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June 23, 2010
Transaction Analysis
Maggette Goes to Milwaukee

by Kevin Pelton


6/22 - Golden State Warriors traded forward Corey Maggette and the No. 44 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for guard Charlie Bell and center Dan Gadzuric. [6/22]

Our second trade of the nascent 2010 offseason saw the Golden State Warriors get cap relief from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for forward Corey Maggette, just two years removed from being the Warriors' marquee addition in free agency during the summer of 2008. That Maggette became expendable so quickly is a good reminder this summer that as exciting as free agency can be, it's often buyer beware.

Let's take a look at the three-year WARP projections for the players involved in the trade.

Player     10-11   11-12   12-13    Tot
Bell        0.5     0.0     0.2     0.7
Gadzuric    0.0    -0.2    -0.2    -0.4
Maggette    1.6     1.2     0.6     3.4

That Bell and Gadzuric project as essentially replacement-level players going forward probably doesn't come as much of a surprise. Golden State surely doesn't expect much production from either of them; from the Warriors' perspective, this deal was strictly about the salary ramifications.

More interesting is SCHOENE's pessimism about Maggette's prospects. This isn't an issue of Maggette being a bad player statistically; while his limited three-point range hurts him in the new incarnation of WARP, he still rated as a solid 4.8 Wins Above Replacement Player last season, and better than average on a per-minute basis. Since Maggette turned 30 early in the campaign, however, SCHOENE sees him heading for a cliff.

So far, there has been precious little sign of that. Maggette has had his ups and downs, including an injury-hampered first season in Golden State, but other than 2008-09 his per-minute performance has essentially been the same since a career effort in 2004-05. Maggette's 61.5 percent True Shooting last year was the best of his career, and ranked second in the league behind Amar'e Stoudemire among players who used at least a quarter of his team's possessions.

To get a better understanding of why Maggette's projection is so poor, let's take a look at how the 10 most similar players to him at the same age performed over the following three seasons.

Player             Yr1    Yr2    Yr3
Marques Johnson    0.0    0.0    0.0
Juwan Howard      -0.9   -1.8   -2.4
Billy Knight       1.0   -0.5    0.0
Matt Harpring     -0.1   -0.6    0.0
Glenn Robinson    -0.1    0.1    0.0
Terry Cummings     3.5   -0.2   -0.4
Tom Chambers       2.2    2.0    0.7
Purvis Short      -0.6   -1.1    0.0
Xavier McDaniel   -0.9    0.0   -1.2
Tony Campbell     -1.3   -0.4   -0.4

Yikes! Though this group includes many impressive names (seven of the 10 players made at least one All-Star Game, which Maggette himself can't claim), by the time they reached their 30s they were almost entirely washed up. By age 32, Chambers was the only one still providing any kind of value, and even he was ushered into a reserve role the following year.

Injuries were certainly a factor in several cases. A neck injury forced Johnson into sudden early retirement at age 31, Harpring dealt with multiple microfracture surgeries on his problematic knees and Cummings tore his ACL at 31 after the best season offered by any member of the group at that age. For others, however, age simply caught up with them in a hurry. Consider Robinson, the former No. 1 pick who was a two-time All-Star in his prime but was finished as a starter at 31 and out of the league by age 32.

If there's a common theme to this group, it's high scorers who are poor defenders and either average rebounders for the small forward spot or poor rebounders as power forwards. Generally, it's also a group of poor outside shooters who rely on getting to the basket (and the free throw line) off the dribble to pile up points. That sounds like Maggette, who ranked ninth in the league in free throw attempts last season and once led the league in makes from the charity stripe.

The problem is, once that first step wanes and these players are no longer able to beat defenders off the dribble, they have no other way to create offense for themselves. And since they certainly aren't worth playing for their other skills, they become albatrosses.

If Maggette can stave off the effect of his age, he does bring useful skills to a Milwaukee team that was starved of scoring much of last year. The addition of John Salmons helped the Bucks reach at least an acceptable level of offensive efficiency, and it's the possibility of Salmons departing as a free agent that surely prompted this trade. Maggette has long been capable of piling up possessions while maintaining his efficiency, and his trips to the free throw line help get the team in the bonus and opponents in foul trouble.

The downside is that Maggette gives much of that production back at the other end, whereas Salmons fit into Milwaukee's defensive scheme. Scott Skiles is capable of scheming around Maggette's defensive weaknesses given the right counterpart on the perimeter, but who that player is among the Bucks' current options is tough to say. Michael Redd was never much of a defender himself, and a pair of ACL surgeries surely won't help his lateral quickness. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is certainly an effective counterpart for Maggette defensively, but having the two of them together on the wings will shrink the floor on offense since neither is a perimeter shooter. Carlos Delfino is probably the best all-around option, though his partially guaranteed contract may yet see him waived or dealt to another team looking to maximize cap space.

Granted, Milwaukee gave up little in the way of talent to get Maggette. However, adding his contract will hurt next summer, when Redd's massive contract expires. The Bucks had the chance to go into 2011 free agency with little more than $23 million in payroll on the books to build around a core of Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings. Maggette is, in essence, a $6.1 million free-agent signing for Milwaukee next summer (that figure reflecting the difference between his contract and Charlie Bell's, per Storyteller's Contracts).

Based on the performance of similar players, Maggette won't be worth anywhere near that kind of money by the time the 2011-12 season rolls around. That slightly overstates how problematic this trade is for the Bucks, since they benefit from having Maggette around next season, but even taking that into account an asset breakdown suggests Milwaukee hurt itself in this trade.

Milwaukee  10-11   11-12   12-13    Tot
Maggette    1.6     1.2     0.6     3.4
No. 44     -0.2     0.1     0.2     0.2
Room        0.6      -       -      0.6
Total       2.0     1.3      0.8    4.1

G. State   10-11   11-12   12-13    Tot
Bell        0.5     0.0             0.5
Gadzuric    0.0                     0.0
Cap Space           2.4     2.4     4.9
Total       0.4     2.5     2.4     5.3

The Bucks should benefit next year, especially if they use the slight amount of money they saved ($1.4 million) to help add a player with the mid-level exception or re-sign free agents like Luke Ridnour or even Salmons. However, even if we conservatively assume Milwaukee would have been unable to reinvest the $4.1 million Bell stands to make in the last year of his contract, the Bucks still come out behind down the road because Maggette figures to be so much less effective than another use of the team's coming cap space.

From the Warriors' perspective, this deal is all about making the best of a mistake two summers ago. Maggette wasn't the right fit for Golden State, which needed to try to sign an up-and-coming talent rather than another veteran when Baron Davis bolted for the L.A. Clippers. Even with Maggette playing well last season, the Warriors were hopelessly out of the playoff race. Golden State is now set up to get under the cap again during the summer of 2011, when the team's only remaining long-term salary commitments will be to Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis (and both of those contracts are potentially moveable as well). Should the Warriors go that route again, hopefully they make better use of their room this time around.

Join Kevin and the rest of the Basketball Prospectus crew to chat live during Thursday's NBA Draft. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kpelton.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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