Nets trade Jefferson to Bucks for Yi
The Milwaukee Bucks have agreed in principle to trade Yi Jianlian to the New Jersey Nets for Richard Jefferson, two league sources told SI.com.
The Bucks also are sending Bobby Simmons to the Nets. He has $20.5 million left on a contract that expires in the summer of 2010, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could become free agents.
This trade could be seen as a sign that the Nets truly are interested in getting involved in the LeBron sweepstakes, based in no small part on his close friendship with Nets minority owner Jay-Z. As a result of this trade, the Nets are no longer committed to paying Jefferson $15 million in 2010-11.
Yi's camp was said to be ecstatic about going to the rebuilding Nets and playing in a major market, which was one of the original concerns when he was drafted by the Bucks last year. Yi threatened to not sign with Milwaukee in hopes of forcing a trade to another team.
The Bucks, meanwhile, are providing new coach Scott Skiles with a veteran player who can help him win now. Jefferson averaged 22.6 points a game last season.
The Bucks also retain their No. 8 pick in the draft to further revamp their team. The Nets hold the No. 10 pick.
• The top of the draft remained in turmoil less than four hours before the first pick.
A report Thursday afternoon that the Clippers had reached an agreement to move up to No. 4 in the draft, with the Sonics moving back to No. 7, was dismissed as premature by a league source with knowledge of the negotiations. It is a fact that the two teams have been talking, and that it could be consummated if O.J. Mayo is available at No. 4.
This could mean that the Clippers want Mayo to play for them next year as the No. 4 pick. Or, as another league source noted, it could suggest a bigger deal is in the works with Miami.
Under this proposal, the Clippers could send the rights to Mayo and Elton Brand to Miami for the rights to Beasley (the No. 2 pick) along with Shawn Marion. The Clippers could then either sign Marion to an extension or allow him to become a free agent, generating cap relief in 2009 when his $17.9 million salary comes off the books. The bottom line for the Clippers: They would get an exceptional talent in Beasley on a cheap rookie contract in exchange for the far more expensive Brand, who will make $16.4 million next season if he doesn't opt out this summer.
Miami has been putting out the word that it is interested in moving the No. 2 pick in hopes of following the example of the Celtics, who used their lottery pick in last year's draft to trade for Ray Allen as part of their successful attempt to win a championship immediately. The Heat would come out of this swap with the Clippers with Brand and Mayo to go with a healthy Dwyane Wade, which would enable them to challenge Boston and Detroit in the Eastern Conference one year after having the worst record in the league.
• Speculation of a trade involving Miami, however, was dependent on the Timberwolves' using the No. 3 pick to take Kevin Love instead of Mayo.
Word around the league for some time is that Minnesota VP Kevin McHale is enamored with Love. On the morning of the draft, however, a rumor about Love's knees was spreading around the league.
A league exec who has studied the medical reports said Love underwent surgery in his early teens to have his kneecaps realigned. According to that executive, his team doctor had studied the medical records and approved Love as ready to play in the NBA. Doctors with other teams were known to have made a similar assessment.
None of this information about Love's knees -- which NBA teams had known for some time but nevertheless was being discussed among league executives Thursday -- was not expected to serve as a last-minute impediment to his standing in the lottery.
• The Spurs (No. 26) and Celtics (No. 30) were said to be shopping their picks in an attempt to get out of the first round, according to league sources.
• As of Thursday afternoon, it appeared that the proposed trade of Jermaine O'Neal to Toronto for T.J. Ford had received the medical OK of both teams and was expected to be finalized (for salary-cap purposes) on July 9. The trade was always at risk until Ford was cleared by Indiana's doctors; the point guard has a worrisome history of injuries before and after his 2004 surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck.
The main reason the Raptors were looking to move Ford was to create room -- on the court and in their budget -- for Jose Calderon, a restricted free agent expected to be retained by Toronto this summer.
Indiana will also wind up with center Rasho Nesterovic and the No. 17 pick in the draft to go with its own pick at No. 11. The Pacers were expected to reach out for a point guard with their higher selection, but if Ford is on their roster they'll be able to go in a different direction. Many rival executives believe the Pacers could use the No. 11 pick on LSU big man Anthony Randolph, the player seen as having the biggest upside in the draft. The hope would be that he would become a star to eventually replace O'Neal up front.
The Pacers are expected to use the No. 17 pick for a big man to help fill in for O'Neal in the short term. I'm guessing they'll go for Georgetown's Roy Hibbert there.
• Nicolas Batum checked out OK. There was talk last week that the French forward might not be available because of worries about the condition of his heart. Now there is a feeling among some teams that these fears might have been exaggerated in order to place Batum with the organization of his choice. He underwent a full medical exam and has been cleared to be drafted. One possible home for Batum is Cleveland at No. 19.