The trade deadline was supposed to be D-Day for the franchise, D for Dwight. Instead, it became D for Disappointment, Dismay, Disaster. Dwight Howard pulled the ultimate crossover, which for him was probably the right move. How long would his act play in New York? Please. Let him stay in Orlando, soulless Hooterville that it is.
Of course, there was that other transaction Thursday, the trade of Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and the lightly protected 2012 pick for Gerald "Crash" Wallace and now we learn two trade exceptions. It had a number of fans demanding another D, as in Departure. That's more than a bit much. The Nets still have chance for a top three pick and let's not forget the Killer B's have a record of finding talent others miss, the most recent examples being MarShon Brooks and Gerald Green. Let us pray.
As we always note, grades change over time, with some going down and a few going up. So here's our take on the Killer B's, Billy King and Bobby Marks, grading every transaction since July 2010, starting with the most recent. Overall grade right now? Probably a B.
March 18, 2012 - SIgned Gerald Green for the rest of the season, but not for next season (B). The Nets retain Green's Bird Rights for next season, not to mention his good will, but this was the smart move for Green, waiting to see what the market is for his services...and probably for the Nets, who want to retain as much cap flexibility as they can. Reportedly, this was more Green than the Nets. This grade can go up or down in July.
March 16, 2012 - Signed guard Jerry Smith to a 10-day contract (B+) After Green came to the Nets, Smith became the best player in the D-League winning Player of the Month honors. He's the fifth D-League call-up. By having a team and being committed to the D-League, the Nets were able to get a better grip on Green than other teams. Smith has looked good in his short amount of time with the big club. He may or may not make it, but the Nets' return of their $250,000 investment in the Armor is worth a high grade. Special irony addition: Smith and Terrence Williams manned the backcourt for Rick Pitino at Louisville in 2009. On the day Smith, undrafted, was called up to the Nets, T-Will, a lottery pick, was released by the Rockets.
March 15, 2012 - Traded Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur and a conditional first-round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gerald Wallace, receiving two trade exceptions of $3.1 million and $1.3 million in the process (C-). There's no doubt "Crash" Wallace is a very good player...the Nets rate him the ninth best small forward in the NBA and he can play multiple positions. The combination of Wallace and Green give the Nets their best depth at SF since maybe ever. Not bad considering three weeks before they boasted of DeShawn Stevenson and Andre Emmett at the 3. It was also great they were able to get value for Williams contract and make use of Okur's expiring deal, which they had to trade to get anything positive out of that trade. And it appeared that they moved to a win-now mode, wanting to add a piece for Brooklyn. BUT the light protections on the 2012 pick (Nos. 1, 2 or 3) drove fans mad just hours after the loss of Dwight Howard. No deal has more potential to become an A or an F. If the Nets get some luck (good luck with that!), wind up with a top three pick, Wallace and Deron Williams stay, this is looking like an A+. If the Blazers get a great pick, then Wallace and D-Will go elsewhere, this one drops to an F-. Big Risk, Big Reward.
March 15, 2012 - Dwightmare ends with Dwight Howard staying in Orlando (F). The Nets were certain they would wind up with Howard either at the deadline or in free agency, dead certain, bet the ranch certain. They had Dan Fegan in their corner. Howard basically told every other suitor he wanted Brooklyn, told a Russian reporter that Deron Williams and Anthony Morrow were two of his favorite players. He did everything to make the Nets believe he wanted to play with them. So they signed players to one-year deals, passed on solid free agents, passed on renewing Brook Lopez's contract and in general put all their chips on No. 12. Then at 3 a.m. on deadline day, he changes his mind. Weeping and gnashing of teeth ensue. Do the Nets think they can still get him? Yup. If the Magic don't think they can extend him this summer, the thinking is that they will be ready to move him and the Nets would be right there again. Gee, thanks. (Memo to Dan Fegan: U O Us.)
February 27, 2012 - Signed Gerald Green to a 10-day contract. (A) Maybe even an A+. Green had just been selected for the D-League All-Star game, when the Nets invited him to a workout with another former NBA small forward, Alan Anderson, at a gym near Avery Johnson's home in Houston. He aced that and then dominated the All-Star Game. It wasn't as much of a no-brainer as it now seems. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress tweeted recently that every scout he spoke with at the D-League Showcase back in January told him there was no chance Green would be called up. Small Risk, Big Reward. (Those are the best kind).
