What's the usual pattern when a superstar becomes unhappy? Is the Nets reported offer of for Dwight Howard too little, as some have argued? Hardly. like all the big deals for unhappy superstars over the last few years, it's a package drawn from a typical menu of expiring contracts or cap space, draft picks, young players, cash and if possible, a trade exception.
There have been a few exceptions. Sometimes stars are traded straight up for stars: Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury and Shaquille O’Neal for Shawn Marion. The Nets offer of two young players (one of who actually plays the same position as Howard...and well); multiple first round picks; and a ton of cap space (more than $20 million) seems about right...or close enough...compared to others.
Take a look at recent trades of stars who wanted out and what their former team got for them. The pattern holds true. Otis Smith should have understood.
--February 23, 2011: The New Jersey Nets acquired Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two first round picks, their own (Enes Kanter) and the Golden State Warriors in 2012, and $3 million in cash.
--February 21, 2011: the Denver Nuggets acquired Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov, a future first-round pick, the right to swap first rounders in 2016; the Warriors’ 2012 second-round pick, the Warriors’ 2013 second-round pick, and $3 million in cash, all from the Knicks and Kosta Koufos from the Timberwolves
The New York Knicks received Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams*, Anthony Carter* and Renaldo Balkman from Denver and Corey Brewer from the Timberwolves…who they then released.
Minnesota got Anthony Randolph, Eddy Curry*, who they then released, and $3 million in cash from New York and the Nuggets’ 2015 second round pick.
--February 18, 2008: The Dallas Mavericks acquired Jason Kidd, Malik Allen*, and Antoine Wright* from the New Jersey Nets for Devin Harris, DeSagana Diop*, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, a signed and traded Keith Van Horn*, two future first round picks (Ryan Anderson and Damion James), and cash considerations believed to be $3 million. The Nets also received a $3.3 million trade exception.
--February 2, 2008: The Los Angeles Lakers acquired Pau Gasol and a 2010 second round draft pick from the Memphis Grizzlies for Kwame Brown*, Javaris Crittenton, a signed and traded Aaron McKie*, the draft rights to the #48 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Marc Gasol, and two future first round picks (Donte Greene and Greivis Vasquez).
--July 31, 2007: The Boston Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green*, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff*, Sebastian Telfair, the return to Minnesota of the future first round pick (Jonny Flynn) that was initially traded to Boston on January 26, 2006, and a future first round pick from Boston (Nikola Pekovic). Simultaneous with the trade, Kevin Garnett removed his ability to opt out after the 2007-2008 season and then signed a multi-year contract extension with the Boston Celtics which will begin in the 2009-2010 season.
--June 28, 2007: The Boston Celtics acquired Ray Allen and the draft rights to the #35 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Glen Davis, from the Seattle Supersonics for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, the draft rights to the #5 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, Jeff Green, and the better of Boston's own 2008 second round pick and Portland's own 2008 second round pick (Trent Plaisted).
-- December 17, 2004: The New Jersey Nets acquired Vince Carter from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams and two first-round draft picks (Joey Graham and Renaldo Balkman).
--December 19, 2006: The Denver Nuggets acquired Allen Iverson and Ivan McFarlin* from the Philadelphia 76ers for Andre Miller, Joe Smith*, and two 2007 first round draft picks (Daequan Cook and Petteri Koponen).
--July 15, 2004: The New Jersey Nets signed Kenyon Martin to a seven-year, $91 million contract with a $1.5 million signing bonus and a player option after the 6th season, then traded him to Denver for three future first round picks (Joey Graham, Renaldo Balkman and Marcus Williams). The Nets also received a $5.2 million trade exception.
--July 14, 2004: The Los Angeles Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant*, and a future first round draft pick (Jordan Farmar).
Is there a lesson in this? Lots of them, but one in particular: draft picks are overrated and cap space is underrated. The Grizzlies' rebound was the result of their getting enough cap space to succeed more without Pau Gasol (Western Conference Finals) than with him (no playoff wins). Didn't hurt to get an accomplished European center either.
As for draft picks, take a few examples familiar to Nets fans: The two picks that the Mavericks gave up in the Kidd trade led to the selection of Ryan Anderson and Damion James. Not very exciting. Similarly, the pick the Lakers received in the Shaq deal turned into Jordan Farmar. Good player, but not transformational. And the two picks the Nets gave up for Vince Carter? Joey Graham and Renaldo Balkman.
Bottom line in the Nets' offer for Howard was that the Magic would have gotten both cap space, the loss of Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon would have given them $20+ million in cap space and multiple draft picks. He is unlikely to get better.