Craigslist has never looked more appealing to the Brooklyn Nets, a team in need of a shakeup of epic proportions.
There, on that classified advertisements website, the Nets could attempt to undo what they, by now, must wish they had never done—purchase a championship roster not fit for winning.
Dire state in mind, it's going to take one helluva written sales pitch. Interest won't be triggered by Brooklyn's desperation alone. Convincing sincerity is a must. The Nets must appeal to the charitable side of their NBA brethren.
Wanted: Trade partners able to transport a ritzy scrap heap from Point We Screwed Up Badly to At Least This Is Cheaper-Land. Must be ready and willing to devour massive contracts in exchange for expiring pacts, draft selections and luxury-tax bill donations. Proposals must be sent directly to Nets general manager Billy King, who can be reached at the hottest seat in Brooklyn, crossroads of which are Please Don't Fire Me Mikhail Prokhorov and Whose Idea Was It To Hire Jason Kidd Anyway?
That, or anything remotely similar, should get the Nets' message across. A bulletin they shouldn't even be posting.
Blowing this roster up was never an option; it was never even a thought. Too much potential lied within this collection of talent.
Pairing Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce with Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson should have brought winning. Championships. Jarring panic wasn't what the Nets had in mind when they invested $102-plus million in their on-court product. But far-flung terror is what they're left with.
Injuries and undermining performances have rattled an already delicate situation. Kidd's decision to banish the experienced Lawrence Frank has complicated matters even further.
Recent events and extensive struggles have brought the Nets here, near the bottom of a morbid Eastern Conference, stranded somewhere between temporary failure and permanent attrition.
Less than 20 games into a season headlined by fading expectations and abridged opportunities, Brooklyn has officially put itself in position to consider the unthinkable. Explore the implausible.
Embrace the end.
Any old trade won't get the Nets out of this quagmire.
Their salary situation is a difficult one to grasp and even harder to fix. Real cap space, the kind that enables them to sign a franchise-altering star, isn't available until 2016.
|Brooklyn's Salary Outlook|
|Season||Guaranteed Total||All-Inclusive Total|
Accelerating the financial process is a must if the Nets wish to blow this convocation up effectively. Dawdling won't get them anywhere. They don't have the rights to their own first-round pick until 2019, so they're not going to rebuild through the draft.
Trading Garnett and Pierce doesn't do much, either. The Truth is on an expiring deal and KG's comes off the books after next season. Recognizing a failed endeavor when he sees one, Pierce could sign elsewhere this summer, while Garnett could either retire or waive his no-trade clause. Compromising that type of flexibility, the only financial flexibility Brooklyn really has, won't do anything.
Moving on starts with everyone else, specifically Brolo, D-Will and Joe-Joe. Each of their contracts runs through at least 2015-16; Williams' comes off the books after 2016-17.
Part and parcel of this drastic action demands the Nets retain Lopez. At only 25, he's Brooklyn's most valuable asset. Lower-limb injuries plague him every now and again, but the Nets won't find another 7-footer with his two-way upside selling hot pretzels on a street corner.
That leaves Williams and Johnson.
Williams is owed close to $59.3 million through 2015-16. If he doesn't exercise his early termination option that following summer, his hold increases to roughly $81.6 million through 2016-17. You better believe he'll play out the life of this deal. With his injury history, there's no way he leaves that much green salad on the table three-plus years from now.
Johnson, meanwhile, is on the books through 2015-16 for a whopping total of (approximately) $69.5 million. Removing him, along with Williams, from the ledger in exchange for expiring deals, or even a contract that runs out in 2015, opens a realm of possibilities.
For argument's sake, let's roll with 2015 as opposed to immediately expiring contracts. Dealing Williams and Johnson won't be easy to begin with, making this scenario more realistic while increasing Brooklyn's trade options.
As shown above, the Nets have close to $46 million in guaranteed salary on tab for 2015-16. Assuming Brolo exercises his player option, Brooklyn's guaranteed total exceeds $62 million. And again, that's just its guaranteed total.
Displace Williams and Johnson from that fold, and suddenly the Nets are looking at around $17 million in guaranteed contracts, putting them in a position to spend freely less than two years from now.
Ideal? No. Nothing about their current situation is ideal. But this scenario is worlds better than the alternative, which is incidentally the path they're leading now.
Yes. Probably. Maybe. I think.
Almost everyone on the Nets is movable, even Pierce and Garnett. Some contending team would gladly assume the short-term financial and health risks involved for the emotion each can inject into a rotation.
Dismantling this roster doesn't start with them. That's the problem. Williams and Johnson, the two players who must go, aren't easy to move.
Logic suggests there will be some team willing to gamble on Williams. He's yet to hit 30 and is a three-time All-Star. The NBA isn't a point guard-starved league—it's just the opposite—but it's one that values talented floor generals, rendering Williams far from immovable.
Johnson's market value is worse. Next to Amar'e Stoudemire he's on the worst deal in the league. With STAT's ending after next season, it could be the absolute worst. But Johnson's healthy enough to play without regard for a minutes cap, so he has that going for him.
That doesn't mean finding a taker for his monstrous deal will be easy. Or even possible. Attaching it to a trade constructed around Pierce could do the trick. More likely, it would take Brolo to sweeten the pot. Even then, I make no guarantees.
Therein lies the biggest obstacle: Moving Johnson. If the Nets can find a way to pawn him off on someone else, a full-blown firesale becomes possible.
Yes, a million, zillion times over.
This team was assembled for one reason and one reason only: to win a championship now. Not in two years; not in a year. Now.
"This season," general manager Billy King said when asked about Brooklyn's title window in October, per the Associated Press (via Sports Illustrated).
But the Nets aren't going to win now. Or, if they leave this group together, even soon. This hodgepodge of talent isn't working out. Williams is constantly battling injuries and Pierce isn't far behind him.
Underachievers are also haunting the roster when this team's actually healthy enough to play. Garnett, Williams and Pierce are all averaging under 12.5 points per game. The former two aren't even hitting double digits. And only two starters—Johnson and Lopez–are registering a PER above the league average of 15.
Brooklyn is a disaster. Worse, it's not even one worth saving.
Honestly, what's this team's ceiling? Atlantic Division titleholder? Bottom-four playoff seed? At a mountainous $102-plus million, I'll pass. Given the choice, I'd rather have the promise of imminent financial plasticity. If not this summer, then next.
Anything that allows the Nets, the financially strapped, draft-pick plundered Nets, to become free-agency players before we start discussing Kevin Durant's availability (2016) must be considered. Entertained. Embraced.
Footing a big-ticket bill for a team that ranks in the bottom 10 of points scored and allowed and assists per game is inexcusable. The Nets aren't only failing to go where they were supposed to, they're going nowhere. And they're bringing a catalog of overpriced and over-the-hill names with them.
The only way out, is through demolition. Start from scratch. Wave the white flag. Abandon ship.
Their only hope is to distance themselves from this incurable atrocity.
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