February 14, 2012 - Waived guard Keith Bogans and signed guard Andre Emmett from the Reno Bighorns (C). Emmett was a smart choice. He was playing at a high level in Reno, but the NBA is a different story. Kudoes to King for bringing up the best D-League talent all season long.
February 1, 2012 - Signed guard Keith Bogans and waived forward Larry Owens. (B) This seemed like a very smart move. Bogans had started every game for the Bulls during their run to the Eastern Conference Finals, played solid defense and shot the three when needed. He got lost in the last-minute lockout roster shuffles and was available when the Nets (again) needed an SF. He soon fell victim to the Nets bad luck, suffering a season-ending injury within two weeks.
January 25, 2012 - Nets send Jordan Williams to the Armor, where he plays 192 minutes in six games and plays through mistakes (B). He gets development time in Springfield which he appreciates. On his return, he gets mostly limited time with the Nets.
January 25, 2012 - Nets decide against renewing Damion James contract beyond this season (B). We believe James has missed more games to injury over the past two years than any player not named Greg Oden. James, the first of three Nets small fowards to undergo season ending surgery on their feet, becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Nets still like him and Billy King tells him, "it's not an indication we're not going to bring you back." The Nets could have waived him, but have kept him around the team, a good sign for James.
January 25, 2012 - Nets decide against offering Brook Lopez a contract extension (C). That means that Brook Lopez can become a restricted free agent this summer when his current contract expires. Done for two reasons: 1) because at that point Lopez was still rehabbing from his broken foot and 2) the Nets wanted as much flexibility for a possible Dwight Howard trade or free agency. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Lopez will get paid this summer, by someone.
January 18, 2012 - Signed forward Larry Owens and waived forward Dennis Horner (C). As Avery Johnson said, the Nets needed bodies at the wing, following injuries, both severe and nagging, to the Nets small forwards. Bad luck for Horner who continued to play well back in Springfield but is a power forward.
December 24, 2011 - By releasing Ime Udoka, the Nets make room for Dennis Horner (B). Horner went undrafted out of North Carolina State in 2010, then after a year overseas in Belgium and Cyrpus, he went to the D-League National Tryouts and caught the attention of Armor GM Milton Lee. He was drafted in the third round by the Armor and in three games showed he had the BBIQ, if not the athleticism or skills of an NBA player. A favorite of his teammates.
December 23, 2011 - Signed DeShawn Stevenson to a one-year $2.5 million contract (D). The Okur trade and Stevenson signing are orchestrated. That permits the Nets to sign a player under the $2.5 million "mini-MLE," which they do with Stevenson. Along with Jordan Farmar, the only Net with a championship ring, having been a big part of the Mavericks' run to the 2011 NBA championship. A solid defender, a clutch shooter and a tough player in Dallas, he was recommended by Deron Williams, just as Shawne Williams and Mehmet Okur were. What's the risk? he showed up out of shape and has looked awful most games.
December 22, 2011 - Waived Stephen Graham (B). Graham filled in admirably at a number of positions in 2010-11 but he also ranked near the bottom of every NBA deep stats ranking. Nets had to decide whether to release him or keep him at $1.1 million. They decided to release him, knowing at that point that Lopez's foot was broken and they might need as much cap space as they can find.
December 22, 2011 - Traded their second rounder in 2015 to the Jazz for Mehmet Okur (D-). Hours after it's announced that Brook Lopez had broken his foot, Billy King turns around and gets Okur, one of Deron Williams' top targets in Utah. Although a bit pricey at $10.9 million following two major injuries, he was reportedly at 100% and played well in Turkey this fall. He wasn't and played only 17 games with the Nets. An expiring contract. He became salary cap ballast. The Nets had been pursuing Andrei Kirilenko with the cap space they used on Okur.
December 20, 2011 - Re-signed Kris Humphries to a one-year, $8 million contract (A). Part of the team's strategy to retain flexibility in hopes the Dwight Howard negotiations start up again. He may be the most hated NBA player because of his ill-fated, 72-day marriage to Kim Kardashian, but he is beloved by Nets fans for his blue collar game. Averaged a double-double for the year, and 14 and 14 after Deron Williams joined the team. Short rebounding help even before Brook Lopez went down, Humphries' signing helped Avery Johnson breathe again.
