The Brooklyn Nets are the epitome of misguided. Their problems started shortly after Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov bought the team. They started when they made the trade for Deron Williams then snowballed with the Gerald Wallace trade, train wrecked with the Joe Johnson move, and finally hit rock bottom with the acquisition of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett this summer. What follows is a detailed look back at what the Nets gave up and what the Nets got back in return.
In the Deron Williams trade nearly three years ago, the Nets gave up Devin Harris, who at the time was averaging 15 points and 8 assists for the Nets. Granted, the Nets were pretty terrible that year – 17-40 in fact – but they gave up a king’s ransom to get Deron Williams when they weren’t a good team or one player away from contending. So, we have Devin Harris who was one piece of the trade. He had an additional two years and $17.8 million remaining on his contract after the trade was completed. Deron Williams had an additional two years and $34.1 million. So, we’re looking at a player who was paid nearly double that of a guy at the same position that he was traded for. If that was all the Nets had traded away, they still would have lost that trade in my eyes simply because Williams was a malcontent at the time and the difference in salaries was so astronomical. But the Nets added more to it.
The Nets, in the Deron Williams deal, also gave up Derrick Favors, who had just been selected with the third overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft and was still, obviously, in his first year. Before the trade, Favors was averaging 6 points and 5 rebounds in 19.5 minutes while being a 19-year old rookie who had elite potential at both ends of the floor. The Nets gave up on him. For Deron Williams. There’s one first round pick, basically. The Nets then gave up two more first round picks. One in 2011 and one in 2013. The pick in 2011 turned out to be a top three pick. With it, the Utah Jazz selected Enes Kanter. In 2013, the pick that Utah got from the deal was used on Gorgui Dieng, another big man, but the Jazz flipped Dieng and their earlier pick to Minnesota for the draft rights to Trey Burke, the top point guard in the draft. So, essentially, the Nets traded away two foundational big men and two point guards, one who had promise, for Deron Williams. Three of those four guys are still in Utah and the three of them have been in the starting lineup. Three-fifths of a starting lineup, for this year, were sent in return for Deron Williams. Pretty crazy. And that’s just ONE! deal.
As if things weren’t crazy enough after that, 13 months later, the Nets traded away the expiring contract of Mehmet Okur, which at the time was nearly $11 million, and Shawne Williams, who had another year on his deal but for only $2.6 million, for Gerald Wallace. The Blazers actually waived Williams in the offseason that year. The irony of this deal is that both Okur and Wallace were set to be free agents at the end of the year and thus were just expiring deals switching places. Except the Nets had other plans in mind. They figured if they could re-sign Gerald Wallace, they’d be able to re-sign Deron Williams. Mission accomplished. They did. They re-signed Gerald Wallace to a lovely 4-year, $40 million deal. Keep Wallace’s name in mind. He’ll back up in a little bit. So they traded away Okur and Williams for Wallace but then decided to sweeten the pot a little bit. They decided to not only give the Portland Trail Blazers a first round pick in the deal but they only slapped top three protection on it since they didn’t like anyone in the draft after the top three players on their board. Funny, right? The top three that year being Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Bradley Beal. The pick ended up sixth. The Blazers then used it on Damian Lillard, who went on to win Rookie of the Year and has already looked like he’s going to be a damn fine point guard in the NBA for a long time. That’s super young talented point guard number two that the Nets basically gave away in draft pick form. On top of the two super young big men. Four potential franchise players. In two deals. For two guys. Who they re-signed for a grand total of $139 million. And away we go.
Is this also a good time to mention that on the same day they traded for Deron Williams, the Nets gave away the nearly $12 million expiring contract of Troy Murphy and a 2012 second round pick, which ironically turned out to be Draymond Green, to the Golden State Warriors for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric? Seems like a good time to mention that. So that’s four cornerstone players and a key rotational player so far. Let’s continue!
