At the trade deadline the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls completed a trade which sent John Salmons to Milwaukee and the Bulls received Joe Alexander and Hakim Warrick in return.
For the Bulls the trade was little more than a salary dump that created enough cap room for them to make a run at one of this summer's major free agents.
Meanwhile Milwaukee acquired a player in Salmons that has averaged 20.5 points per night while posting an outstanding .584 True Shooting Percentage since the trade. Not only has Salmons provided the Bucks with another scoring option, something they desperately needed, but he has also helped improve the Bucks' already excellent defense.
Period Pace ORtg DRtg ------------------------------------- Pre-trade 91.5 105.3 106.4 Post-trade 88.8 108.3 100.1
Already, the Bucks were winning with an above-average defense. Since the Salmons trade, however, Milwaukee has been locking teams up at the defensive end of the floor. Over the course of the season, no team has defended nearly this well, with the Boston Celtics leading the league by allowing 103.7 points per 100 possessions. (The Bucks, with a 104.7 Defensive Rating, are fifth overall.) Let's take a closer look at how Milwaukee has done it by looking at the Four Factors and opponent shooting.Period eFG% DR% FTA/FGA TO% 2P% 3P% ------------------------------------------------------ Pre-trade .495 .767 .362 .149 .485 .353 Post-trade .457 .782 .318 .142 .456 .306
Combined with the pace stat above, the numbers tell an interesting story. During his first year and a half with the Bucks, Scott Skiles was unable to build the kind of miss-forcing juggernaut he once helmed in Chicago. Milwaukee made up for it by forcing turnovers by the bushel, leading the league in opponent turnover percentage in 2008-09. Over the last month-plus, the Bucks have slowed things down and contested shots at an elite level. Their two-point percentage allowed would be slightly ahead of Orlando (.457) for the best in the league over the course of the season.
Meanwhile, opponents' three-point shooting against Milwaukee has been so bad as to presumably be unsustainable. The best three-point defense in the league belongs to the Lakers, who allow opponents 32.5 percent shooting. In fact, only one team has allowed a three-point percentage so low in the past decade (the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons, another team that caught fire on defense after a midseason trade).
The Bucks improved their scoring efficiency while on the defensive end they have drastically reduced opponents' shooting percentage from the field and the number of free throw opportunities they give up per game. They have also improved their defensive rebounding. The only area in which they have been less effective is in the number of turnovers they have created, but this has been more than offset by the improvements they have made.
While the trade has payed immediate dividends by improving the Bucks' chances of getting to the playoffs and perhaps even winning a round this year, they are likely to benefit even more in the offseason.
In addition to the players being swapped, Chicago also gave up their second round picks in both 2011 and 2012, but more importantly they gave the Bucks the option of swapping first round picks in this year's draft if the Bulls' pick ends up outside the top-10.
As it stands the Bulls are one game behind the Raptors for the final playoff spot in the East, which is essentially a two game lead for Toronto as they lead the season series 2-0 with one game between the two remaining. Both teams have nine games remaining.
If the Bulls fail to make the playoffs they almost certainly will have to swap picks with the Bucks. If the lottery were to unfold as expected the Bucks finished in the No. 5 seed which they are currently in, the Bucks would move up to the No. 12 spot and would send Chicago down six spots to pick at No. 18.
For Chicago, irregardless of what happens the rest of the way, they needed to make the deal. They had no real hope of making much of an impact in the playoffs this season or the next as their roster was constituted and they had no cap flexibility this summer.
Now they can make a run at a major free agent like LeBron, Wade or Bosh this summer and can dangle the prospects of playing with an established two-way wing player in Luol Deng, a rebounding and defensive machine in Joakim Noah and a rising young point guard in Derrick Rose.
For Milwaukee the deal has worked like a charm and the credit for that has to go to GM John Hammond. Not only did he acquire a player in Salmons that has given them the immediate help they needed offensively, but his acquisition has allowed coach Scott Skiles to adjust the rotation to improve the team defensively as well.
Hammond was also able to push the Bulls to include the option of swapping picks in this year's draft, one of the deepest in years and acquired a couple of second round picks for the future while not crippling their cap situation as Salmons' deal expires next year. That's the kind of GM we want pulling the strings for Project Franchise's team.