Even though the NBA Draft is less than a week away and the free agency period still hasn’t started, that hasn’t stopped some teams from getting a jump on their offseasons and finalizing trades already. In the last two weeks the Milwaukee Bucks have traded forward Ersan Ilyasova to the Detroit Pistons for swingmen Caron Butler and Shawne Williams, while the Charlotte Hornets jettisoned guard Lance Stephenson to the Los Angeles Clippers for center Spencer Hawes and small forward Matt Barnes. It is with pleasure that we now see the return of SportsZone’s Trade Grades for both deals:

ERSAN ILYASOVA FOR CARON BUTLER AND SHAWNE WILLIAMS

MILWAUKEE– A-

Ilyasova has had a particularly frustrating career for the Bucks, especially since he signed multi-year extension in 2012, and has missed over 20 games a year since. The Bucks have since began moving in a different direction, building their core around younger players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, the recovering Jabari Parker, and Khris Middleton (who is a restricted free agent), and John Henson. Ilyasova became expendable as a result, and the main goal is clearing cap space to sign Middleton long-term while still having enough room left to make a run at either Brook Lopez or Tyson Chandler to solidify the middle, as they are reportedly eager to pursue. Both Butler and Williams are expected to be released, potentially leaving the Bucks with over $22 million to play with this summer. This trade was the right step towards giving them enough flexibility to bring back the budding star Middleton, while still be able to add what could be the final piece they need to be seen as legitimate in the East- a legitimate front line center.

DETROIT– B+

ersan-ilysaova-trade-bucks-pistons-greg-monroe-futureThe Pistons are expected to lose Greg Monroe in free agency, and this trade gives them a bit of a buffer when that happens. Ilyasova may never be the player Monroe is, but alongside Andre Drummond, Ilyasova may prove to be the better fit. While Monroe and Drummond tended to hinder the other’s production, bringing in a stretch-four who can complement the young big man could wind up being the perfect solution for Stan Van Gundy in his second year running the organization. Neither Butler or Williams are a part of their long-term plans, and the Pistons do still have approximately $20 million remaining in cap space to try to bring back Reggie Jackson, so this trade wasn’t a giant cost financially. If Ilyasova can stay healthy, this could be a major steal for the Pistons.

LANCE STEPHENSON FOR SPENCER HAWES AND MATT BARNES

CHARLOTTE- B-

This trade represents a major concession that their sole major signing from last season was a mistake. Given a three-year/$27 million contract, the Hornets began shopping him reportedly two months into this past season (with the Nets and Thunder both linked at some point) after injuries and ineffectiveness took over during the early part of the season. In retrospect he just never fit the Bobcats scheme with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson leading a solid nucleus that also includes Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. In trading him for Hawes, they get a stretch four they haven’t had since Josh McRoberts left for Miami before last season, provided he bounces back from a terrible year in Los Angeles after signing a free agent contract himself. Barnes could be waived, or he could be kept to provide some veteran leadership and outside shooting, but regardless, this was a solid return for a player they probably never should have signed.

LOS ANGELES- A

IMG_2339-332x220The Clippers weakness has always seemed to be depth on the wings, and Stephenson might not only be the solution, but he is young enough to become a valued member of Doc Rivers’ core for the foreseeable future if he can dispel the rumors that he is a bad presence in the locker room, and can recapture the magic that saw him lead the league in triple-doubles for the 56-win Indiana Pacers in 2013-14. Rivers has stated that he will come off the bench to start the season, and the Clippers plan to add more wing players while currently shopping Jamal Crawford (they are rumored to be in the mix for free agent Paul Pierce, and may pursue Wilson Chandler via a trade from the Nuggets). The fact that they traded their backup center seems to indicate their faith that DeAndre Jordan will resign long-term, and this is a big risk if Stephenson’s immaturity continues and they wind up losing Jordan, but there is also the opportunity for an equally big reward if being surrounded by Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the revered Rivers can finally wake Stephenson up and get him back to the level he was playing at before he blew in LeBron James’ ear.

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