NBA Roundtable

Bucks Close To Acquiring Delfino

In Free Agency, Trade Talk on August 17, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Sign and Trade

Milwaukee Bucks acquire: Carlos Delfino + Roko Ukic

Toronto Raptors acquire: Amir Johnson + unnamed other


This deal isn’t done yet … but appearantly it’s close to completion.

The Toronto Star reports

They are on the verge of finalizing a two-for-two deal with Milwaukee that sends swingman Carlos Delfino and point guard Roko Ukic to the Bucks.

Young big man Amir Johnson is headed to Toronto and ESPN reported Monday afternoon the other player is raw swingman Sonny Weems.

The Trade

Toronto Raptors

Delfino vs Johnson

I thought it would have been more beneficial for the Raptors to have kept Carlos Delfino instead of acquiring Amir Johnson.

I like Amir Johnson, he’s a solid role player and a very good prospect going forward, but there’s a minutes crunch up front for the Raptors. Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani figure to play somewhere around 38 minutes and 36 minutes respectively, leaving only 22 minutes for the backup big men. The Raptors already have Reggie Evans and Rasho Nesterovic off the bench, and now they’re adding Amir Johnson to the mix.

I expect the Raptors to play two big men off the bench, with each player earning around 10 minutes apiece, or maybe 14 minutes and 8 minutes respectively. There just aren’t a lot of minutes there for Amir Johnson to come in and make a impact, and that’s if he plays at all.

In comparison, Carlos Delfino would have been hands down the second best wing on the Raptors roster next season. He would have gotten 25-30 minutes and could have contributed a lot to the Raptors.

Roko Ukic

With Jose Calderon + Jarrett Jack on the books for the next four years, Roko Ukic simply was not going to get a chance to claim significant minutes in the near future. As a result; (1) he didn’t offer the Raptors much, and, (2) he needed to move on for the good of his career.

The Financials

Carlos Delfino will likely be signing a two year deal. Let’s say he signs for $3-4 million per season. Roko Ukic is due another $1.35 and $1.45 million over the next two seasons.

Sonny Weems is on a minimum contract and is due $740k this coming season, and $850k the following season on a team option. His team option is unlikely to be picked up, so he’s pretty much just an expiring contract. Amir Johnson is due $3.94 million for this coming season.

So the Raptors basically cut $1.45 million off their 2010/11 payroll. That will give them a little bit of wiggle room against the luxury tax that season.

Some have commented on the financial relief angle of this trade but I don’t see that as a factor. I have no doubt that the Raptors could have off-loaded Ukic to another club for either a trade exception or an expiring deal, so I see no need for them to take back $4.5 million in other contracts to get his money off the books. Furthermore, if the club was concerned with finances they would have just chosen not to pay Delfino and saved themselves Amir’s + Sonny’s contracts.

In other words, I don’t think finances matter here. This trade is about talent and fit.

Amir Johnson

Defensively, I’d rate him as a poor post defender and an average man-to-man defender — poor on go-to scorers, but above average on all other types, in other words not a stopper — On the more positive side of things, he’s an exceptional pick and roll defender and a very good overall team defender. Amir Johnson also supplies a good shot blocking presence for the Raptors, but unfortunately he jumps at every shot fake + head fake going, and regularly gifts the opposition with easier baskets as a result.  Overall, he’s a good defender (6.5 or 7 out of 10 type) with excellent defensive potential (9 to 10 out of 10 type).

Amir Johnson was a very good rebounder in his first three seasons (mostly his third season) with a rebounding rate of 18% in around 900 minutes. His numbers dropped significantly last season though, down to 15%, which is only slightly above average for a power forward.

Offensively, Amir Johnson is an exceptional garbage man. He’s a superb finisher around the rim and doesn’t take shots that he can’t make, which is why he shoots around 60% from the floor. Johnson is also an excellent offensive rebounder and will create extra possessions for the Raptors.

