Believe it or not, it's possible to fix the Brooklyn Nets.
I know, I know. It doesn't seem like such a thing can be done now that everything is falling apart in the Barclays Center. While a beautiful arena surrounds the team, the chemistry has dissolved into nothingness, Jason Kidd has lost the team (if he ever had it in the first place), Brook Lopez has broke his foot again, Kevin Garnett has turned into a corpse and the losses are piling up.
It's ugly. Uglier than the socks Jason Terry wore during the Christmas Day shellacking the Nets experienced at the hands of the Chicago Bulls.
But it can be fixed through a series of trades if—and that's a big "if"—the Nets are willing to blow things up.
The current team isn't going to be a competitive squad. Not now, and certainly not in the future when the veteran players continue declining without an influx of talent either through free agency or the draft.
As B/R's Dan Favale wrote, "Their vision was impaired by dollar signs and flashy names, ultimately leaving their present and future outlook muddled by limitations and losing, with no safe haven or sanctuary in sight."
However, that future outlook can be turned around.
It is possible, I promise. But before you proceed, be warned that big moves are necessary. They require you to do more than think about the names that you see on your screen.
Brooklyn Nets receive: Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, 2015 first-round pick, 2015 second-round pick
Daryl Morey loves him some stars, and he'd have the opportunity to add yet another one to the mix for the Houston Rockets if the Brooklyn Nets really did decide to blow things up.
Bleacher Report's Howard Beck confirmed that the two teams have actually discussed swapping Deron Williams for Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, but he also relays a source's quote: "Nothing came of it...seems dead."
That said, the dead nature of the deal was determined before one major development: the injury that knocked Brook Lopez out for the season, throwing all of the Nets' plans into an even more dire state of jeopardy. So long as BroLo remained on the roster, there was an underlying hope that Brooklyn would eventually turn things around and start contending.
Without him, that hope turns into hopelessness.
It feels like a safe assumption that Houston was the team willing to make this swap, and Brooklyn was the one holding things up. After all, the Rockets are getting the immediate return, and it's them that have to throw in some draft picks to sweeten the deal for Brooklyn.
That should be enough for Billy King and the rest of the Brooklyn decision-makers. Not only does the team get a set of draft picks (an increasingly rare commodity in New York), but Lin and Asik come off the books two years sooner than D-Will, which allows them to jump-start the inevitable rebuilding process through free agency rather than stagnating.
Phoenix Suns receive: Brook Lopez
Brooklyn Nets receive: Alex Len, Emeka Okafor, 2014 first-round pick (most favorable), 2014 second-round pick
Everything about this trade screams "DO IT!" for the Phoenix Suns.
Not only does it allow the team to remain at full strength for the 2013-14 season, but it gives them another star player to build around. Committing to a max pair of Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez (assuming that Bledsoe signs for a max deal in the offseason, as should be expected at this point) is risky, especially given the uncertain status of Lopez's future, but it's worth taking the risk.
Especially because the Suns aren't really giving up that much.
Emeka Okafor is nothing more than a heaping pile of money at this point. Alex Len is still brimming over with unrealized potential, but the development of Miles Plumlee and acquisition of Lopez devalues him quite significantly.
Parting ways with a first-round draft pick, especially the most-favorable one, is a hefty price, but the Suns have an abundance of selections. Phoenix will be getting a pick from the Indiana Pacers, and more could be coming from both the Washington Wizards and Minnesota Timberwolves. Remember what general manager Ryan McDonough told NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper?
I think one of the things that’s important for people to realize is that we may not draft four players even if we have four picks. Our preference would probably be to maybe package a few of them. We’re obviously all looking for stars and we feel like we can put together a package as good, if not better, than any other team in the league if and when a star becomes available. That’s kind of generally what we’ve wanted to do, not only with our draft-pick situation but also with the cap space that we’ve acquired.
Lopez certainly counts as a star, and it's unlikely that a more marquee player becomes available before the Suns actually have to use some of those coveted draft picks.
As for the Nets, dealing an All-Star center hurts, but they're landing financial flexibility, a high-upside big man and draft picks that they couldn't otherwise hope to get.
New York Knicks receive: Joe Johnson, Deron Williams
Brooklyn Nets receive: Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, 2018 first-round pick
At first glance, this trade looks ridiculously lopsided.
The New York Knicks are giving up two disappointing big men, an underwhelming point guard and a shooting guard who has failed to break out? And the pick they're parting with doesn't change hands until 2018?
Talk about a ripoff. Except this time, the Knicks are the ones doing the ripping off, not the ones being ripped off. How's that for a change of pace?
But that's only the reaction at first glance. Once you dig deep and examine the motivation for the Brooklyn Nets, this becomes a heck of a lot more logical.
Take a look at the years remaining on the contracts of all players involved:
- Joe Johnson: Three years
- Deron Williams: Four years
- Amar'e Stoudemire: Two years
- Andrea Bargnani: Two years
- Raymond Felton: Three years
- Iman Shumpert: Two years
It's all about making future improvements possible for Brooklyn.
Given the current state of the team's roster, things are only going to get worse. There's no cap relief coming in the near future, and both Johnson and Williams will only get harder to trade as they continue aging. Brooklyn will inevitable be saddled with two albatross contracts—especially Johnson's—if it can't part ways with them relatively soon.
