Saturday, December 28, 2013

How to Solve the Nets

Photo via ESPN
It was Thursday, June 13th when the Brooklyn Nets hired the greatest player in their team's history, Jason Kidd, to be the head coach of the team.  It was only two weeks later on Thursday, June 27th when the Nets acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. It was only days later that the team in Brooklyn signed Shaun Livingston, Andrei Kirilenko and Alan Anderson. The Nets were the talk of the town, and not just of New York, but of the entire National Basketball Association landscape. Do you remember when Jeff Van Gundy, on ESPN Radio 98.7 FM, said the Nets had the best starting five in the NBA. Do you remember when Sports Illustrated put the Nets on the cover of its NBA Preview issue. Well, with the addition of one of the greatest point guards in NBA history as coach and two future hall of famers in KG and 'The Truth' the Nets seemed destined to a 50-win season and a deep playoff run.

Let's fast forward to today, the Nets are coming off a rare win against the worst team in the basketball, the Milwaukee Bucks. To say the Nets have been a disaster would be an understatement. To say Jason Kidd has done a horrendous job would not be strong enough. To say that Paul Pierce has shown as little interest in playing for an NBA team as possible, would be, well factual. To say that Deron Williams is a top 10 point guard would be, questionable. Lastly, to deem KG as old and "not as athletic"would be... nice of you. The Nets are terrible on so many levels that change has to be imminent.

Before we delve into the moves that should be made, we must first evaluate what we have and for how long do we have these "assets". Through the image above, from, the Nets are slated to pay Joe Johnson max money for the next three years. It is very common to talk about "unmovable" contracts given the new CBA and Joe Johnson happens to be one of those unmovable pieces. His game has dipped mightily and he is one of the highest paid players in the league. The only possibility of a Johnson trade could be if their russian owner, Mr. Prokhorov, is willing to pay Johnson's salary while he plays for another team. Still, Nets fans, enjoy watching Iso-Joe, #7, for the next three years. The only way the Nets will be able to move Joe Johnson is if they take back a contract as bad as his and frankly there aren't many that are worse.

The subject of trading Deron Williams has surfaced in the last few weeks, most notably when Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, offered Billy King Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik for Deron. Now, on paper the trade appears to be in the favor of the Rockets. Deron Williams has been tabbed as one of the best point guards in basketball since 2006. However, let's legitimately look into the specifics of this deal. Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik are two young players who are on contracts that will end after the 2014-2015 season. Jeremy Lin has a higher PER (player efficiency rating) than Deron Williams. Personally, the deal is a no brainer for the Nets. Deron has shown both the inability to lead as well as be that superstar player. This is on top of the fact that he has not been healthy at all in his stint with the Nets. The Nets through this trade would be clear a ton of cap, so they could be real players in the 2015 and 2016 free agencies when players such as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol and others become available. Remember, Brooklyn resident and former owner Jay Z is Kevin Durant's agent. Asik and Lin would provide the Nets with more efficient playing and most of all more heart and hustle. For Nets fans who still have this image of Deron Williams as a super star, you are greatly mistaken. Beyond the health issues, there are about 9-10 point guards who have shown that they are better point guards in this league than D-Will. All stats and winning percentages of their respective teams show that CP3, Steph Curry, Westbrook, Parker, Wall, Lillard, Lawson, Irving, Conley are all better than Deron. By the way I didn't even include Derrick Rose. Deron currently ranks 21st in the NBA in PER for all point guards

On the matter of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, with the team in such disarray and their playing being so poor, why the Nets would decide to let these guys play out their contracts makes no sense. Though Pierce and Garnett have never had such little value in their entire career, it would be hard to believe that no contender would be willing to give up what will be a late first round pick for the pair of them. True KG does have a no trade clause, but let's be realistic about the situation in Brooklyn. Whether the Nets make the playoffs or not is completely irrelevant. This team cannot compete with the eastern elite and the fall of Brook Lopez means that this team has no chance to do any damage in the playoffs. KG and Pierce came to Brooklyn to be glorified role players on a contending team. With contention out the window, these guys must be dealt. Pierce is a free agent after this year and KG has one more year. It seems highly unlikely that Pierce and KG are back, Garnett will most likely seek a buyout or retire, while Pierce has already been rumored to be looking west for next season. Shedding these two contracts and gaining some type of pick or mediocre talent in return is the best way to handle the two Celtic legends.

While ESPN writers have written that the Nets should consider trading Brook Lopez, this idea makes little sense. For one, with Lopez's foot injury he has as little value as he has ever had. The comparisons to Sam Bowie, Bill Walton and Yao Ming are as prevalent as ever. Foot problems for centers usually do not go away. The Nets must stick with Lopez and if they do consider trading him, they need to wait until he is back to full strength and looks like an all star.

With the moves stated above the Nets would shed salary and gain some young talent back. Let's not forget that the Nets do not have draft picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018 and the Celtics have the right to swap picks in 2017. This team is going to have to rebuild itself through free agency and flexibility in trades for the coming years. By shedding salary and gaining assets such as Lin and Asik, the Nets will have more enticing assets that they can put together in future trades, possibly with Teletovic and Bogdanovic. This team will not become a contender the way the Spurs and Thunder became contenders, through the draft, rather they need to make smart decisions in free agency and trades.

The last issue to deal with is the topic of the Nets coaching dilemma. As it has been reported, Jason Kidd has lost the Nets locker room and has "isolated" himself from both the locker room and the front office. Kidd has shown the inability to both lead and take responsibility for the disaster in Brooklyn. While coaching is not the number one issue in Brooklyn, a more stable and tenured coach would have made the transitions in Brooklyn far smoother. Whether Billy King, who might be on his way out also, decides to keep Kidd or not is probably a matter of how bad it does get. Kidd has called out his players and unless he starts winning King will have to call out Kidd to his office.

Is this situation desirable, of course not. But instead of wishing the team was playing better and hoping people will be healthy, the Nets must deal with the situation at hand. The moves done by Billy King have been an absolute disaster. They have traded young talent and picks that have become Damian Lillard, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and more in the coming years. They have taken on horrendous contracts to players whose better years were far behind them. They hired one of the most expensive coaching staffs in NBA history that has led to a 10-19 record. Changes must be made, sooner rather than later.

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