Billy came here in July of 2010. He inherited a team that had just gone 12-70. It had also acquired what is likely the worst free agent haul in NBA history, which included two players who deserved being amnestied a mere one year later. He inherited a coach with not much history of player development, under whose guidance most of the Nets' young players would get worse rather than (as one would expect) better. The team's assets were basically Lopez, Favors, and a lot of draft picks.
Now, that's a pretty bad situation. To aggravate it, he was given a two-year timeline to build a contender and was told to acquire a superstar as part of it. Since the only "superstar" seen as likely to be available was the very overrated Melo, this was a no-win situation. Whatever happened in those negotiations, we can be thankful he didn't outbid the Knicks, and was able to pick up a superior player-- not previously known to be available-- for fewer assets.
This created a new problem, again not of Billy's making: ever since Dwyane and LeBron showed that the league could be rigged by the players, one superstar often demands to be teamed with another. So began the pursuit of Dwight Howard, a bigger star than DWill. And Billy had agreements for deals not once, but twice. One time the Magic pulled the rug out from under Otis Smith, and the other they used every cheap trick in the book (bringing Dwight's parents in, etc.) to keep him there for another year. Despite this, Brooklyn remains the most likely destination for Dwight, and this must be in some small part due to Billy's persistence and geniality.
But having to land two superstars from minimal assets wasn't enough. The 2011-12 Nets had to keep plugging holes due to injuries. Okur, Bogans' etc., had to be picked up on the fly. They did this without trading away any significant assets.
Well, as one would expect given these circumstances, the record over the last two years has not been good. But the real question is: have we built the team up?
Let's start at the bottom: Billy hired Milton Lee to run the Armor, and Billy and/or Lee hired Bob MacKinnon. We now have a pipeline of well-trained players that can fill injury gaps. We have a way to get rookies (i.e. JWill) the training that the Nets coaching staff doesn't do, so we occasionally can have a rookie improve rather than regress. And we have (in MacKinnon) a very strong candidate to be our next head coach.
Now to the middle: acquiring Gerald Green for nothing was brilliant. The pick of MarShon was brilliant, made more so by understanding that we would have to trade up to get our man. And, lest we forget, that original pick was part of the haul for TWill, who was brilliantly sold to the league by being sent to the D-League, where he dominated. While we let Brandan Wright get away to have a fine season for the Mavs, there was nothing Billy could do since our coach would simply not play him (had to get Gadzuric in there!).
Of course, many fans are angry about trading for Wallace, but there was really not much else Billy could do. He certainly perceived (correctly, I think) that DWill would walk if there was no tangible improvement on the court by the end of the season. He didn't want rookies and promises, he wanted proven vets. Dwight had just flaked on us; the trade deadline was that day. So Billy broke open the piggy bank for what might be a rental. But, in fact, the Nets played vastly better with Crash on the floor. They looked like an NBA team rather than guys in a pick-up game who hate each other.
At the top: If Deron stays (yes, I know, how BK is perceived in the media will be 100% dependent on this), we have a guy who can play at the highest level. He hasn't been great for us, but he has always delivered in the playoffs. So I assume we will see that Deron again, just like we did when he gutted Jeremy Lin. And I believe that Dwight is still coming.
Our roster at the end of last season was comparable to the Pacers and Hawks: a big 3 of Deron, Brook, and Crash, with Brooks, Green, Hump, and Farmar as rotation players, and JWill and Morrow on the bench. This is a long way from Outlaw, TWill, and Sasha getting major minutes. We are a PF and a good coach away from being a top 3-4 team in the East, even without Dwight.
Some will say that you have to go from worst to get to first, but that is not true. When FAs can choose where they want to go, being at least competitive will attract them, and that is a better chance than praying you draft Anthony Davis.
Yes, the whole thing could collapse this off-season, which is a risk that you run when trying to build a contender in two years out of the worst team in the league. But if it doesn't (and I don't think it will), Billy King deserves to be considered one of the very best GMs in the game, right up there with Presti and Ainge. And certainly the best the Nets have ever had.