Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports has reported that the San Antonio Spurs have shipped Richard Jefferson and a conditional first round pick in the 2012 draft to the Golden State Warriors for Stephen Jackson. As you would expect out of any trade involving these two teams, it makes a lot more sense for the Spurs than it does for the Warriors.
Jackson was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Warriors on Tuesday, but most people suspected that he would never play a game for Golden State. If there was one team that made sense as a final destination for Captain Jack — and I do mean final, since he turns 34 next month and he’s in rapid decline as a player — it was San Antonio. Jackson won a title with the Spurs in 2003, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich feels he has a great connection with him.
Popovich is better than any coach in the NBA at assigning roles to players that suit their skills and the overall team dynamic. For Jackson, I assume Pop will use him as “Bruce Bowen Lite” — a defensive specialist who will mostly shoot threes from the corner on offense. He’s never been a great long-range shooter, but he’ll get much better looks on this team than he got on any other team since his last stint in San Antonio.
We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of his connection with Spurs fans in this scenario. He is still beloved in San Antonio because of his crucial role on that championship, so he’ll be welcomed with open arms in sharp contrast with the crossed arms he elicited from the fanbases in Charlotte, Golden State and Indiana.
From the numbers, it’s difficult to make the case that Jackson is a better player than Jefferson right now, but Jackson’s contract expires after next season while Jefferson has an $11 million player option for 2013-14 that he will definitely pick up. This means that the Warriors are taking on an extra $11 million in cap burden for that season — hence the inclusion of the draft pick.
Even though he’s only 31 years old, Jefferson has largely been reduced to a three-point specialist at this point in his career. Popovich has been consistently frustrated by Jefferson’s passivity, but the guy can bomb with impressive accuracy (42 percent on treys this season) so the Warriors probably project him as a useful weapon in their up-tempo offense. It’s also possible that he’ll rediscover his confidence in a new setting — he’s not old yet, and he was averaging almost 20 points per game as recently as three seasons ago.
While the exact conditions on the Spurs’ pick haven’t been disclosed yet, a Warriors source told Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times that there is a “90 percent chance” they’ll get to use the pick. Golden State will only get to keep their own first round pick in the upcoming draft if they are drafting in the top seven — otherwise, the pick goes to the Jazz.