December 15, 2011 - Waived Travis Outlaw under the amnesty clause in the new CBA (A). Can you give a better grade for dumping a bad signing even if it wasn't yours? What's done is done. Outlaw, signed by Rod Thorn, was a poster boy for bad contracts during the lockout, his $35 million deal never justified by his performance. Kings picked up Outlaw for $3 million over four years, meaning the Nets only have to pay Outlaw $16 million instead of $28 milion remaining on his deal. That helped the grade, but not the Kings.
December 15, 2011 - Signed Shawne Williams to a two-year, $6.1 million contract, $3 million guaranteed in 2011-12 with a $3.1 million player option in the second year (F). A bad pick-up, even if you beat out the Knicks for him, but This was your best off-season move? Williams had a number of positives, a 6'9" stretch forward with a 7'3" wingspan and a deadly three point stroke who's still only 25 years old. On the other hand, he showed up out of shape, aggravated an old injury and went down for the year. He and DeShawn Stevenson vied for the title of the NBA's worst shooter. Neither hit 30% of their shots, either overall or from three.
December 15, 2011 - Signed Ime Udoka to a training camp contract (C). He becomes the last player cut a week later. A defensive specialist, there was no room for him after the Nets signed DeShawn Stevenson.
December 14, 2011 - Magic let those teams pursuing Dwight Howard know they're going to try to convince him to stay in Orlando. The news permits the Nets to starting putting their cap space to use but they decide to go all-in on Dwight (C- and we're being kind because reward requires risk). The night before, Nene re-signs with the Nuggets.
December 13, 2011 - Signed Shelden Williams to one-year vets minimum deal (B+). After failing in their pursuits of Tyson Chandler and Nene Hilario, the Nets make their first free agent signing that of a draft bust turned journeyman. Whether Nets dawdled or weren't willing to overspend or waited vainly for Otis Smith to act, they wound up with a lesser prize. Williams wasn't a bad choice, filling in with his solid board work, averaging six rebounds a game in every game.
December 8, 2011 - Called up Dennis Horner, JamesOn Curry, Jerry Smith from the Armor for training camp (A). Because the Armor uses the same playbook as the Nets, the three call-ups jumped right in during practices. Another advantage of the Nets' (Bobby Marks) D-League strategy.
December 6, 2011 - Announced the hiring of P.J. Carlesimo and Mario Elie as Avery Johnson's top assistants (A). Carlesimo took Seton Hall to the NCAA Finals, coached three NBA teams and assisted Gregg Popovich with the Spurs. Elie was lead assistant with the Kings. They both have rings. They replace Sam Mitchell, who was reassigned to scouting; Larry Krystkowiak, who took a job with the University of Utah; and John Loyer, who rejoined Lawrence Frank with the Pistons. All in all, at least an even swap, maybe even an upgrade, but when your coaching staff has such turnover...
June 27, 2011 - Picked JaJuan Johnson of Purdue at #27, then traded his rights and their 2014 second rounder to the Celtics for the rights to MarShon Brooks of Providence, taken at the Nets' request two spots earlier (A); traded their 2013 second rounder and $1.5 million in cash to the Timberwolves for the draft rights to Bojan Bogdanovic, taken at #31 by the Heat and then traded to Minnesota (A); drafted Jordan Williams at #36 (D+). Brooks looks like a steal that late, an athletic, aggressive shooting guard. Bogdanovic, despite inconsistency and a messy contract in Turkey, has first round talent. Jordan Williams arrived in camp out of shape, then fell victim to dehydration. Headed for Springfield...and we don't mean the Hall of Fame. Might make it, but he was picked before Chandler Parsons.
May 1, 2011 - Nets take over the Springfield Armor and go about hiring key personnel.(A) Milton Lee becomes Nets' director of minor league basketball operations; Bob MacKinnon, Jr., whose dad was GM and coach of the Nets, becomes head coach of the Armor and Chris Carrawell, a favorite of Coach K at Duke, is named his assistant. The proof is in the (Christmas) pudding. By the trade deadline, three Armor players had been helpful in training camp and two have played for the big club, Dennis Horner and Jerry Smith.
