The New Jersey Nets must be cursed. There is no other way of explaining their recent transaction failures. From LeBron to Melo to Dwight, with a little bit of Travis Outlaw and Johan Petro thrown in the mix, there is a lot of depression setting into the fan base. It’s clear that the trade for Gerald Wallace did not help, either. The move was said to show the team is in "win-now" mode. That their playoff run starts now. And even though the fan base may be miserable and depressed, this move isn’t fooling anyone as the Nets aren’t winning and have no shot at the playoffs.
Although there is some optimism among fans that the Nets still have a chance to obtain Dwight Howard next year, I don’t think the two people that matter are counting on it – those two individuals being Billy King and Deron Williams.
King knows his final shot to get Dwight will come the night of the draft, hoping that Orlando bites and ships him out of town before the Dwightmare starts again. After that, he’d be risking his job if he avoids a second offseason of moves in hopes of landing him.
Deron would likely give Billy up to the start of free agency to do something to improve the team. However, if he is looking to rejoin this same lineup heading into next year, or even if we upgrade to Kevin Garnett at the PF position, he’ll be looking elsewhere. The Nets had the upper hand on the Mavs heading into the offseason up until last week. Until last week, Deron and Dwight looked to be a package deal. If you got one then you got the other. The Nets were able to afford both and therefore was the favorite. Since Howard has announced he’ll be with the Magic next year that advantage has disappeared. The Mavs no longer need to purge their roster and can give Deron a better supporting cast, not to mention allowing him to play near his hometown.
Some Nets fans will point to the Wallace trade as one to entice Deron to stay, but there must be something in their water. Wallace is not improving this Nets team in 20 games. Period. At current pace the Nets would go 6-14 in their last 20 games. So even if he elevates the Nets to a .500 record from here on out, and they finish 10-10, that a difference of four games. Deron is not going to believe those extra four wins are a sign of things to come. In order for Deron to feel a warm and fuzzy that this squad is worth playing with next year, this team would need to finish at least 13-7, possibly even better.
Bottom line, the chances of Deron Williams leaving is now a real possibility. The thought was these moves, giving away first round pick after first round pick was a sign of confidence. That the Nets wouldn’t give away back-to-back #3 picks in the draft to get Deron unless they could keep him. That the Nets wouldn’t give away another lottery pick unless it went towards Dwight. That the Nets weren’t sacrificing their future for nothing. Now I believe it’s at least a 50/50 chance Deron Williams leave the Nets this offseason to head to the Mavericks and a chance at winning instantly.
In the event Deron doesn’t return, neither will Gerald Wallace. Even if the Nets offer more money (to try to wrongly justify their trade for him), he’ll leave for a team with a chance at a title. Another individual that would probably be playing their last season in a Nets uniform is Kris Humphries, who would also be an unrestricted free agent that showed he wasn’t just a one-year wonder and could easily leave for a better squad. The only players the Nets would have rights to are Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, MarShon Brooks, Damion James, Johan Petro, and Brook Lopez. I will also assume that the Nets finish with the eighth worst record and their pick goes to Portland. To make matters worse, Houston drops out of the playoffs with the Suns or Jazz taking the eight seed in the West, which prevents us from getting their draft pick this year. Last and not least, Avery Johnson would still have a little left on his contract as head coach.
Entering Brooklyn next year, don’t expect your usual rebuilding process. Before taking care of Lopez, $14.3 million would be locked up in the other five players, giving the Nets approximately $43 million entering free agency – and expect them to use it all. Another key decision that the Nets will have to make is with Brook Lopez – do they see him as a critical piece to their future? Could teaming him up with the available free agents, to include Ryan Anderson, Steve Nash, Roy Hibbert, Eric Gordon, Nicholas Batum, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and JaVale McGee, lead to a successful basketball team. And the final decision to be made is with Avery Johnson – does he become the scapegoat in the recent failures of the franchise?
Simply put, I expect the Nets to be bold this summer in the event Deron is gone. Brook Lopez won’t be around either. Putting KG next to him won’t make this team more competitive – nor will it justify giving him a near max contract extension. Having the rights to Lopez will allow us to deal him for someone in return. However, it’ll all start with the coaching change. And what better way to take over New York than to hire someone who would love taking down the Knicks – Mike D’Antoni. I think D’Antoni would love working for a hands off owner and a GM who consults with the coach before every move. With the "Fire Avery" campaign that has started in the Nets fan base, I ponder what his offense could do for a team in need of a more exciting product to watch.
To make it even better, the available free agents make it even more likely that the "Seven Seconds or Less" offense will make it to Brooklyn. Steve Nash could pair up with D’Antoni for the first time in a few seasons. The two forward spots could be locked in with Batum and Anderson, whom can stroke from deep and would love to be in his offense as well. Depending on the extent of his injury, Eric Gordon would also be available. Plus, the Nets would have room under the cap to fit Nash/Gordon/Batum/Anderson if they wanted all of them.
However, Brook Lopez wouldn’t fit in D’Antoni’s offense and I’d imagine him being traded either for an overpaid/unhappy veteran or for draft picks. Three teams that come to mind are Atlanta (for either Joe Johnson or Josh Smith) or Charlotte/Washington (as they can’t entice any free agents to sign otherwise). Other trade pieces would include MarShon Brooks and Damion James as they aren’t exactly run and gun types and could net pieces in return.
If there was anyone that could get the most out of a weak Center position, it’s D’Antoni. His lineup often included a Shawne Williams – Amare Stoudamire combination at the 4/5, or even Ronny Turiaf on the court. Both are mind-boggling. Added all up, who wouldn’t mind watching the following lineup open in Brooklyn next year?
PG: Steve Nash / Jordan Farmar
SG: Joe Johnson / Anthony Morrow
SF: Nicholas Batum / Grant Hill
PF: Ryan Anderson / Antawn Jamison
C: Tyler Zeller / Johan Petro
I’m not going to say this is a championship caliber squad, but I don’t think Nets fans mind right now. With all the frustration recently over the team out on the floor, I believe they just want something enjoyable to watch. And in the end, I believe that is what they will get.