I would like to try to take a rational look at Billy King's tenure. It is very easy to look at the excitement of this past week and anoint him the best GM ever. It was also very easy after the Nets didn't win the lottery, and the Nets traded a free agent to be in Gerald Wallace for the 6th overall pick (in a very deep draft), to want King to be fired. I think he actually lies somewhere in the middle. There are three major functions of a GM in order to form and imporve a roster: the draft, free agency and trades.
I think he is a great talent evaluator and has proven that in the draft both here and in Philly. I think there was a post recently that ranked the top drafting GMs and he was 3rd. Not only is he a good evaluator but he targets who he wants and is willing to trade up or down in order to get them. There are a lot of GMs that just stay where they are slotted and take "best player available" and then usually miss out on the player they really covet rather than take the risk of giving up assets to trade up and possibly being criticized for trading up for a bust.
King's major deficiency, in my opinion, is his trading and negotiating skills. It is very easy to look in hindsight and think that everything worked out okay so there were no bad decisions. The problem with that is that i truly believe that Prokhorov bailed out King with his willingness to go over the cap or else this could have been a disaster. (it could be argued that King already knew that and that is why he made all of the moves but i still think he could have done a better job). His first big move was getting Williams. Now it looks great; but you have to believe he could have gotten a better deal. He did give up Harris, who at the time was a pretty good player and not that far away from being the no 5 overall pick, two no.3 overall draft picks and the GS protected pick. That pick could have very easily turned into the no 8 pick in this years deep class. A lot would argue that the Nets were willing to give all that up for Carmelo and Williams is a better player than him so it makes sense. The difference, however, is that Anthony would have re-signed where there were no assurances that Williams would resign. This is significant because i think it lead us to make a lot of other desperation moves in order to try to ensure that he opted back in. With that in mind i think King could have negotiated the GS pick at least to be a different, protected pick. Every asset is important (GS was apparently willing to give up a lot this year just to ensure it was protected for one slot) and i think Utah was still willing to trade Williams. Of course i was not in the negotiation and it may have been an ultimatum but it just seems as though we gave up too much for a possible rental. (i know the argument will be made that it was worth the risk to get a player like Williams but i think that even if King refused; we could have gotten Williams for cheaper that next offseason as Utah would get more desperate and we were now aware that they wanted to trade him).
The next big trade was for Gerald Wallace. I don't care, even i hindsight- this is a bad trade. It is a great trade if we were a championship team that needed one last player before the deadline. Obviously we weren't. The fact is that we could have done that trade on draft day, and even if we made the exact same trade (which Portland would have jumped to do) we could have negotiated Wallace's contract without being hung over a barrel. If we traded for him then, we probably could have re-signed Wallace for about 3 yrs/21 million which would be a much better deal for us. My guess is that we wouldn't have traded for Wallace because we could have gotten a much more attractive package had we held onto the pick. We could have probably gotten close to getting Harden for that pick or used it to trade for Howard. (If we didn't do the trade we would also have had that much better of a chance of getting the first pick too). I'm fully aware that people will argue that we had to do the trade in order to try to keep Williams but according to Kidd and even Williams himself, Williams thought he was going to go to Dallas until we pulled off the Joe Johnson trade so it didn't really matter the timing of the trade. I'm not saying that we should have drafted a young player, just saying that we should have held onto the pick for when it would be more advantageous to us.
The last trade is the Joe Johnson trade. Due to the circumstances, this is a trade we had to make. The problem though is i really don't like the fact that we had to give up Houston's first round pick. Atlanta should have been psyched to rid themselves of Johnson's contract for expiring contracts, even if we had to throw in some second rounders or Bojan. Once again, the trade was done out of desperation so we didn't really have much leverage and had to agree to send Atlanta their pick. If i had to sum up King's trades- it would be that desperation is a terrible talent evaluator and we always seem to be the one on the desperate side of the trade. This may have been under Prokhorov's orders to get a superstar (and may be the reason that Thorn left realizing that you can't force trades or else you will always give up too much) but ever since the Williams trade, King set himself up to make trades in desperation.
As far as free agency, i think that the fact that King is apparently very likable plays well into his hand. His only major signing so far is Williams (and a HUGE one at that) and i think some of that is contributable to the fact that Williams wanted to play for him and the organization.
Overall, it could be said that King can only be judged by the end result. As of this moment, the end result looks pretty good, but i don't think it is really his doing. He drafted well and got Williams to sign, but i think he could have done a much better job of getting here. I think the true person responsible for where we are right now is Prokhorov and his ability and desire to spend way over the cap, especially with the new penalties in place that other teams are shying away from. It is like in baseball with the Yankees- Cashman can make a lot more bad moves and signings that would cripple most teams and get GMs fired, but he looks like a genius when a few work out because he can simply pay more than other teams. Lets not forget, we are still in a somewhat scary position 4 years from now when we have 30 somethings Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson making a combined 36 million+ dollars so we will have to do more sign and trades to acquire any players (with what draft picks i have no idea). As a fan of the Nets since the mid 80s though; i am fine with the win-now; but it has to be factored into the equation of why Atlanta wanted to trade a six time All-Star. I just want to be the team that takes advantage of another team's desperation rather than them taking advantage of ours. Sorry if this is too long but i just think it is too easy to jump to conclusions in the heat of being upset with previous moves or too happy with recent moves.