At the conclusion of the 2014-15 season, STAT, Bargnani and Shumpert come off the books. And it's not like Felton is the most expensive point guard out there. The Nets would finally have some flexibility, giving them the ability to spend money and start over via free agency rather than wait another year for Johnson's contract to expire.
They've put themselves in this situation. On the surface level, this isn't a fair trade. But the Nets aren't in a position where they can expect equal returns for their premier talent.
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Andray Blatche
Brooklyn Nets receive: Perry Jones, 2014 first-rounder
Finally, a smaller deal.
Andray Blatche is a luxury item for the Brooklyn Nets, and those are only good to have on the roster when you're actually competitive.
What good is a Rolex on the wrist of a person who's extremely down on his luck? Unless that watch has some serious sentimental value, it's much better to pawn it off for most of its value so that the person in question can get back on his feet. Then he or she can worry about acquiring another Rolex later, just after getting a house/car/etc.
Blatche has become such an item for the Nets thanks to a successful redemption project that has made the ugly end of his Washington Wizards days into a memory of the distant past. He's an offensive spark plug off the bench, and that wouldn't change if he threw on a different jersey.
During the 2013-14 season, the man once nicknamed Bulletproof has averaged 11.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game, shooting 45.8 percent from the field. But it's not like he has much sentimental value to a struggling Brooklyn squad.
The Thunder could use a bit of offensive punch in the frontcourt, especially coming off the bench to replace Serge Ibaka or Kendrick Perkins. Steven Adams will get there one day, but that day has not yet arrived. Blatche could very well become the piece that pushes them over the top, completing the depth chart and making them prohibitive favorites to win the title.
For OKC, that should be worth giving up Perry Jones III, despite how he's played recently, as well as a 2014 first-rounder that will likely come so late in the proceedings that it may as well be a second-round selection.
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry
Brooklyn Nets receive: Perry Jones, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha, Ryan Gomes, 2014 first-rounder
We're not done making the Oklahoma City Thunder better.
In fact, let's give them two veteran role players—yes, it's sad, but we're at that point in Kevin Garnett's career—that shore up weaknesses and help add depth to an already-stacked team.
KG could immediately step into the starting lineup at center, and he wouldn't be asked to play right around the basket too much thanks to the shot-blocking presence of Serge Ibaka. Jason Terry could either start at shooting guard or come off the bench behind Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb.
All of a sudden, the Thunder would be even more talented, and they wouldn't be giving up much in return.
Kendrick Perkins, despite the role he plays for the Thunder, is basically worthless. Thabo Sefolosha is the biggest loss, as his wing defense is quite valuable. But the rest of the pieces aren't key contributors and, as discussed on the previous slide, the first-round pick is basically a second-round selection.
So, if the Nets aren't getting much in return for these big-name players, why do it?
Again, it's all about the expiring nature of the contracts.
Sefolosha is on an expiring deal. So is Ryan Gomes. Perkins is signed through 2014-15, and while Jones has three years remaining on his rookie contract, it's a cheap one, and he should be viewed as a long-term investment anyway.
While adding a pick, the Nets start to clear the books for the future once more.
Brooklyn gives up: Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry
Brooklyn receives: Omer Asik, Ryan Gomes, Jeremy Lin, Alex Len, Perry Jones, Emeka Okafor, Kendrick Perkins, Thabos Sefolosha, 2014 first-rounder (from Phoenix), 2014 first-rounder (from Oklahoma City), 2015 first-rounder (from Houston), 2014 second-rounder (from Phoenix), 2015 second-rounder (from Houston)
The beautiful thing about these trades is that they don't have to be individual moves. Billy King has the ability to make them in conjunction with one another, though the New York Knicks deal and the first of the two swaps with OKC aren't included here due to repeating parts.
But look at the combined impact of trading with the Rockets, Suns and Thunder!
How could King turn down that haul? He's getting two high-potential players (Jones and Len), a bunch of solid parts (primarily Asik and Lin) and five draft picks, three of which come in the first round.
Here's what the Brooklyn depth chart would look like after the trio of trades and the ensuing waive of Ryan Gomes:
- Point guard: Jeremy Lin, Shaun Livingston, Tyshawn Taylor (D-League)
- Shooting guard: Joe Johnson, Thabo Sefolosha
- Small forward: Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko, Perry Jones, Alan Anderson
- Power forward: Reggie Evans, Mirza Teletovic, Tornike Shengelia (D-League)
- Center: Omer Asik, Kendrick Perkins, Mason Plumlee, Alex Len (D-League), Emeka Okafor (injured)
Obviously that isn't going to be a particularly competitive team, but it might be one with enough chemistry and nobody-believes-in-us motivation that it can sneak back into playoff contention in the weak Eastern Conference. But the real reason it works is the future.
In addition to the draft picks, here's what would remain after the 2014-15 season comes to a close:
- Point guard: None
- Shooting guard: Joe Johnson
- Small forward: Perry Jones
- Power forward: None
- Center: Mason Plumlee, Alex Len
The Nets would actually have hope. They'd actually have money to spend, as they'd have space to sign a player to a near-max deal rather than the current state of affairs. According to ShamSports.com, Brooklyn already has $64,097,401 committed for the 2015-16 campaign.
Believe it or not, the Nets would be fixed.