Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe had one of their occasional discussions Tuesday about the NBA and for a few minutes the talk turned to the Nets.
After quickly dispatching discussion of an Andrew Wiggins trade —Lowe said, on the most recent episode of Simmons’ podcast, the Nets are “too smart“ to go after Wiggins and his $146 million deal— Simmons pressed Lowe about just how smart Brooklyn’s rebuild has been. Part of it was Simmons playing devil’s advocate and part was going over old ground — both disliked the Allen Crabbe deal, but it was an interesting discussion nonetheless.
Here’s an annotated transcript...
Bill Simmons: “You’re saying Brooklyn would be like, ‘we’re screwed anyway, might as well roll the dice with ol’ Andrew here.”
Zach Lowe: “They’re too smart.”
Simmons: “Brooklyn’s too smart!? They traded for Allen Crabbe for nothing, they could’ve waited four months and gotten like two first-round picks.”
Lowe: “I didn’t like that trade.”
The Crabbe trade has long been the most criticized move of Sean Marks two years. The Nets dumped Andrew Nicholson on the Blazers in return for Crabbe (who the Nets liked enough to tender him a $75 million deal in 2016). They had agreed to take on Nicholson’s $20 million deal to acquire the Wizards’ first round pick which turned into Jarrett Allen.
Simmons: “I’m tired of hearing how smart these teams are. Why is Brooklyn smart? They don’t have one asset I like. Is the D’Angelo Russell trade smart? What was fun about that? Do you think anybody wants D’Angelo Russell right now?”
Here Simmons is playing a little bit of devil’s advocate with Lowe. He later admitted he liked the deal.
Lowe: “Uhh .., his extension talks are going to be quite interesting. I like Caris LeVert and I will not have you besmirch Caris LeVert … I think Jarrett Allen’s pretty good.”
Simmons: “So your defense for, ‘Brooklyn is smart’, is, ‘I like Caris LeVert’”? (Laughter)
Lowe: “I think the theory of what they’re doing, which is just, ‘we’re going to accumulate all these picks and just take shots on pedigree guys who, for whatever reason, are available to us. Now, (Jahlil) Okafor doesn’t count, because they didn’t really want Okafor. It’s generally the only way out of the hole that Danny Ainge dug for them and threw their carcass into.”
Lowe, of course, has written positively about the Nets’ rebuild since last August and isn’t backing down now.
Simmons: “See, everyone blames Ainge. It was (Mikhail) Prokhorov that was the guy that killed them because he completely audibled on what the strategy was when they made that trade. A year later he’s like all the sudden, ‘I don’t want to pay the luxury tax anymore.’ That’s a problem.”
Simmons is talking about the Nets decision in July 2014 not to re-sign 37-year-old Paul Pierce, which saved them tens of millions in luxury taxes. The Nets, including but not limited to Prokhorov, believed that even with Pierce they weren’t a championship contender so they decided not to throw good money after bad. They still paid $20 million in luxury taxes that year even without Pierce.
Lowe: “And Paul Pierce goes to the Wizards. I was at the Grantland Annual Party. We were all there when Paul Pierce signed with the Wizards.”
Simmons: “I actually liked the Russell trade. On the other hand, did not have the intel about … it just seems like, from a character standpoint, he might be hopeless.”
Lowe: “They’re hopeful about that …”
Again, Simmons seems to playing devil’s advocate and taking Magic Johnson’s line D’Lo, something Marks didn’t accept now or then.
Simmons: “That they can say, ‘well, he’s a young dude.’ And there’s been a lot of success over the years with guys who start out on a really rocky way and from a chemistry standpoint and then kind of mature into something a little more manageable. Even Kyle Lowry didn’t have one tenth of the bad buzz that Russell has, was somebody that got traded a couple of times because he’s an asshole. And I think he (Lowry) even admits it now. But that’s why Houston was able to get him, because he had a bad reputation. So that would be the hope with Russell. It also makes a lot of sense why the Lakers were delighted to move on from him.”
So after saying Russell is a ”hopeless” head case, Simmons admits there is hope.
Lowe: “Well, and (Timofey) Mozgov. I mean, that’s … and the pick they got back (Kyle Kuzma) ended up working out.”
Simmons: “I think they (Brooklyn) threw Portland one of the great life rafts of this decade by just taking that Allen Crabbe contract. If they hadn’t done that, four months later Portland is in a complete panic that they’re going to pay $50 million in luxury tax or whatever it is.”
Sounds great, but there’s no evidence that would have happened. And again, the Nets liked Crabbe when they signed him to their offer sheet in 2016 and nothing in the ensuing year changed their minds.