After years of uneventful summers that rarely included a transaction of consequence, GM Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors pulled the trigger on one of the first notable trades of the offseason by sending John Salmons to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for guard Lou Williams and untested center Lucas Nogueira earlier this week.
By ridding themselves of the 34-year-old Salmons and his $7 million price tag for the upcoming season, the Raptors have not only added a useful reserve who can provide an offensive spark off of the pine in Williams, but have also now given themselves at least some insurance in the event that either Greivis Vasquez or Nando de Colo choose to ply their respective trades elsewhere via free agency.
A former second-round draft pick with no college experience, Williams averaged 10.4 PPG with 3.5 APG and 2.1 RPG in just over 24 minutes per game for the Hawks last season. But despite his ability to consistently score, the nine-year veteran has flown under the radar of most casual fans while playing for a pair of struggling franchises.
Expected to start the season on the bench, acquiring Williams and Nogueira for an aging vet like Salmons could be big down the road for Toronto, and following Ujiri’s questionable performance in his first draft with the Raptors, the deal offers more evidence that the outspoken GM has the franchise pointed in the right direction.
Ideally, Williams will equal last season’s offensive production, play some respectable defense, and provide Toronto with a speedy guard who’s able to bring the ball up the court if necessary, an attribute that will undoubtedly come in handy late in the game when foul trouble rears its ugly head.
Most importantly, Williams is far more experienced than a number of other reserves that Ujiri could’ve acquired through the draft or free agency, and the veteran’s presence should allow Kyle Lowry and Vasquez more rest when it’s needed, which theoretically would keep the duo in much better health throughout the season and going into the playoffs.
But the acquisition of Williams could also cause tension among a group of guards that already includes Lowry, Vasquez, de Colo and even Landry Fields, who came to Toronto expecting to be one of the team’s primary ball-handlers. However, any scenario that involves a little healthy competition for playing time should only benefit the Raptors.
While there’s no doubt that Toronto came out ahead in the deal, the most commonly heard criticism of Williams surrounds a decrease in offensive output since the former Hawk tore his ACL in February of 2013. But aside from posting the lowest shooting percentages of his career last season, Williams was still a double-digit scorer who saw action in 60 games.
Considering that Williams only cost the Raptors an overpriced veteran who they had no intention of keeping, this deal is a definite win for Ujiri, and one that has the potential to make a ton of difference during the season.
Ty is an NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldTy.