SAN ANTONIO -- Late Wednesday the San Antonio Spurs announced that they had traded center Rasho Nesterovic to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Matt Bonner, Eric Williams, and a 2009 second draft pick.
This marks the first real offseason move this summer (except for that other personnel move that went down in NY today), and naturally, that means yours truly will be breaking it down from all angles.
San Antonio Spurs
From San Antonio's standpoint, the primary motivation for this move is clearing up cap space for the future. The $23 million left on Rasho's contract will be a load off the Spurs' salary cap in exchange for the combined $10 million that Williams and Bonner bring. In addition, Nesterovic has three years left on his deal, Williams has only two, Bonner just one. This light load salary wise, and short contracts give the Spurs a little more freedom to pursue free agents down the road.
On the floor, the Spurs gain perimeter shooting and a versatile big man in Matt Bonner. Bonner was twelfth in the league in three-point shooting last season and averaged 7.5 points per game. From what I've seen of Bonner, he's got a pretty pure shot from deep and a quick release. Moreover, he isn't shy out on the three-point line attempting 243 triples last season. This is just fine and even desirable for San Antonio considering Bonner is being brought in to join the rest of the shooters surrounding Tim Duncan. Another plus on Bonner's résumé is that he's an 81 percent free-throw shooter, and the Spurs, one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the league, can always use another reliable shooter from the stripe.
One possible concern about Bonner is that he only averages about three and a half rebounds for a guy who is 6-10. That and I'm unsure about him defensively. One other concern, as a 6-10 big man who likes to hang around the perimeter, Bonner is a lot like Robert Horry, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you tend to avoid having two players who are too much alike. If Horry retires after this season and Bonner is resigned, than it works out perfectly, but this year, one of these two will lose minutes to the other.
One other reason for the Spurs bringing in a player like Bonner is the experience of the Western Conference semi-finals. Though it may not be as publicized, the Spurs know that they needed to acquire players capable of matching up with shooting and more mobile big men, case in point, Dirk Nowitzki. While guarding Nowitzki is no easy task for anyone, I have to think the idea of Bonner possibly having some success in that task had to play into the decision of acquiring him.
The Spurs also acquired veteran forward Eric Williams. I was a big fan of Williams while he was in Boston, but I doubt he'll get many minutes in San Antonio. Ginobili, Finley, Bowen, and Brent Barry fill up the rotation at the two wing spots and with the addition of Bonner, Robert Horry may even find himself pushed up the three spot occasionally. When Williams does get some PT, he'll provide some tough defense and great energy.
While I think the Spurs may have gotten the better of this deal, considering what they were after, I think this deal was more important for the Raptors. There's no secret why this deal was done, Toronto needed size and Rasho Nesterovic addresses that need. Nesterovic is a full seven feet with a good wing span. He brings a defensive presence into the paint and has good shot blocking capability. Offensively Rasho has one of the better mid to short range jumpers of league centers, as well as a reliable jump hook. What earned him praise from me while he was in San Antonio was his offensive rebounding. Rasho isn't quick and doesn't strike you as an energetic guy, but he has a knack for working his way under the basket and getting his team extra opportunities.
Another big reason why Toronto needed this deal, Chris Bosh. Bosh is quickly becoming one of the marquee players in this league, making his first All-Star Game last year and averaging 22.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. The problem is that Bosh has been forced to play out of position, playing at center instead of his natural foward position. Bosh is 6-9 and about 220 pounds and while he is an extremely talented player, he is not a true center. The acquisition of Rasho Nesterovic frees up Bosh to move back into the power forward slot and will relieve Bosh of some defensive pressures when the Raptors face teams with low post threats.
Both teams got exactly what they wanted in this deal, which is rare in today's NBA. We may not know just how well this deal works out until we see how the Spurs want to use their extra bit of freed up cap room. We'll also have to wait and see how long Rasho keeps his play elevated. After his first year in San Antonio, he seemed to fall off a little bit.
For now, however, this looks like a smart trade and a good start to his NBA offseason. Here's to more fun this summer.