Nets' desire to get younger drove Marcus Thornton trade

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets decision to acquire Marcus Thornton Wednesday was motivated by several factors but getting younger was as big a factor as any in the Nets thinking  This wasn't just a trade for 2013-14.

The shift from pursuing Jarrett Jack to Thornton Wednesday showed how the Nets thinking evolved

Indeed, the Nets did like Jarrett Jack, who at 30 is six years younger than Jason Terry, but according to a league source were turned off by three things: a hefty contract that extends into the 2016-17 season, the Cavaliers demand for two second round picks and their unwillingness to take on Reggie Evans in any deal. The Nets wanted that extra roster spot and wanted rid of Evans.

The contract length was certainly an issue for the Nets front office. A league source told NetsDaily that if the Nets had done the deal, as rumored, the Nets "definitely" would have had to pay the repeater tax in 2015-16.

Moreover, said the league source, the Cavs were only willing to do the deal if they could find a third team to take Jason Terry, who's owed more than $11 million. Cleveland couldn't and ended talks with the Nets who then engaged the Kings and the younger still Thornton. He's only 26. Terry is 36 and Evans three months away from a well-traveled 34. The Nets are, or were, the NBA's oldest team.

As Peter Vecsey tweeted Wednesday night...

Vecsey apparently is referring to Andray Blatche, Andrei Kirilenko and Alan Anderson, all of whom have player options this summer, and Shaun Livingston, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July.

King, who had reportedly tried to get Thornton before, noted Thornton's youth in his comment after the trade was announced.  "Marcus is a proven scorer in this league," said King. "He is a young talent who will help us in the backcourt." (emphasis added)

So did Jason Kidd. "He's a young player that can definitely put the ball in the basket," Kidd said. "So we are happy to have him on board."

The 2-for-1 aspect of the deal appealed to the Nets. It will help them go for more youth. As Vecsey tweeted, "Now Nets have spot 4 (Jordan) Hill or another young big."  Hill is 26.

Finally, Sacramento, unlike Cleveland,  was willing to take on both contracts without any picks, rights or cash.  Why?  What motivated the Kings to do what appears to be a lop-sided deal? They will save more than $1 million over two years in the exchange of contracts, but the larger issue, according to the Sacramento Bee, is a desire to give their younger players, particularly stellar rookie Ben McLemore, more minutes. Also, Thornton's lack of production this season made him unpopular among Kings fans.

As for the short-term effect on the luxury tax bill it's minor when the Nets moves last month are taken into account. In dumping Toko Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor for Marquis Teague, the Nets saved a few million dollars. Adding Thornton while subtracting Terry and Evans means a net increase in luxury taxes of $1.07 million over what was projected after last summer. In other words, it wasn't a factor. "If (the Nets) do the Hill trade that is another animal," said the league source. Estimates for the price tag on that range as high as $17 million.

In the days before the deadline, pundits felt the Nets were unlikely to make a deal but if they did, they'd be more likely to target a back-up point guard or a young defensive big --which they may still get. But the team was quietly looking for a young wing player as well. They wanted one capable of exploding off the bench, like Terry had in the past. With Terry's shot not falling and his knee still not recovered from off-season surgery, a back-up wing became as much if not more of a priority.

So what to look forward to today?  As Kidd said of his Russian boss, "Our owner is about trying to get the team going in the right direction with different pieces, and he’s probably not done."  Watch this space.

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