To conclude, I’m a big admirer of Amir Johnson. My only issue with him on the Raptors is minutes based. On a talent level, he’s certainly someone who can help things. I just question whether he has the opportunity to make a major impact, and whether that impact (if limited minutes wise) will be greater than what Delfino could have brought to the team.

Sonny Weems

I don’t have much to say on the man because I have barely seen him play. Weems didn’t stand out during summer league action and Denver didn’t appear to rate him highly.

I’d be surprised if he saw any substantial court time for the Raptors next season.

Milwaukee Bucks


The Bucks had four talented forwards, and one prospect, prior to this trade

  • Richard Luc Mbah a Moute
  • Amir Johnson
  • Ersan Ilyasova
  • Hakim Warrick
  • Joel Alexander

Four of those forwards where combo-forwards who could play at either the small forward or power forward slot, giving the Bucks great interchangeability between positions. The fifth was Amir Johnson, who was an out and out big man and could play either at power forward or at center.

Amir Johnson was their only quality rebounder at the power forward position. The other four were/are (Ilyasova?) poor rebounders for big men, but good rebounders for wings.

Edit: The Bucks also have Walter Sharpe, another combo forward.


The Bucks roster looks just as jam packed in the backcourt

  • Point Guards — Ramon Sessions? + Luke Ridnour + Brandon Jennings + Salim Stoudamire
  • Shooting Guards — Michael Redd + Charlie Bell + Jodie Meeks

I’m briefly noting the Bucks players at these positions to look at how large a role Carlos Delfino could receive at the club next season.

Carlos Delfino

I’m not seeing it … why are the Bucks so interested in Delfino?

  • Are they planning on going small and starting Delfino as a three?
  • Or are they planning on using him as a backup wing? Replacing Charlie Bell as the primary backup two guard and also playing some minutes as the backup three?

If Delfino were the starter, one could easily see him getting 25-30 minutes a night. If he’s a backup, he’s likely getting 20-25 minutes.

Which brings me to another question … will Delfino have a bigger role than Amir Johnson would have?

I don’t think so.

I figured Amir Johnson would have been their starting power forward, or at least deserved to be their starting four. His rebounding + defensive talents, while playing alongside Andrew Bogut, would have given the Bucks impressive interior play. A great foundation to build the rest of their team around. Add in the solid garbage man scoring and you have a player that could make a big impact in 25 minutes a night. I also loved the idea of Amir Johnson learning from Scott Skiles, a coach who could bring out the defensive potential still inside of Johnson.

Delfino on the other hand … I’m just not sure.

Delfino’s best talent is his rebounding ability, but the Bucks already have comparable rebounders at the small forward position and Delfino figures to only play 10-15 minutes as a two guard (if he takes Bell’s spot in the rotation). Defensively you’re talking about a guy who’s a slightly below average defender, again limited added value.

Offensively, Delfino is well rounded. He’s a good ball handler and passer. He can shoot from distance and get to the rim. Overall though, he’s below par efficiency wise and has a nasty habit of pounding the ball into the floor. Also, Scott Skiles doesn’t usually give his wings much freedom to express themselves offensively. Now if Skiles was given an elite wing that would surely change, but does it change for Delfino? I doubt it.

So, does Delfino offer the Bucks more than Amir Johnson?

I don’t think so.

I reckon that Amir Johnson could have given the club more, because he would have gotten enough minutes to make a good impact. Furthermore, I think Delfino’s best strength is already a strong area for the Bucks and that his value is limited in other areas.

Roko Ukic

Roko Ukic has two NBA level skills

  • Penetrator — Roko Ukic is already a very good penetrator by NBA standards. One of the better penetrators in the league, he can get into the paint whenever he wants to. He has great quickness and size, and moves off pick and rolls very well.
  • Defense — Roko Ukic is a good defender. He has good size and is active defensively.

Unfortunately, Ukic is weak at everything else. He’s a so-so ball handler, a weak passer, a weak playmaker, a poor decision maker, a poor floor general, a very poor shooter, has a poor midrange game, is a poor finisher in the paint, and a below average rebounder.