After all those deals and misfirings, the Nets still dreamed big. So what did they do? They made a call to Atlanta who had just recently re-signed Joe Johnson for a whopping 6 years and $124 million. Yup. This actually happened. This isn’t a dream. This isn’t a different article. The Nets really did this. Oh, and not only did they do this but they did it by giving up multiple expiring contracts in the form of Jordan Williams, Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar, and Anthony Morrow. DeShawn Stevenson was also in that deal and was used as a sign-and-trade to make the deal come to fruition on the financial front. But it gets better. The Nets also gave up a 2013 first round pick, which they had gotten from the Rockets, that turned out to be 18th overall. Who got picked? Shane Larkin. Another point guard. Sensing a theme here? Thought so. Oh but it gets better! The Nets also gave the Hawks the option to swap 2014 and 2015 first round picks. Meaning, if the Nets have a top five pick this year and the Hawks pick fall, say, in the 15-20 range, the Hawks can swap picks with the Nets thus giving Atlanta a top five pick and making Brooklyn pick in the 15-20 range. But, the Nets wouldn’t be able to use that pick. (More on that in a minute!) In 2015, the Nets actually have a first round pick but the Hawks can swap that pick with them as well. So, the Nets will have a pick but the Hawks control which pick they’ll get. Awesome.
This all brings us to what happened this offseason in July. After all these botched moves, draft screw-ups, and a first round exit to a Chicago team that was injured beyond repair, the Nets decided they needed to add not only more salary, but give up valuable pieces to get these guys. So, what did they do? Well, they traded for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry. And how did they do this? By giving up Gerald Wallace (REMEMBER HIM?!), Kris Humphries (who had a $12 million expiring contract), MarShon Brooks ($1.2 million expiring), Kris Joseph (waived by Boston 3 days after the trade), and Keith Bogans. Now, Bogans is interesting. He signed a near $16 million deal for three years. But here’s the catch. Only the first year is guaranteed. He’s essentially a $5 million expiring contract. The last two years are not even guaranteed for one penny. So he’s an expiring deal. If you lost count, the Nets gave up, basically, $22 million in expiring contracts to make this happen. And then they gave up THREE! first round picks (outright) and the right to swap one more. Their 2016 and 2018 first round picks go to Boston no matter what. Nets don’t have a pick in those drafts now. They gave up a 2014 pick in this deal, as well. The 2014 pick, as I mentioned was a right-to-swap pick with Atlanta but instead of it being Atlanta and Brooklyn doing the swap it’ll now be Atlanta and Boston doing it. Atlanta will get the better of the two picks and Boston will get the lesser. Boston has the option to swap 2017 picks with them. So the Nets, who will probably suck in 2017, could get a top five pick in that draft but pick way later. It’s the same thing Atlanta could do. Remember that situation? This is all bad.
And then it got worse. They not only re-signed Billy King as the GM this offseason but they hired Jason Kidd to be their head coach and decided to pay him more money to coach the Brooklyn Nets than the New York Knicks were going to pay him to actually play basketball for them. They then hired Lawrence Frank as an assistant coach, fired him a month or so into the season, and are basically stuck in a rut that no one can explain because they’re too old, too cash strapped, and too dumb for their own good. It’s a mess. A complete and total mess. But don’t worry. There is a way out of this for the Nets. Trust me. I got it. Trade everyone. Not even joking. Trade everyone.
After this season, Joe Johnson has another two years and $48 million. It’s all guaranteed. There’s no early opt out. The Nets are stuck with this unless they can find a taker for it. A team like Charlotte would make some sense. They’re on the verge of possibly being a playoff team this year and in the East they could stand a chance at winning a first round series if they can get into either of the 3-6 or 4-5 matchups. The Bobcats currently sit in a tie for the 6-seed but are only two games back of the 3-seed right now and a half-game back of the 5-seed. So, essentially, they’re right there. A trade of Joe Johnson for Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions would work. Gordon and Sessions have expiring deals of $18.2 million combined. It’s a little bit of a steep price for Charlotte to pay but a team of Kemba Walker, Joe Johnson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, and Al Jefferson with Gerald Henderson off the bench as the sixth man isn’t too bad. The Bobcats are also in an interesting spot. They own the Pistons pick (Top 8 protected) and the Blazers pick (Top 12 protected) this year. They’re going to get both. Both are playoff teams at this moment. However, their own pick is owed to Chicago but has Top 10 protection. Right now, Charlotte is outside of the top ten and in the playoffs. In the East, they’re too good to be bad. As crazy as that sounds. They’re going to have to make a trade that pushes that pick further down. A Joe Johnson deal would do that. And it’d give them a good chance of making it out of the first round this year.
