Last year, the Nets traded Richard Jefferson for what will amount to be cap room in 2010.
They got back Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons, both of whom suck, but both of whom would help the team financially during the super summer of next season.
Simmons still comes off the books, so I guess the Nets are getting what they ultimately wanted.
But they also got Yi, and expected him to be part of their young core, a core which includes Devin Harris and soon-to-be-drafted Brook Lopez, Ryan Andersen, and Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Yi had been the fifth-overall pick one year prior, and his poor showing was claimed to have been related to his desire not to play in Milwaukee. Apparently, Jersey is more fun.
But "more fun" doesn't make him any good, and he continued to play at a mediocre level last year.
Now there are reports that the Nets, like the Bucks, have already given up on the Yi project. Apparently, the Nets were "privately critical" of his shoot-first mentality, but I think his complete and utter lack of production has more to do with this. He's not Yao—not by any stretch.
There are two problems here. First of all, who's going to take him? Isiah is out of the NBA, so who else would want to acquire a guy who's been given up on by two different teams in his first two years? He's failed twice in a row, and does anyone seriously believe he's going to live up to his pre-draft hype?
At best, the Nets will find someone willing to take a flyer on a young, cheap player, but they won't give up much to take him on. Trading Yi might amount to simply addition by subtraction, and nothing more.
But that leads to the second problem. The Nets' trade of Jefferson may have been salary-cap-motivated, but it really hurt the team, and they got no talent in return. By trying to move Yi, the Nets are admitting this fact, and if they do somehow trade him, they'll be committing to it. Richard Jefferson got us nothing besides Bobby Simmons' slightly-shorter contract. That's flat-out terrible.
As much as I understand what the Nets are trying to do here, they could have potentially made the playoffs with a lineup that included Vince Carter, Jefferson, Harris, and Lopez. While they're getting a better draft pick by missing the playoffs, the goal is always to win, and Jefferson would have drastically helped this team. Couldn't they have gotten a better return for him? Anything?
LeBron James is a maybe at this point. Once considered a real possibility (he's a friend of part-owner Jay-Zed, and he likes New York—particularly Brooklyn), the stalling on the new arena has made the star a remote hope. He doesn't want to play in New Jersey like Yi.
It's not impossible, but the reigning MVP's chances of coming here grow slimmer every day. There are other available superstars that year, to be sure, but we all know who the Nets really wanted, and that's not very likely anymore.
The Nets probably could have afforded a different star even with RJ on the team, so in the end, this trade appears to be a total disaster. No return, and the prize of 2010 a long shot. Lovely.
Oh, and speaking of 2010 free agents, Lawrence Frank is returning this year as head coach. Blech.