March 31, 2011 - Waived Quinton Ross and sign Mario West to a 10-day (C). It was surprising how long Ross lasted on the Nets' roster after coming over from Washington in the Yi Jianlian salary dump. Meaningless deal even after the Nets sign West for the rest of the year on April 10 following D-Will's decision to sit out the last week of the season. West wanted to come back for training camp, but lockout interfered and he signed a contract in Italy without an "NBA out".
February 28, 2011 - Signed Sundiata Gaines to his first 10-day contract (C). The Nets needed a back-up guard after Williams headed home for his son's birth. Gaines, home in Queens after a fling in Europe, was available and had a passport to travel to Toronto. After two 10-day deals, the Nets signed him to a two-year guaranteed contract on March 19 following a series of solid performances. He got injured in a freak on-court accident and never really did much in 2011-12. The first Jazz alumni to join the Nets after D-Will's arrival.
February 23, 2011 - Traded Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first-round picks [one Enes Kanter] and $3 million in cash considerations to the Utah Jazz for guard Deron Williams (A+). Can we give someone more than one "+" sign? One western conference executive gave it 10 extra "+" signs and virtually every pundit called it the best trade of the deadline. There's been some sniping about how the deal could turn into an "F" if he doesn't resign with the Nets. Suffice it to say that in a matter of hours the Nets got a better player than the one they had been pursuing for six months...at half the price. Is it a risk? Sure. Would any other GM be happy to take it. Oh yeah.
February 23, 2011 - Traded forward Troy Murphy and a second-round pick to the Golden State Warriors for forward Brandan Wright and center Dan Gadzuric (F). This one was about recovery. Wright never showed he was worthy of keeping...he signed with the Mavericks. One expiring contract for two expiring contracts.
February 21, 2011 - The Nets six-month long pursuit of Carmelo Anthony ends as he is traded to the Knicks (C). Yes, we know they needed a superstar. Yes, it showed a different, never-say-die mindset, but as of 10:59 a.m. two days before the trade deadline, this looked like an epic fail. The owner thought the team has lost three to five games because of the distraction, a key rookie's development was hindered, relationships were tattered, the owner's reputation, one of the team's key assets, was heavily tarnished and the Knicks were salivating about using Brooklyn-born 'Melo to thwart the Nets' influence in Brooklyn. Then again...the Knicks gave a up a lot to get him and sometimes looks like the A-Rod of the NBA.
February 1, 2011 - Signed guard Orien Greene to a 10-day contract (A). Again a high grade for a minor move because of what it says about the change in the team's operating principles. Greene was the Nets' first 10-day contract since Donnell Harvey in 2005. That's six years. They hadn't called up a D-Leaguer in years either. Since Greene, they've signed six.
December 15, 2010 - In a three-team deal, traded Terrence Williams, Joe Smith, the Warriors' second-round pick in 2011 [Darius Morris] and the Bulls' second-round pick 2012 for Sasha Vujacic , the Lakers' 2011 first-round pick, protected 1-18 [Marshon Brooks] and the Rockets' 2012 first round pick, protected 1-14 (A+). The Nets initial priority in this deal was dumping Williams. In the first version, Williams was going to the Lakers, then the deal expanded when L.A. balked. Williams spent the season at the end of the Rockets' bench with 25 DNP-CD's then this year was unceremoniously released. Vujacic, freed from Phil Jackson's doghouse, averaged 11, 3 and 2 as the Nets sixth man. The Laker pick became Brooks. With the Rockets looking like a playoff team in 2012, this deal keeps looking better and better.
November 26, 2010 - Nets dispatch Terrence Williams to the Springfield Armor (B+). After being warned for two years that this could be his fate, Williams is finally shipped out to the D-League. You can blame him or Avery Johnson or King, but the bottom line is that it showed a level of seriousness about discipline and his performance--he averaged a triple double--helped improve his trade value. For that alone, this deserves a high grade.
November 11, 2010 - Nets announce that they have agreed to a hybrid relationship with the Springfield Armor of the D-League (A+). When word first came that Prokhorov wanted to upgrade basketball operations, one of the early ideas floated by Marks was a takeover of the Nets' D-League affiliate, the Springfield Armor. The proposal languished for a time, but got done. For $250,000, the Nets get operational control of the Armor. They hire and pay coaches, a GM and select the players. At the time, the Nets were one of two teams in the NBA with such a relationship. That number has mushroomed since.
