When the Brooklyn Nets opted not to sign Paul Pierce many felt the decision was an indication that the team realized it made a mistake on last year's "all-in" quest for a title. They swung for the fences and came well short of the warning track. With heavy luxury tax implications looming and a perceived window of opportunity closing, the Nets brass felt it was best to move forward without Pierce.
Judging by many reactions within the sports media, the move signified the Nets didn’t view themselves as contenders any longer and were entering a rebuilding period. When you trade three first round draft picks for a future Hall of Famer only to let him leave after a year of service, then you can understand the pundits’ logic.
Much concern amongst fans was how the Nets would be able to fill the production of Pierce. After all, he played an instrumental role in the team’s turnaround and single-handedly saved the day in the closing seconds of Game 7 against Toronto in the playoffs. Perhaps Billy King and company knew of the solution all along.
Yes, Pierce is a lock to make the Hall of Fame when his playing days are over, but to think that he is still producing like one is a different story. There are nights when he unlocks his superpowers and reminds fans that he is one of the greatest from this era, but there are also many nights when he’s a second slower than his opponent and his jumper fails to fall. At age 37, it would be a safe bet that Father Time would have an even greater impact on Pierce’s game for the 2014-15 season. It's not something that Pierce supporters want to hear, but sometimes the truth hurts.
Although the season is still in its infancy stages, the Nets may have made the correct decision in electing not to resign their veteran free agent. Closing the books on the Pierce Era in Brooklyn opened the door for the two Mostarci, Mirza Teletovic and Bojan Bogdanovic, extra minutes for the former, a contract for the latter.
Judging by the numbers thus far, the data may support the claim that Teletovic and Bogdanovic could very well be the more productive players.
Consider the numbers prior to Wednesday night's games:
Suppose Pierce was offered and accepted a deal to remain in Brooklyn, what would have been the domino effect with the current roster? Would he return to the power forward position, hence bumping Kevin Garnett from the starting lineup? Would he be slotted at the small forward spot thus shifting Joe Johnson to the two and sending Bojan Bogdanovic to the bench? Would Bogdanovic even come over?? Would an alpha type player like Pierce result in fewer touches for Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Johnson?
Clearly things would have been different had Pierce returned to Brooklyn. This move now allows them to fully assess what they have with both Teletovic and Bogdanovic, who would probably be receiving fewer minutes had he been resigned. With limited assets in the short term future, the Nets will have the ability to develop both players’ games and determine if Teletovic is a player worth investing in long term when his contract expires at years’ end. This opportunity may not have been available otherwise.
Following the wisdom of Branch Rickey, it’s better to get rid of a player a year too early rather than a year too late. Considering Father Time’s undefeated record, Pierce could be headed towards an even more precipitous decline this season. If these first seven games are any indication of what he might have left, not only were the Nets were able to avoid further luxury taxes by letting Pierce walk away, but most likely improved their team in the process. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.