Wednesday, December 15, is the first day in the NBA that free agents who signed this summer can be dealt, and the Los Angeles Lakers appear to be active on the opening day of trading season. The Lakers are close to finalizing a three-way trade with the New Jersey Nets and Houston Rockets that will in essence trade Sasha Vujacic and his salary for Joe Smith, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
According to the report, the Lakers will trade Vujacic and their 2011 first-round draft pick to New Jersey, and receive Smith. The Nets will also trade Terrence Williams to Houston for the Rockets' first-round pick in 2012. Vujacic makes over $5.3 million in the final year of his contract, and the motivation for this deal appears to be financial. Salary cap expert Larry Coon of ESPN.com estimates the trade will save the Lakers $9.24 million, including the luxury tax.
Vujacic has seen his minutes decline in the last two seasons, and has played poorly ever since signing a three-year contract after the 2007-2008 season. This season, Vujacic is averaging just 4.9 minutes per contest, and has fallen behind Shannon Brown and Steve Blake in the guard rotation off the bench. Vujacic has shot just 38.9% from the field since the start of the 2008-2009 season.
The 6-foot-10 Smith figures to give the Lakers some much-needed front court depth, especially with Theo Ratliff out after left knee surgery. The Lakers are getting another boost tonight, with the return of center Andrwe Bynum in Washington D.C. Smith has played in just four games this season, totaling all of 25 minutes. The Lakers will be the 12th team Smith has played for in his vagabond career.
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