.8 million, along with prorated savings in salary.
Ridnour, 33, averaged 5.7 points and 3.4 assists in 21.2 minutes for the Bucks. He was far from spectacular, but his ability to handle the ball alleviated some of the creative responsibility on the still-developing Brandon Knight. He still wasn't quite worth his pay grade to the league-worst Bucks, making his inclusion in this deal an understandable incentive.
Milwaukee's move to sign Neal to a two-year, $6.5 million deal last summer made some sense when looking to challenge for a playoff spot, but the Bucks' collapse to a 10-43 record has left them without much use for the 29-year-old shooter. As such, Neal has spent much of this season on the back end of Larry Drew's playing rotation, logging minutes in only 30 of Milwaukee's 53 games and averaging 10 points while shooting 36 percent from three-point range.
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Charlotte, however, is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race and very much in need of a floor-spacing guard. Little-used point guard Jannero Pargo is the only member of the Bobcats' backcourt rotation to post a three-point percentage better than league average. In acquiring Neal, a career 39.3 percent three-point shooter, the Bobcats were able to address that issue without surrendering any long-term assets.
In exchange, though, the Bobcats are losing a backup ball handler who has been steady coming off the bench and when filling in when starter Kemba Walker is injured. Sessions, 27, averaged 10.5 points and 3.5 assists in 23.7 minutes while getting to the free throw line more often than any other Bobcat. Sessions was drafted by Milwaukee in 2007 and spent his first two seasons as a Buck.
Adrien, 28, was included to balance out the finances of the transaction to meet league rules and does not figure to be a significant piece for Milwaukee. That said, he is an exceptional rebounder who is going to a team ranked 29th in defensive rebounding rate, so he could register a specialized impact if he manages to crack the Bucks' rotation.
Bobcats' Grade: B+
The Bobcats have been aching for scoring all season. While they might not seem to have made much progress toward that goal in acquiring two role players, their payoff lies more in the broader benefit of adding a pair of perimeter shooters. Neal showed during his time in San Antonio that he can be a lethal long-range option for a team that gives him open opportunities. Charlotte should be able to create those opportunities for Neal by playing through Al Jefferson in the post, and in turn Jefferson will have more room to operate as opposing perimeter players aren't as free to cheat off Neal in order to double-team Charlotte's leading scorer down low.
Ridnour's shoehorned inclusion may actually work to the Bobcats' benefit as well, as Charlotte will be in need of a ball handler with Sessions headed to Milwaukee. The backup point guard spot has been steady all season, with Sessions getting to the free throw line and making plays off the dribble, and while Ridnour doesn't provide either of those specific skills, he's more capable of running basic offense than Charlotte's alternatives. He also brings a bit more floor spacing to Charlotte's rotation, both by posing more of a threat than Sessions from beyond the arc (where Ridnour has shot 36.8 percent this season) and from mid-range.
Most important of all: Charlotte completed a two-for-one swap of rotation players without giving up any of its core pieces or stockpiled draft picks. For a team that was rumored to be chasing some questionable names at the deadline, that is a bit of a relief.
Bucks' Grade: B
The trade calculus is simple for a team as bad as the Bucks, for whom acquiring assets and shedding salary are top priorities. This deal doesn't accomplish anything in regard to the former, though it does help Kohl reduce his bill while fielding the worst team in the league. Milwaukee has every reason to save as much as it can by parting with marginal pieces, a description that fits Neal and Ridnour. That the Bucks come out of this deal by saving money this season (by way of the difference in salary between Sessions and the combination of Neal and Ridnour) and next (through the $3.3 million Neal is owed) is a subtle victory, particularly considering that neither outgoing player is good enough to yield a more substantial trade market.