Let’s call this the unofficial beginning of the NBA’s silly season.
This deal basically amounts to a salary dump for the Bucks. Butler and Williams have non-guaranteed contracts for 2015-2016 worth $4.5 million and $1.35 million, respectively, and Ilyasova is owed $7.9 million next season. With prospective restricted free agent Khris Middleton set for an extension worth an easy eight figures annually, Milwaukee now has the flexibility to re-sign him while chasing a mid-tier player on the open market, too.
It’s not like Jason Kidd and company will be unable to withstand the loss of Ilyasova, either. Though the 28-year-old has obvious value, Jabari Parker is rightfully entrenched as Milwaukee’s stretch power forward of the future – and should prove a good one in the present, too, assuming he fully recovers from a November ACL tear. One wonders, though, if a pick will be involved in this trade once it becomes official; salary-matching alone seems a more desperately barren haul for Ilyasova than necessary.
In terms of on-court impact, this surprising swap will have a much bigger effect on the Pistons.
Stan Van Gundy has been searching for a floor-stretching big man to pair with Andre Drummond ever since he took the reins in Detroit last May. Ilyasova doesn’t quite clean the glass like he did several seasons ago, but still represents one of basketball’s top combinations of rebounding and three-point shooting from the frontcourt. He’s even signed to a very reasonable contract through 2016-2017, too.
Obviously, this casts even greater doubt on Greg Monroe’s future with the Pistons. The 25-year-old took the unprecedented approach of playing on a $5.5 million qualifying deal in 2014-2015 after he failed to receive a palatable offer as a restricted free agent last summer. He’ll enter the unrestricted free agency fray at the end of this month.
Even before today’s development, though, the writing was on the wall for Monroe and the Pistons. Lineups featuring both he and Drummond had a net rating of -1.7 this season, and playing both behemoths simultaneously is a direct affront to the two-way principles Van Gundy implemented to such success with Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in the late 2000s and early 2010s. With Dummond, Detroit’s czar has a foundational piece from which to build a winner in that vein; the presence of Monroe only complicates matters, especially at the mammoth price it would take to retain him.
The real offseason is essentially here. Now only if the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers could finish this horribly boring, barely competitive NBA Finals so we can focus on July.