The Brooklyn Nets next game is February 20, after the NBA Trade Deadline. With the deadline rapidly approaching, will we see the same Nets team after the break?
Trade rumors have been swirling all season for the Nets. Productive players like Brook Lopez, injury-riden underperformers like Deron Williams, and even Joe Johnson and his max contract have come up in trade talks. As the Nets sit at a sub-par 21-31, any moves that Nets make should be towards crafting a more competitive team for the future. This includes acquiring draft picks as well as dumping team crippling contracts.
Brook Lopez is the team’s most enticing asset, save for Mason Plumlee who the Nets have deemed pretty much untouchable. After suffering a season-ending injury in the Nets 2013-2014 campaign, Lopez has bounced back to produce at a high level this year. Shooting just over 50%, the former All-Star center is averaging 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
To a contender lacking a starting center, Lopez could be the answer. A playoff team with a strong frontcourt could trade for Lopez as a depth move, as he has come off the bench twenty times this season. And for a non-playoff team with little direction, Lopez could be a building block for that team moving forward. Lopez brings a lot to the table and would easily garner the most in a trade package for the Nets.
The Nets have previously rejected trade offers from the Denver Nuggets for Lopez, the most recent offer including JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson as well as a protected first round pick. If the Nuggets were to include their own first round pick, this would be the deal to make for the Nets as it would bring them two players that while not game changers, would keep the Nets competitive, as well as benefit the Nets in the future with a guaranteed first round draft pick this year. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat have also been linked to Lopez, though talks have seemed to be slow to non-existent as of late. Lopez is much more valuable now as well, as in the summer teams will have the likes of Lamarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol to choose from as well.
Joe Johnson, while carrying a max contract, is another piece the Nets could try to move. Johnson is averaging 15.5 points per game this season, a couple points under his career average, but has played in every game for the Nets this season. While Johnson isn’t quite the superstar the Nets doled out both a max contract and draft picks for, Johnson has proven he can consistent and create offense for himself.
While the trade value for Johnson obviously isn’t as great as for Lopez, there could still be a market. The Nets and Joe Johnson were recently linked to the Charlotte Hornets and Lance Stephenson, a move that could logistically make sense. It would give Brooklyn three years of Stephenson however, so its a move they would have to carefully consider.
The player the Nets would most like to trade but will have the most difficulty doing so is Deron Williams. Though looking good at times, Williams has been ice cold as of late and could force his way onto the Nets roster for up to three more years. With a hefty $20 million price tag, the Nets would love to dump Williams for little to nothing. Sadly, the same reasons the Nets want to trade Williams are the same reasons other teams won’t look to acquire him. Sure, Williams can still contribute in the NBA, but no team will look to tie up a quarter of the league’s salary cap to the 30-year-old point guard.
Back in December, Williams was actually linked to the Sacramento Kings for an assortment of average players. The Kings demanded Mason Plumlee be included though, which quickly dissolved trade talks. The Nets would need to include an enticing piece in any Deron Williams package to make it viable.
Kevin Garnett is likely in his final season of an illustrious NBA career. Rumors have swirled that the future Hall of Famer wants to go out on a high note, competing for an NBA Championship. The Nets could look to trade Garnett for any amount of value, maybe even a second round pick, as he wouldn’t contribute to a Nets playoff series win this year and will not return to the roster next season. Another option Garnett has is reaching a buyout with the Nets. Following popular rumors, these options could reunite Garnett with former coach Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The league-best Golden State Warriors have also come up in rumors, a move that would make the Warriors even more lethal and give Garnett his best shot at a title. Garnett deserves more as a player than an eighth seed, short playoff series in his final season, and he may end up on a contender in his final months.
The Nets last move that could come soon isn’t a trade, but an acquisition. The Nets are reportedly interested in a reunion with Andray Blatche. Blatche averaged over 30 points per game in China this season, and is eyeing an NBA return as his team missed the playoffs. Blatche could conceivably fill a void left by a traded player, such as Lopez or Garnett. As the Nets don’t own their first-round pick, there’s no reason for them to tank and Blatche would make the team more competitive in the coming months.
The Nets have a lot of questions and very few answers between now and February 19. When the Nets travel to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers on February 20, many things could happen. Could they be playing their first game this season without Joe Johnson? Could Garnett or Lopez be gone? Could we be ushering in a whole new era of Brooklyn Nets basketball?
Or, will the same team that’s willed it’s way to 21-31 record take on a weak Lakers team? While there are no apparent signs of a major trade at the time, only time will tell.