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What's The Best Case Scenario? Reconsidering the Wallace Trade

Mar 21, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA;  New Jersey Nets small forward Gerald Wallace (45) controls the ball during the game against the Washington Wizards at the Prudential Center. The Wizards won 108-89. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE
Mar 21, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Nets small forward Gerald Wallace (45) controls the ball during the game against the Washington Wizards at the Prudential Center. The Wizards won 108-89. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

We were none too crazy about the Gerald Wallace trade the day it took place. But we've had second thoughts. (Do we have a choice if we want to retain our sanity?) Maybe it's Wallace's play so far (17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 35.7% from deep) or the math behind the draft lottery (a decent chance at #1, #2 or #3 in the lottery) or the cap flexibility that comes with losing Shawne Williams contract ($3.1 million removed next season) or picking up two trade exceptions ($3 million and $1.3 million), the former of which could be valuable.

Mostly, though, it's Deron Williams' endorsement of the deal -- and his role in approving it -- because bottom line, this trade works if Williams and Wallace stay and doesn't if they leave.

What's the worst case scenario coming out of the events of last week?

That's easy but it's been gone over repeatedly that it doesn't bear much new discussion: Here's the short form: the Nets miss out on a top pick in the lottery. The Rockets don't make the playoffs, giving the Nets one pick in a good draft, the Heat second-rounder. Deron Williams and Wallace opt out and head elsewhere. Lopez's injuries make him a big risk. Big free agents go elsewhere seeing little chance of success with such a limited roster. The Nets move into Barclays Center with a decimated line-up at the same time the Knicks are on a rise both in New York and globally with Linsanity. (We could have included that Mikhail Prokhorov gets less interested in the team as well as his political party launches.)

So, what's the best case scenario? It's not been discussed much so here's a detailed and admittedly a very hopeful look.

--Wallace shows that he can still play though the end of April, that his declined PER and WARP were related to a bad situation in Portland. He certainly can play, as evidenced by what we've seen so far, particularly in his 27-point, 12-rebound effort against the Hornets. Both those totals were his second best of the season. If this continues, the Nets would prefer he doesn't exercise his $9.5 million player option at the end of June. It's a better choice than sign him to, say, a three year deal for $19 million? Because if he doesn't opt out, he becomes an expiring contract and adds to the Nets' flexibility should the Dwightmare re-start. Absent that, Wallace and Gerald Green provides the Nets solid depth at a position that saw three small forwards suffer season-ending foot surgery and a month ago was manned by DeShawn Stevenson and Andre Emmett. (If you want to give Billy King a break, take a look at his month's work, Wallace plus Green).

--The Nets secure one of the top three spots in the Draft Lottery in New York on May 30 (tentative date) and get one of the three players the front office really likes, in order, Anthony Davis, a 6'11" big man; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a 6'6" swingman; or Thomas Robinson, a 6'9" power forward. What are the odd? Right now, about 26%, according to Kevin Pelton, who's combined draft odds and current won-lost record with schedule strength. That's one in four. The Nets chance of getting the overall #1 in 2000 and picking Kenyon Martin was one in 25.

--The Rockets make the playoffs. Pelton puts the Nets chances of getting this pick at 84.5% as Houston continues to play better than its competitors for the last two playoff spots. The pick would give the Nets additional flexibility. It can be used to take a player in the draft; move up in the draft if combined with up to $3 million in cash and a future pick; or it can be traded.

--The Nets get further under the cap so they can make big offers to their top targets in the off-season. Don't be surprised if the Nets make a deal between the end of the regular season and the draft. Losing Shawne Williams' $3.15 million next year helps in that regard. The two players most rumored as Nets' targets (other than Kris Humphries) are Kevin Garnett and Ryan Anderson. The former would add to star power in Brooklyn; the latter, if the Magic don't match, would mean the return of a player who's developed nicely since leaving the Nets in 2009. He's still only 23. There will be a lot of competition for Garnett who seems to have something left. As for Anderson, the Magic are in a bit of a fix. They're $2 million short of the luxury tax and stuck with a lot of under-performing assets, like Hedo Turkoglu ($17.8 million still guaranteed after this year); Jason Richardson ($18.8 million; Glen Davis ($19.4 million); among others. You might hear Ersan Ilyasova's name too.

--The Nets reach a deal with Brook Lopez, who is a restricted free agent and, fairly or unfairly, damaged goods at this point. His contract situation is now murkier than ever with the discovery of a "very, very small line" that has not fully healed in his foot. Teams, including the Nets, can present him and his agent with offers starting July 1. If he accepts another team's offer, the Nets have 72 hours to match or they lose his rights.

--Deron Williams signs a five-year, $109 million deal on July 11. Nothing is more important. If the Nets keep Willilams and lose out on the top three players, the Wallace trade is a huge success. If he doesn't, it's a huge failure. D-Will has made it clear over the last few days that he still likes both Barclays Center ("it's going to be state of the art, it's going to be the best arena in the NBA hands down. I’m excited to see it when it’s complete and hopefully play there") and Wallace ("Gerald Wallace is definitely going to help this team, help this organization. He's a great player, he's been a great player in this league for 11 years now. He's still relatively young and can help us in the future"). Williams did sign off on the deal, we're told by a league source. Sure seems that way from his comments.

--The TE comes in handy at the end of free agency. If the Nets get over the cap, they'll need exceptions to help them fill out the roster. That's where the $3.0 million trade exception can come in handy. Say the Nets are interested in a player who makes $3 million or less. Being over the cap, they can't trade for the player unless salaries match. They can easily arrange a deal where the player's team trades the player to the Nets for a second round pick, a swap of picks down the road, cash or a combination. The trade exception makes that possible. (The pick, by the way, can be so larded up with protections that it never gets moved.) The Nets also have a $1.3 million TE, but that seems too small to have any real impact. Both expire at the deadline next season.

--The Nets convince Bojan Bogdanovic to come to Brooklyn. It would require some finagling. He doesn't have an NBA "out" but he and his agents want him in the NBA. How does this relate to the trade? Second round picks like Bogdanovic can negotiate outside the rookie salary scale. Clearing cap space makes that easier. Nets think it's 50-50 he's here.

--As for Prokhorov, remember he has a huge investment in Barclays Center and could within 18 months hold majority stakes in both the Nets and the arena. That's likely to increase his interest.

What's the likelihood of that working out? Low, but higher, we think, than the worst case. Why? Other than the Nets could use a break? There are economic incentives for Deron Williams and Wallace to stay. Williams apparently does understand that this has been a lost season, one whose program he agreed with -- fewer long term deals, flexibility for Dwight Howard, etc. Lopez is likely to recover fully, even if it doesn't look that way now and some under appreciated moves look promising...the drafting of Brooks and Bogdanovic, the signing of Green, the demand that the Rockets provide the Nets their 2012 first round pick in the Terrence Williams deal. (Daryl Morey ain't perfect).

And the team did come out of the trade deadine with all their young players, those between the ages of 21 and 26: Lopez, Brooks, Bogdanovic, Green, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, and Jordan Williams. With the exception of Lopez and possibly Brooks, they are all role players but each has some value.

As we've learned to say, "could be worse", although the range of "worse" scenarios does seem to shrink.