In my Tuesday column I predicted the Nets would make a trade before the deadline. Moments later, Mike Mazzeo of ESPN NewYork.com reported that Nets' general manager Billy King released a statement putting the chances he’d make a deal by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline “at probably 10 percent.”
"I like to make trades when I think there's a trade to make that can help the team," King said Tuesday. "And I think we're at a point now where this group's gotta play together more than shaking it up and bringing in a bunch of pieces."
King’s comments put to bed any chances of Brooklyn making a last-minute move.
Many were left scratching their heads when the deadline had come and gone without the Nets acquiring a big name. Just a week earlier, sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that Brooklyn was interested in trading for Ben Gordon, Josh Smith or Paul Millsap.
The Nets seemed like a prime candidate to make a deal. Positioned in fourth place in a weak Eastern Conference at the All-Star break, adding one piece to the puzzle could have made Brooklyn a real threat to the Miami Heat.
But a trade never happened, and we shouldn’t be surprised.
After all, King’s best trade assets were Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and a first-round draft pick. The team is also well over the luxury tax with an $83.5 million payroll.
Despite David Aldridge reporting Thursday afternoon that the Nets were “hanging on by a thread in Josh Smith talks,” (via TweetWood.com) we didn’t really believe the Hawks would give away their high-flying star for the likes of Humphries and Brooks. Did we?
A Humphries-for-Gordon deal seemed far more realistic, but that trade was squashed when the New York Times reported on Wednesday that the Nets “don’t want Gordon, period.”
Sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein that the Nets offered Humphries and Brooks to the Milwaukee Bucks for Ersan Ilyasova and were rejected (via ESPN NewYork.com). If Humphries, Brooks and a first-round pick wasn’t enough for Ilyasova, it certainly wasn’t going to persuade the Hawks to give up Smith.
The Nets clearly wanted to make a trade, but didn’t have the assets to make it happen.
In the end, it was Humphries’ two-year, $24 million contract that prevented the Nets from hooking a big fish like Smith. The team’s first-round draft pick also lost some appeal given that the Nets will more than likely make the playoffs this year.
Many Nets' fans will be disappointed that their team failed to make a trade. The thought of adding Millsap or Smith to a starting lineup that features big names like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace was a mouthwatering prospect; especially given how wide-open the Eastern Conference is this year.
But things are looking up in Brooklyn.
Entering the final year of his contract, Billy King spent a fortune in the offseason with the hope of turning the team into a title contender. What King bought has gelled into a playoff contender with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference, and he should be happy with that.
Standing pat at the trade deadline may not be the worst thing for a team that’s on a four-game winning streak and has beaten every team in the Eastern Conference other than the Heat. It also gives Coach P.J. Carlesimo time to develop young talents like MarShon Brooks and Tyshawn Taylor.
I’m giving Brooklyn’s trade deadline performance a B.
Certainly King has to be somewhat disappointed at not making a trade to upgrade the roster. But the team is talented, deep and playing as well as anyone in the NBA at the moment. Even without an elite power forward, these Nets have what it takes to make a run at the Eastern Conference Finals.