These flaws create more damage for his team than his strengths create value. In other words, he’s a net negative while on the floor. This isn’t to say he’ll be this player for the rest of his career. He was only a rookie last season and he can definitely improve.

However, Ukic has spent a lot of time playing pro basketball in Europe. He played three seasons in Spain and Italy prior to joining the Raptors last season. He also had a couple of seasons playing for a Croatian team. Ukic will also be 25 a month into this coming season. In other words, he’s experienced and had opportunities to develop and he’s still miles away from where he needs to be.


I don’t know … I think both teams would have been better off not making the trade. That is, if the Raptors signed Delfino, otherwise they’ve improved here.

  1. Side Note — I would absolutely love this trade if Amir Johnson was replacing Andrea Bargnani in the Raptors rotation.

    I think Amir could make a massive impact for the Raps if he was in that starting lineup and getting 30-35 minutes a night. His pick and roll defense alone would transform the Raptors from a poor defensive team, to an average or slightly above average defensive squad. Add in Amir’s rebounding ability and suddenly the Raptors flaws don’t look so troubling.

    I think that switch from Bargnani to Johnson would generate a good five-to-ten win bump for the Raptors next season. More if Amir Johnson fulfills a large dose of that massive potential of his.

    Additionally, now imagine if the Raptors traded Bargnani in conjunction with a Reggie Evans or Marcus Banks and brought back a $10-13 million wing. A star two guard. That could add another five-to-ten wins.

    Unfortunately, at least in my view, these things aren’t happening … lost opportunities, story of the Raptors franchise.

  2. Dave,

    re: “I would absolutely love this trade if Amir Johnson was replacing Andrea Bargnani in the Raptors rotation.”

    That first sentence was almost my same exact thought concerning this transaction from the Raptors’ POV.

    As you and I both know all too well … the major problem[s] with the current edition of the Raptors will remain unsolved UNTIL Mr. Bargnani improves his performance in specific production categories at which he does not excel at the moment.

    The rest of the Raptors’ personnel moves this summer have been little more than ‘window dressing’, in the grand scheme of things.

  3. Dave, I think it is a good trade for the raptors assuming that they couldnt sign Delfino themselves. I also agree that if he replaced Bargnani in the starting line-up, it would lead to a more competitive and balanced line-up.

    This trade has additional benefits down the road in my opinion. Once Evans’ contract expires, I dont think we would resign him, and I think Johnson would more than adequately fill that role. I agree though, Johnson will not get much minutes unless he really impresses in pre-season games.

    If the raptors were to trade Bargnani now (with him at a very high point in his valuation), this team could become one the top teams in the league.

  4. I still haven’t seen any numbers out there for Delfino’s contract with the Bucks. That’s an important variable here.

    Small Forward?

    It sounds like Carlos Delfino will be playing primarily at the small forward slot

    He’s got experience, and we felt we needed to add a wing shooter,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said of Delfino, who played last season for BC Khimki Moscow in the Russian-A Superleague. “He’s a very good rebounder at his position, a good all-around player.”

    The 6-foot-6 Delfino provides a different set of skills at small forward, complementing those of second-year players Joe Alexander and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. While Mbah a Moute proved himself as a defender in his rookie season, Delfino offers an offensive threat.

    “We feel like we’ve got a nice mix now at that 3 (small forward) position,” Skiles said. “It’s an appealing thing from a coaching standpoint. Now we’ve got to see who’s going to play where.”

    Skiles said 6-9 Hakim Warrick, signed as a free agent earlier this month, can play both forward spots, and the Bucks have Ersan Ilyasova, Francisco Elson and Kurt Thomas to provide depth at power forward.

    “He does different things offensively,” Skiles said. “He can put the ball on the floor and make a play for somebody else; he can help push the ball upcourt. Plus, he’s a shooter.

    “When the guys come back, we’ve got to look and see how it all shapes up. But if we want to start the game with more of an offensive 3, we can. We’ll have a nice point guard battle. These are the kind of options you want.”