October 22, 2010 - Waived center Brian Zoubek (C). We had hoped another Jersey guy would make the team and are surprised he hasn't played since being cut. His girlfriend, Gina Antoniello, later becomes the Nets' on-court reporter. See, it all works out in the end.
October 19, 2010 - Exercised the contract options on guard Terrence Williams and center Brook Lopez through 2011-12 (D and A). The Nets front office at this point were not enamored of T-Will but still held out hope they could make it work. With the added year, he had additional trade value.
October 6, 2010 - Waived guard Eddie Gill (C). Thus ended Gill's eighth tenure with the Nets, which has to be an NBA record...if anyone would keep such records.
September 29, 2010 - Waived forward Andre Brown (B). Published report noted that the Nets made an example of his lack of toughness in training camp and quickly dispatched him a an example.
September 15, 2010 - Signed Stephen Graham to a two-year, partially guaranteed deal (D). Graham got $450,000 upfront on a vets minimum deal. A coach's favorite wherever he's played, he's given the Nets minutes and again showed the Nets are willing to work deals even with vets' minimum guys.
September 15, 2010 - Signed Doug Overton as player development coach (A). More coaches, more development. We don't know the details about how he's doing things, but he is a tough guy, something a number of young players have shown to need. Overton was ultimately promoted to full assistant.
September 10, 2010 - Signed Joe Smith to a veterans' minimum contract (F). Smith was supposed to mentor Derrick Favors and give the Nets some minutes at PF. After starting the first two games of the season, it became obvious he had little to nothing left.
September 10, 2010 - Hired Milton Lee director of basketball operations (A). Lee had been brought on by his college chum and Prokhorov deputy CEO Christophe Charlier even before the Russians bought the team. Another example of how the team is spending money. Lee, former intern to the 1992 Dream Team and basketball junkie, is handling the interface between technology and basketball, working with Patrick Spurgin, the team's new video coordinator, statistical consultants and Barclays Center architects...Now, he's the Armor GM. His drafting has been quite good, Dennis Horner in the third round, Jerry Smith in the fifth.
August 11, 2010 - Traded guard Courtney Lee to the Houston Rockets in a four-team deal that yielded forward Troy Murphy from the Indiana Pacers (F). Seemed like a good idea at the time. Lee wanted out and Murphy looked like just the kind of player the Nets could use: a stat-stuffing 6'11" power forward who, to make things all the better, was the 13th New Jersey native to play for the New Jersey Nets. It cost the Nets cap space and Murphy never fit it after a series of injuries. It did ultimately give Kris Humphries a shot, but that wasn't planned.
August 7, 2010 - Signed forward Sean May to veteran's minimum deal, with $100,000 guaranteed (B). Why such a high grade for the signing of a guy who never suited up? Again, it was about spending money. This signing signaled that the Nets, who hadn't given out a partial guarantee in three years ($25,000 to Robert Hite), were willing to compete even for the smallest pieces. Waived September 7 after an injury.
July 26, 2010 - Named Bobby Marks assistant general manager (A). Marks is a Nets lifer, going from intern to assistant GM. Here's another theme: Rewarding loyalty. Marks played a lesser role under Thorn, but pulled off some neat tricks, like getting two draft picks for Marcus Williams as he headed out the door.
July 19, 2010 - Named Sam Mitchell, Larry Krystkowiak, John Loyer, Popeye Jones and Tom Barrise assistant coaches (A). One thing we like about Billy and Bobby is that there is no reluctance to spend Mikhail Prokhorov's money. By adding assistant coaches and scouts and a team chef, etc.,etc, they have shown a wilingness to get the most out of the boss's cash hoard. It's going to be a continuing theme here. Problem is Mitchell was demoted to "scout" and both Loyer and Krystkowiak moved on.
July 14, 2010 - King hired by Mikhail Prokhorov (B). Let's just call that the overall grade for King and Marks, down a it from our assessment at the beginning of the season. King's getting a lot of credit, deservedly so, for the Deron Williams trade, and took a lot of heat for the Melo Drama and now the Dwightmare . But the two of them did a lot of other things in his first 20 months on the job, most of it good. There was the trade for Sasha Vujacic and two first rounders, the Springfield Armor hybrid deal and major upgrade to the team's infrastructure, from building up basketball operations to pushing for a state of the art locker room facility. Takes some time.