How did the Miami Heat front office assemble the core that just won them a title? They started by drafting Dwyane Wade and signing Udonis Haslem in 2003. They drafted Mario Chalmers in the second round in 2008, giving them a mediocre but still capable starting point guard for the future.
After that? Then they convinced the best player in the NBA, LeBron James, and another top-20 player, Chris Bosh, to join forces with their star, giving them an elite big three. At that point, they became a prime destination for veterans who can't do much individually to join up and chase titles. And with the exception of acquiring Norris Cole on draft night, the rest is history.
The deal that almost brought him in was for Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks, and three first round picks. Why don't we throw in another pick and cash, even though that may not be exactly what else will be needed.
People are saying that they'd have a big three, in Deron Williams, Howard, and the newly acquired Joe Johnson, and some even say a big four, since they did resign Gerald Wallace.
I'll say that they have the best, um, dynamic duo in basketball, with Williams and Howard, with a great supporting cast. I do, however, feel that if Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace start to look like they did just two years ago, which isn't impossible, they would have a legitimate big four.
Who would you rather root for?
They'd also have a balanced group of role players, which would include the newly acquired Reggie Evans and a surprisingly reliable Gerald Green. (The jury is still out on the recently-signed Mirza Teletovic.)
I'm sure somebody reading this is going to disagree with me, but I think that if this core stays healthy and develops basic chemistry, and nobody major is an epic disappointment (a little bit less than Lamar Odom this year), they will have a realistic shot at winning the title, and they could even end up as a favorite.
I've hated the Heat since the beginning of their Big Three era. Not just because of "The Decision". Not just because of that infamous rally (you know, "not five, not six, not seven"). I just can't stand the idea of superstars teaming up in the manner that they did. What did the Heat do? They cleared a bunch of cap space and presented the idea to the players. It almost came off as a conspiracy.
Why do I feel much different about the Nets? Here's a loose timeline of great decisions that have all contributed to them becoming an elite team, if the Howard deal works out.
First, they acquired Devin Harris in 2008 in a complicated trade, and they quickly helped him become a star.
In the 2008 NBA Draft, they wisely chose Brook Lopez with the 10th overall pick.
In 2009, the franchise was sold to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who is intelligent, capable of running a business (duh) and has no problem spending as much money as allowed.
They picked Derrick Favors in the 2010 draft, who had superstar potential.
In free agency that year, they signed Jordan Farmar and traded a second-rounder for Anthony Morrow.
At the 2011 trade deadline, they traded Favors and Harris plus two picks and cash to the Jazz for Deron Williams, solely banking on being able to convince him to re-sign.
The franchise, led by new owner Prokhorov, sped up their efforts to move to Brooklyn, which would make them a big market team, knowing that otherwise, Deron Williams would leave in free agency like most expected.
The Nets drafted JaJuan Johnson with the 27th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, and immediately traded him with a future second-rounder for Marshon Brooks, who quickly became regarded as one of the steals of the draft. They also drafted promising bigman Jordan Williams from Maryland.
Right before the shortened season, the team traded a second-rounder to Utah for Mehmet Okur, a quality center when healthy. They also signed DeShawn Stevenson for a year.
At the trade deadline in 2012, the team traded a first round pick, Mehmet Okur, and Shawne Williams to Portland for Gerald Wallace, who seemed destined to leave in free agency after the season. While this trade wasn't great on paper, as the pick ended up becoming Damian Lillard, Gerald Wallace is a perfect fit to play with their new "Big Three". So if they acquire Dwight Howard, this trade can still be counted as a success in the long run.
With Dwight Howard, is the Brooklyn Nets an elite team?
Also at this time, they signed Gerald Green, pulling him back into the NBA. This will go down as one of the best D-League signings of all time, as he put up a very efficient 13 points in only 25 minutes every night. He has been cited as saying he badly wants to resign, although that was a while ago.
At the end of the 2011-2012 season, the franchise finalized their move to Brooklyn before the next season started. Their objective was complete, making them a legitimate big market team that could attract big names. This had to be a big factor in the re-signings of Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace, both of which seemed like hopeless notions at the times that the players were acquired.
I think the fact that the team convinced these guys to resign against all odds has to be considered one of the greater achievements in recent history for the franchise.
While those terms were being worked out, the team came out of nowhere and traded Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Williams, and Deshawn Stevenson, with a first-round pick from Houston (lottery-protected) to the Hawks for All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson.
The trade has been controversial.
Besides the pick, the Hawks essentially just unloaded Johnson in this trade. The Nets got a shooting guard who can score with the best of them, especially in the fourth quarter, but they also got his ridiculous contract.
Also, Joe Johnson tends to disappear in the playoffs, and his past two seasons have been a bit suspect in general (to say the least). However, it should be noted that while his assist and rebound totals went down this past season, his efficiency went up across the board.
Still, an All-Star is an All-Star, and I don't doubt that in the right situation, Johnson can regain his elite status, at least for a bit.
Some people say that this trade was horrible for New Jersey because Joe Johnson is overpaid. Yes, he is overpaid. Arguably the most overpaid player in the NBA. That doesn't mean this trade was overrated.
In my opinion, the perimeter trio of Williams-Johnson-Wallace is the most balanced one in the NBA. And it has to be one of the top five most talented, too. First, all three play defense. In fact, Wallace is one of the best defensive players in the NBA.
They have the shooting, as Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are excellent shooters.
All are good passers for their positions, especially Williams, one of the best distributors of our time.
Both Williams and Wallace can slash extremely well in full or half-court situations. Joe Johnson isn't that bad himself.
They can all get to the line and succeed there. All of them can post up to some degree, especially Johnson, and all of them can play on or off-ball, and play multiple positions well.
Milking it for all it's worth, it's also a trio that can rebound well for perimeter players.
The point is, the team didn't just assemble the most talent they could. They assembled the smartest combination of talent they could, and I commend them for that.
So now, the team has an elite perimeter, Reggie Evans (anybody who has seen him play knows that no explanation is necessary), some major frontcourt assets (Humphries and Lopez), and a budding star in Marshon Brooks.
Now the Brooklyn Nets is a big market franchise with talent and money, something that attracts free agents. Thus, Dwight Howard is begging to play there.
If they do pull off the Dwight Howard trade, they'd have to be considered strong contenders to win it all, and while I won't be calling myself a "true Nets fan" any time soon, I'll support all the success that comes to them, something I can't say about Miami.