    I prefer Delfino as a two guard but he can play the small forward slot well too.

    Bucks Best/Starting Lineup?

    Option One: Jennings + Redd + Delfino + Mbah a Moute + Bogut

    Option Two: Jennings + Redd + Mbah a Moute + Ilaysova + Bogut

    Option Three: Jennings + Redd + Mbah a Moute + Warrick + Bogut

    I’m not a fan of Warrick so I’d lean towards the first two. I haven’t seen Ilyasova play since he left Milwaukee, but I hear great things and I think that lineup may be their best option.

    Bucks Outlook

    I feel like the Bucks are getting slept on by a lot of fans and media around the league. They’re going to be better than a lot of the negative press they’re receiving.

    Update: Delfino’s Salary

    This is the best information I could find

    Delfino is expected to sign a three-year contract with the Bucks, one that will be in the range of Johnson’s $3.66 million salary.

    Hopefully, we’ll know more in a few days. Anywhere under $3.5 million per annum and I’m a big fan of that contract. Over that amount, and I’d be somewhat uncomfortable with it.

    Also, appearantly it’s a three year deal with a team option on a third season. That’s fairly low risk for the club, and the team option will be beneficial to them if Delfino plays well there.

  5. Dave,

    With Jennings, Ridnour & Ukic at the PG spot the Bucks deserve to be slept on, as far as their prospects go this coming season, IMO.

    If they had Sessions [a competent PG with solid size and a good complementary skill set] running the show and decide to reduce the role of Michael Redd … or, even remove him completely from the picture at the OG position … then I would hold a similar position to Milwaukee’s prospects as you do.

    In addition, Bogut’s health seems like a perennial concern for this team.

  6. Hey Khandor,

    I don’t know about Jennings … I watched three (more like two and a half) of his summer league games — the first three — He was absolutely miserable at the beginning — overdribbling, not involving his teammates, not running the offense, lots of bad decisions, weak jump shot — but his game picked up considerably by the second game (solid game), and improved again by the third game (very good game) … and according to a lot of reports I read on the internet, his game was much improved in the two games I didn’t get to see too.

    Also, Scott Skiles likes the kid and thinks he’s a unselfish pass first point guard. If Jennings can impress Skiles as a team orientated point guard … that holds a lot of weight with me.

    I think Jennings might surprise us next season and play some solid basketball.

    Summer League Games

    I really wish they left those games up on the internet for the rest of the summer. I loved slowly working my way through those games in the dog months of August + September.

    Delfino’s Contract

    Source — click here

    According to league sources, Delfino agreed to a three-year contract that will pay him $3.5 million per season. But the deal is of the low-risk variety because it is partially guaranteed for the second season and not guaranteed in the third season.

    That sounds like a very good contract for the Bucks.

    (1) Team option on year three, and only partially guaranteed for year two = minimal risk.

    (2) $3.5 million is a fair pay packet for Delfino.

    The per annum amount plus the minimal risk makes this a very good contract for Milwaukee.

  7. I have been thinking about this for a while now, and I think the Raptors can improve greatly just by switching Bargnani to the second unit. If the Raptors were to play:

    pg: Calderon
    sg: DeRozan
    sf: Turk
    pf: Johnson
    c: Bosh

    (pf and c are interchangable)

    with a primary second unit of:

    pg: jack
    sg: wright
    sf: turk
    pf: evans
    c: bargnani

    would give great balance to this squad.

  8. dino gunners,

    It’s a losing cause, my friend … as the ONLY three people in the world [seeming, at least] who would agree with you in this regard, re: Bargnani’s & Bosh’s best role with the Raptors, i.e. Bosh as the starting #5/C with Bargnani as the Back #5/C, are ME, Dave, and Scott G., who frequents my blog.

    In my case … it’s a move that I’ve personally been advocating for for at least the last 2 years. 🙂

  9. Dave,

    re: Mr. Jennings

    If Skiles likes his instincts, then I too have little doubt at this point that BJ has the makings of a solid PG in the NBA … one day down the road.

