Was it the right move letting Paul Pierce go?
Late on July 12 night and into the very early hours of July 13, news broke that Paul Pierce had decided to leave Brooklyn and sign with the Washington Wizards for the full mid-level exception. Emotions ranged from confused (the Wizards came out of nowhere), to incensed (letting Pierce walk after the blockbuster trade completed a year prior to bring Pierce to Brooklyn), and to joyous (for the ones who always hated the trade and thought that Pierce had nothing left in the tank.) However, letting Pierce bolt fits the future direction the Nets wish to go in as an organization.
The Nets want to get younger while remaining competitive. They want to give younger players, such as Sergey Karasev, Markel Brown, and Cory Jefferson an opportunity so they can properly evaluate the players’ futures on the team. They want to give Bojan Bogdanovic, their big free agent signing of this offseason, to show what he can do on the NBA level. Letting Pierce go does all that.
Trimming payroll was also a major concern for this team. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov doled out an astronomical $193 million in combined player salaries and luxury tax, by far the highest amount of money for a single season. Grantland’s Zach Lowe reported that the team lost $144 million in the 2013-14 season, $131 million more than the team that lost the second most (the Washington Wizards, ironically). Other reports told of how Prokhorov wished to curb his spending in order to get a $1 billion valuation for the team. Paying Paul Pierce $11 million a year over two years (which they had the ability to do, since they owned his bird rights), certainly doesn’t fit Prokhorov’s vision.
Those are just the facts. But, the question is, was letting Pierce go and taking this “get younger and curb spending” route, the right decision? In my opinion, yes, it was and is the correct decision.
Pierce’s production last year wasn’t exactly top-notch. Sure, he was solid, but 13.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game are not irreplaceable. The Nets could get that production, or possibly even better, from Euro-signing Bojan Bogdanovic, who is only making about $10 million over the next three years.
Giving a soon-to-be 37-year old Pierce anywhere from $5 million (what he got from Washington) to $12 million (what Ian Eagle said the Nets were throwing around, numbers wise) a year is not a smart idea, the way I see it. Most players get worse as they age, and there were times last year Pierce looked downright awful.
Not re-signing Pierce will greatly help the Nets financially not only next offseason but for the future as well. After this season, the Nets will have approximately $18 million coming off the books (assuming they decline the player option on Marquis Teague and Alan Anderson declines his player option, like he did this year). That will lower their payroll to about $82 million for the 2015-16 season, and if general manager Billy King (or whomever the GM may be by that time) makes a trade or two to shred payroll (Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, Brook Lopez), this team could get under the luxury tax threshold and avoid the dreaded repeater tax, which can cripple a franchise (you can read more about the repeater tax here.)
Paul Pierce was a nice piece. He wasn't, however, an essential piece, and therefore, I feel letting him go was the right move.