Sam Dekker was coming home. Then he wasn’t, it turns out.
The Cleveland Cavaliers sent the former University of Wisconsin forward and veteran point guard George Hill to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday for guard Matthew Dellavedova, forward John Henson, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick.
The Bucks then turned around and dealt him to the Washington Wizards for 7-footer Jason Smith and a future second-round draft pick.
Dekker, 24, has played in nine games this season, limited by a left ankle sprain. The 6-foot-9 power forward, who starred for the Badgers from 2012-’15, has averaged 5.3 points per game over three-plus seasons in the NBA, two in Houston and one with the Los Angeles Clippers before landing in Cleveland. The Sheboygan native is averaging 6.3 points, 1 assist and 1.2 steals a game this season.
He missed his 14th straight game Wednesday with an ankle injury.
“This trade allows us to continue to work to improve our team and gives us a young, developing player in Sam whose versatility and athleticism at the forward position will allow him to earn an opportunity to contribute,” said Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld. “We wish Jason the best moving forward and appreciate the value he brought to our team as a great teammate and true professional.”
Smith, 32, is a veteran who averaged 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in 10.8 minutes per game this season.
Hill, who recently returned after missing 11 games with a shoulder injury, is averaging 10.8 points, 2.8 assists and 0.9 steals a game. Hill will give the Bucks a formidable guard trio with Malcolm Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe this season. According to a report by The Athletic, Hill is expected to take his physical on Monday in Milwaukee.
“We’re excited to welcome George and Jason to the Bucks organization,” Milwaukee GM Jon Horst said. “George provides us added depth and experience at the guard position, while Jason gives us another front-court player who can stretch the floor.”
There was an urgency to get the deal agreed to before 6 p.m. on Friday because only players on rosters by then can be re-packaged in other trades before February’s deadline.
Hill is making $19 million this year, approximately equivalent to the combined salaries of Dellavedova and Henson. However, of the $18 million he is owed next season, only $1 million is guaranteed.
It’s Hill’s 2019-’20 contract structure that makes this deal work best for the Bucks since they can waive him by July 1 and only owe him that $1 million. That saves the team, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, about $19 million compared to the 2019-’20 salaries of Dellavedova and Henson considering their base salaries and likely incentives amount to about $20 million.
Opening up salary-cap space is a huge issue for the Bucks, who face a summer in which four of their five starters are expected to become free agents. Khris Middleton will likely opt out of his $13 million contract for 2019-’20 in search of a contract that better reflects his value. Bledsoe and Brook Lopez are in the final year of their deals and are due to hit unrestricted free agency in July. Brogdon, in the final year of his rookie deal, will be a restricted free agent.
With Washington’s inclusion in the deal, the Wizards inch closer to getting under the luxury-tax line. Milwaukee, meanwhile, gets a veteran backup center in Smith while butting up against – but staying under – the luxury tax. Smith’s 2018-’19 contract is worth about $5.5 million.
Henson was longest-tenured member of the Bucks, selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. He is out until at least spring due to left wrist surgery. Dellavedova came from Cleveland — where he won a title and was a fan favorite — in 2016.
“We’re very pleased to bring Delly back to Cleveland and want to welcome John Henson as well,” Cavs general manager Koby Altman said. “This deal satisfied several important aspects for us in terms of having both long- and shorter-term benefits and assets involved. We will continue to look for ways to improve and strengthen our position for the future, while enhancing our ability to compete and grow in the short term also.”
Affectionately known to Cleveland fans as “Delly,” Dellavedova was a key member of the Cavs’ 2016 title team before he signed with the Bucks later that summer. He’s not the same player, and the Cavs are far from being the same team, but his return will soften what has been a difficult season.
Cleveland is just 5-20 and rebuilding in the wake of LeBron James’ departure last summer.
“I’m glad my Aussie brother is back,” Cavs center Tristan Thompson said following a 129-110 loss to Sacramento. “Brings us veteran leadership, a guy that’s won before, a guy that’s going to push Collin (Sexton), control the game for the second unit and he’ll make shots. He’s good at throwing lobs to me, so I’m really happy about that.
“I think it will be good for our team, not just for myself, but for our team.”
The 28-year-old Dellavedova will get a chance re-start his career with the Cavs. The Australian had been buried on Milwaukee’s bench and is averaging just 1.7 points and 2.4 assists in 12 games.