    As far as this season is concerned, however … relative to the other emerging teams in the EC … I do not like the floor combinations I see happening all too frequently for the Bucks this year which will include Jennings [erratic youth concern]/Ridnour [lack of physicality concern], Michael Redd [injury concern/lack of athleticism] and Andrew Bogut [injury concern/lack of athleticism].

    FWIW, as you know already I think LRMAM is a terrific young player; and, I fundamentally agree with your take that this contract for a player like Delfino should in no way be viewed as onerous or a bad signing.

  10. Ramon Sessions

    Interesting note made on RealGM by Christopher Reina

    Meanwhile, after the trade to acquire Carlos Delfino and Roko Ukic, the Bucks have only $1.60 million of room left before they would pay the luxury tax this season. The Knicks might therefore be safe from Milwaukee matching because their offer sheet to Sessions would be substantially higher than the $1.60 million figure in 2009-2010.

    It looks like anyone who is willing to make Ramon Sessions a decent contract offer will come away with their man.

    This new contract for Ramon Sessions looks like it could be one of the steals of the summer.

  11. Great post.
    One smaller item – the deal does have important financial implications. Every dollar shed will count – the cap will most likely come down given the economic environment. Since Ukic wasn’t going to play, its a nice benefit to the deal with the salary cap pickup.
    This year is not that relevant – MLSE picks up the tab (so why do we care) and we’re still under the luxury tax. The only concern would have been if it put us over the lux tax this year.

    As you can see this offseason, teams are struggling with trades and deals – even over a million or two.

    “[Delfino would have] contributed a lot to the Raptors.”
    I generally think Raptors fans don’t fully remember how bad Delfino’s shot selection was. I believe he didn’t even shoot 40% in the last season with the Raptors. Plus, he’s coming off injury – wouldn’t want him on a multi-year contract. He definely was a above average rebounder for his size – we will miss that piece.

  12. Sorry Dave – I missed your comment (3pm, Aug 19th) until after I posted – a very good example on why $1.45M more available for next year matters. May be the difference is signing a key player or not.

  13. Delfino is much better than a sub-average defender. Defence the most impressive component of his game.

  14. and whoever suggested starting amir johnson and derozan? that’s unlikely, Bellinelli and Wright will play quite a bit of shooting Gaurd and Bargnani will be starting C. Very rarely are rookies instant stars like Lebron James.

  15. Hey Tom L, welcome to the site!

    Gaining the $1.45 million in 2010/11 has some value to the Raptors … but I think Bryan Colangelo would have easily been able to trade Ukic for an expiring deal.

    Moreover, I don’t think a team trades a superior player for an inferior one in order to move Ukic. This trade to me is wholly about talent and whether or not Amir Johnson adds more to the Raptors than Carlos Delfino does.

    I view the financial benefits here as a side benefit … rather than one of the principal factors in the trade.

    Hey marmaladsoop, welcome to the site!

    Here are my expectations for DeRozan as a rookie:

    * Starting two guard for the Raps
    * Around 28 minutes a night
    * About 12ppg on a good FG% but below average TS% because he doesn’t make three pointers and doesn’t get to the line often enough.
    * Somewhere around one assist per game
    * Below average to slightly below average defense
    * Around 4 rebounds

    I think that level of a contributions would make him the best all-round two guard on the Raptors next season. That’s why I’d like to see him start.

    Carlos Delfino

    As I just wrote above, those are my expectations for DeRozan and I think that type of a contribution will make him Toronto’s second best wing player next season.

    I think Carlos Delfino is capable of supplying more of a contribution than that — if he matches his production from his last tour with the Raptors, then I think he comfortably surpasses those efforts — and therefore would be the Raptors second best wing player.

    Due to the Raptors weaknesses on the wing, and the ensuing availability of minutes there versus big man minutes, I think Carlos Delfino could have contributed a large amount (for a role player) to the Raptors next season + more than Amir Johnson offers the team.

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