Nets fans, at this point seem to be pretty happy with this team for the most part. Some are upset because we no longer have the flexibility we once cherished so dearly. Some don't think this team is talented enough to contend for a championship, and has run out of ways to improve. Other's think we can take on the Heat right now, and aren't afraid to say so.
Whether you feel the Nets are championship material, or the 2nd coming of the Atlanta Hawks. One thing we can all agree on, is we are a long, long way from another 12-70 season. Billy King has given us a team that we can cheer for, and be proud of on the floor. Talented, high character guys, who are easy to root for on and off the floor. Some of Billy's moves have been met with high praise. Other's have been met with blatant disdain. But, the construction of this roster, wasn't a game of checkers. It was a chess game, with some moves setting up the next.
Below you'll find a complete hindsight (with some reasonable assumptions) review of each of Billy's moves, including the Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace trades, that have been met with so much debate. My focus was on the major moves and signings.
Deron Williams: We'll start with the most important. D-Will was the ground moving shift in culture. A true superstar to build a championship team around. In 2010, the Nets struck out in Free Agency, as Billy took the reigns of a team, with wet ink on the contracts of the likes of Travis Outlaw and Johan Petro, and assets galore to shop around with. After a season long MeloDrama, the Nets made a big splash in landing Deron Williams. The cost was a promising young PF in Derrick Favors, a former all-star PG in Devin Harris, and 2 likely lottery picks. The judgement on this trade can only be seen as a win for the Nets. The Jazz have yet to use the 2nd draft pick in the deal, and the 1st has proven to be an underwhelming asset at this time. Derrick Favors, could really hurt to see in another uniform one day, as he is growing into what could be the perfect compliment to Brook Lopez in the paint, but the net gain of this trade is easy to see. A legitimate top 10 NBA talent to build around. This trade was not without it's detractors, given D-Will's impending free agency, and the high risk associated with the assets given up. But, in the summer of 2012, D-Will tweeted a picture of the Brooklyn Nets logo, allowing for this move to finally be judged in the proper perspective. Grade: A+, because Deron Williams is Brooklyn Net
Gerald Wallace: Next, we'll consider the most controversial. In the summer of 2011, the free agent crop was slim pickings, and in a lockout shortened off-season Billy elected to focus on some small moves, putting a modest offer in front of Shawne Williams coming off of a solid season for the rival Knicks. Extra E, was a failure. 2010 1st round pick Damion James, re-injured his foot, and veteran wing DeSean Stevenson battled season long knee injuries, thus setting the tone for 2011. The Nets were working with D-League talent at the SF position and spiraling back into the lottery, in Deron Williams contract year. What did Billy do? He went out and found a hidden gem in Gerald Green. He also pushed his chips deeper into the table in his attempt to secure Dwight Howard. Dwight, changed the plan and opted into his final year with Orlando. So, Billy, took his side pot and he turned his focus on Gerald Wallace as a long term solution at the SF position. This move was instantly met with a great deal of criticism. Trading a lottery pick for 29 year old SF, in a contract year, for a lottery team seemed like madness. The Nets could have easily approached Wallace in free agency, and kept their lottery pick. Gerald Wallace did re-sign with the Nets, taking a great deal of the pressure off the detractors of this move, but some lingering criticism exists. Something that should not be overlooked, however, is the Nets made moves in the 2012 off-season, that put them over the Salary Cap apron. The March trade for Wallace, has become an integral part of having him on the roster. Without the acquired Bird Rights of Gerald Wallace, the Nets would have been unable to sign him on any reasonable contract. The Nets would not have had cap space to add Andrei Kirilenko, or any other option at the SF position. In hindsight, Billy's move for Wallace, was actually brilliant. It allowed the Nets to secure a very talented starter at the SF position, while being able to go over the cap to do so. It allowed the Nets to make other moves to improve the roster, into the upper echelon of the NBA. Grade: B, because the Bird Rights really mattered, and Wallace is our best SF in a number of years.
Joe Johnson: Another controversial trade for Billy. In the summer of 2012, every Nets fan was gritting their teeth. Deron Williams was flirting with the Mavs, and the Nets were sitting in the off-season with just MarShon Brooks, Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar, and Anthony Morrow under contract. Never ending Dwight Rumors were swirling, and Nets fans were closing their eyes, and bracing for the worst, while hoping for the best. Then some rumors started to trickle in about one of the best players in the league, with the absolute worst contract in the league, possibly being traded to the Brooklyn Nets. Fans went crazy. Everyone hated it. Nobody could understand, why, after years and years of protecting cap space and flexibility, why would we trade all of it, for Joe Johnson. But, then a few started to present just how good Joe Johnson is. Tweets and posts were made, making it clear that Joe Johnson, is likely the 3rd best SG in the NBA. The trade was made, for a bunch of expiring contracts who weren't any good at basketball and some 2nd round assets. For the most part, Nets fans didn't blink, because all eyes were firmly fixed on America's birthday, the pending decision Deron Williams was going to make. Deron chose Brooklyn. He cited the Joe Johnson as the reason. All was forgiven. No matter what anybody feels about Joe Johnson's contract, he's seen as the necessary piece to keeping D-Will in Brooklyn Black. Grade: B, because JJ is a great basketball player, who kept Deron Williams in a Nets uniform.
Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur: Kirilenko is worth discussing, even though he's not on the Nets. AK rumors have been around for over a year now. The Nets were reportedly very close to signing AK last year, coming out of the lock out. Then Brook Lopez broke his foot, and the Nets lack of depth at Center forced a panic move for Mehmet Okur, which absorbed the Nets cap space. Memo, never did anything of note in an injury plagued season with the Nets. His biggest value was the expiring contract laid on Portland to match salaries on the Gerald Wallace trade. So if you wanted AK instead of Wallace, know this is the moment signing AK became very difficult. Wallace's Bird Rights would allow us to keep him, where we wouldn't have the cap room to get AK. Grade: C, so many circumstances prevented this. The lockout, Brook's foot, AK skipping a year in the NBA and losing Bird Rights as an option. Billy, turned a potential AK into a definite Gerald Wallace. I think this is a wash. It cost us a 2nd rounder and a lottery pick, but it was a necessary roster addition. In my opinion, BK played this well, given the hand that was dealt here. Memo could have played better, but living in the now, it worked out.
Dwight Howard: I don't even want to talk about this. The Orlando Magic have clowned the entire league, trying to maximize their return on Dwight. The tampering charges, the ETO waiving, the flip-flopping, giving a player the power to fire his front office. Bottom line, we hung in as long as we could, and we're still alive if the Dwightmare makes it to January. With or without a Dwight trade, Billy built a roster that can contend. Grade: B, because we don't have Dwight, because we could still get Dwight, and because we don't really need Dwight. A B seems fair.
Terrence Williams to Marshon Brooks: T-Will is a talented player. T-Will is a head case. Billy turned T-Will into a couple of 1st round picks, and turned those picks into Marshon Brooks. T-Will is still a free-agent, and is likely going to sign a minimum deal, after two failed stints with two organizations on his rookie contract. All-star talent, pinhead state of mind. Meanwhile, Brooks looks like a keeper, after a very impressive rookie campaign. Grade: A+, because Marshon Brooks belongs in the NBA, and Terrence Williams belongs on the And1 mixed tape tour.
Mirza Teletovic: For those upset about the number 6 pick, let's put this in perspective. Teletovic's contract on the rookie scale is that of a top 5 draft pick. Teletovic will contend for the rookie of the year award. Teletovic pretty much is our 1st round draft pick this year. We could have used the mini-MLE on Gerald Green, and drafted a player not as good as Teletovic, but then we wouldn't have Gerald Wallace either. No one would want Gerald Green at all, if Billy didn't give him a chance. So all of this debating, comes down to would your rather have Gerald Wallace or Gerald Green. Both put us over the cap apron. So just evaluate the player. Meanwhile, we got a really great rookie in Mirza Teletovic, on a reasonable contract over the next 3 years. Grade: A+, because Teletovic might be the rookie of the year.
Other Draft Picks: Most of these were bought with cash, but for a capped out team, the Nets look to have a very promising future. From a flexibility standpoint, the Nets have a lottery talent in Bojan Bogdanovich waiting to come in next year, as a back up wing (replacing Gerald Green). The Nets have Ilkan Kamaran, who looks raw, but talented as a future PF option. The Nets have TyShawn Taylor, who looks to be the 2nd best PG in the draft, and a viable back up for Deron Williams, once he matures a bit in his game. The athleticism is there. The decision making needs to improve. Learning from Avery Johnson, D-Will, and CJ Watson, should be a great start. The Nets also have Toko Shengalia. A 6'9" combo forward, who moves well with and without the ball. So far, he looks like a steal. Billy King has proven to be an elite drafter. The Nets have all of their 1st round picks moving forward. With a steady stream of talent set to come in, year in and year out, to fill in the gaps around a talented veteran core, the Nets look to be an elite team for years to come. Grade: A, because with limited future options in free agency, these assets are of critical importance, and so far all seem to be gems.
In a short window a lot of these trades and roster moves can be looked at with significant skepticism. But, taking the big picture view of how each of these moves fit into the overall strategy, I think you have to give Billy and A+. He took a 12-70 team, and in two years, turned it into a legitimate Eastern Conference threat. Even highly questionable moves, such as the Gerald Wallace gamble, became of critical importance, as Crash's bird rights were necessary, to fill out our need at Small Forward. As a long time Net fan, I am excited for the next step.