Paul Pierce is a hard move even though he’s an expiring contract. A team would have to be convinced that his $15.3 million is worthwhile enough to add to the books even if it’s just for a few months. Rumors are circulating that New Orleans wants to get out from under the Eric Gordon deal that Phoenix signed him to as a restricted free agent about a year ago. They want to move Tyreke Evans to the two spot and a trade for Paul Pierce might make some semblance of sense. The Nets could give up Paul Pierce and the draft rights to Bojan Bogdanovic, who might come over next year and is a talented two-guard, for Eric Gordon and his remaining $30.4 million over two years. It’s a slightly long-term deal but Gordon does have an opt-out clause after the 2014-2015 season. So, it could just be a short stint in Brooklyn for him. The Pelicans get cap relief in the offseason, the ability to get rid of Gordon, the option to move Evans to the two spot, and a veteran to help in their playoff pursuit.
Next up is Kevin Garnett, who won’t be easy to move because of his no-trade clause but does have some perceived value out there on the market. After this season, he has one year and $12 million left and that could be a problem but odds are he’s going to retire anyways thus it’s almost like an expiring deal. An interesting trade partner is Phoenix. Right now they’re overachieving a little bit at 13-9 and currently sit in the playoff race. They could conceivably trade Emeka Okafor’s expiring contract for Kevin Garnett, who would give them a seriously viable defender and mid-range shot maker at the power forward spot. As decent as Channing Frye has been this season at that spot, Kevin Garnett could help that team make the playoffs and compete in their first round series. And, as mentioned, he’s basically an expiring contract. The problem would be getting him to agree to that deal. It might be tough but he might also do it.
I’m not even going to mention trading Jason Terry since I think it’s damn near impossible to even do. The other guys on the roster don’t offer much trade value and the only guy left is Deron Williams and his $63 million over the upcoming three seasons. It could be $40.8 million if he opts out after the 2015-2016 season but that’s neither here nor there. Moving him will prove difficult. Moving a point guard this day in age is almost impossible since nearly every team already has one that they trust and love. The only trade that I could come up with that both sides might actually consider, or at least the side obtaining Deron Williams might consider, is Deron Williams to the New York Knicks for Amar’e Stoudemire straight-up. It sounds crazy but Stoudemire has a player option for next season. It runs for $23.4 million. Even if he picks it up, it’s still a deal that runs two years less than Deron Williams’ current contract. That’s a win for the Nets. While Stoudemire does suck now, he’d at least provide some relief in the near future. On the Knicks side, a move like this might keep Carmelo Anthony there for the foreseeable future. A Williams-Carmelo tandem wouldn’t be half bad, especially if surrounded by some of the roleplayers that they have. It’d certainly be a major improvement over what they have now. I could see this happening but then I could see this not happening since I doubt either of these teams would swallow their pride and do this. But it’s what I would do.
That means that after these trades are complete, the Nets would have a starting lineup of Ramon Sessions, Eric Gordon, Alan Anderson, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Brook Lopez. That’s not a good team by any stretch but it’s a start. I’d have acquired $33 million in expiring contracts with the possibility of that number rising up to nearly $55 million if Amar’e Stoudemire opts out. This team would probably still pick in the top ten of the draft. I’m almost certain of that. We wouldn’t have that pick. And I’m okay with that. It’s all about purging the problem and starting anew even if it’s going to suck for a while.
The Nets feature no pick in 2014, not even a second rounder, and will only have two first round picks over the next five NBA drafts. That means the talent influx will be microscopic. No high profile free agents would be likely to sign over the next few years so a quick fix really isn’t that possible. It’ll be a slow rising from the ashes but at least it’ll be a rising. It’ll be better than what’s going on now. Even though the Nets sit just two games out of the playoff picture in the dreadful Eastern Conference, this is as good as it’s going to get for them. Even if they make the playoffs, it won’t be pretty. They’re two games out of the 4-seed. Even if they got that 4-seed, I doubt they win their first round matchup. They’re bad. And I think this is the way to help get them back on the right path. The problem is that the right path is so far in the distance that you’ll need a magnifying glass and Google maps to find it.
All in all, the Nets stink. And they’re in a stinky situation. They did it to themselves and have no one to blame. It was bad decision after bad decision. It was the quicksand effect. When one bad decision didn’t work out, it sunk them a little deeper into the quicksand so they panicked and made another bad move that only sunk them even deeper. The quicksand is over their heads at this point and they’re gasping for air with only one finger poking out of the top. The rope is still there. Their grasp is just further. It’s time to sink or rise. It’s up to them.