The Brooklyn Nets sit at a poor 21-31, still in playoff contention, but also potentially stuck in NBA mediocrity. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov may be abandoning ship, multiple players are severely overpaid, and the Nets don’t control their own first round draft pick until 2019. The hours leading up to the trade deadline could make or break the Nets for years to come.
With the NBA Trade Deadline rapidly approaching on February 19, the Nets have decisions to make. Trade rumors have swirled over the past month, with the Nets failing to pull the trigger on any deal. The Nets have two main goals in mind in any trade: shed unwanted contracts and acquire future assets, whether picks or players. The Nets record this year is ultimately irrelevant, if they make the playoffs they will not advance, and tanking will only yield the Atlanta Hawks a lottery pick. The Nets must trade only with the future in mind.
Potential Trade Targets
Brook Lopez, C: Brook Lopez has come in the most trade talks for the Nets, and for good reason. He has the most attractive combination of contract and productivity to entice a team. Lopez has been a focal point of the Nets for years, and is still in his prime. The Nets can choose to either translate this into an extension or a lucrative trade. Either way, Lopez will help the Nets be a better team in the future.
Lopez also fits a variety of potential needs for trade partners. A true center away from championship contention? Lopez can come in and start for a playoff team. Set in the starting front court but lacking depth? Lopez has come off the bench in nearly half of his appearances this season. Struggling team looking for an identity? While not a superstar, Lopez could be the best player on a few NBA team’s rosters.
Prediction: The Nets trade Lopez before the deadline for a reasonable deal, including a solid player and a future draft pick.
Deron Williams, PG: In an ideal world, the Nets would take almost any deal to shed Deron Williams’ albatross contract. Williams is by no means a bad player, but his value to the Nets is worth nothing close to the $43 million he will make over the next two seasons. Williams could use a change of scenery, as his days in Brooklyn have been a downward spiral ever since his superstar days in Utah.
Why would a team acquire Deron Williams? Crazier things have happened, the Knicks gave up a fortune for Andrea Bargnani, and Rudy Gay bounces from team to team with his huge contract. Still, it’s hard to see a team making a strong push for Williams. If the Nets included other assets in the deal, it would be possible, but the Nets don’t have first round draft picks to deal with, and Mason Plumlee, a player that could actually get this trade done, is virtually untouchable. The Sacramento Kings were rumored to be interested in this exact scenario, they would take on Williams but only if Plumlee was a part of the deal.
Prediction: Williams stays put in Brooklyn for now, and the Nets explore bigger trade options for him over the summer.
Joe Johnson, SG/SF: Joe Johnson’s value lies somewhere in between that of Lopez and Williams. Johnson is the team’s leading scorer, and while his scoring output has steadily decreased over the years, Johnson is a consistent force on the court. He will create shots for himself, spacing the floor and making his teammates better. Ideally, Johnson wouldn’t be a number one scoring option at 33-years-old, but rather a complement to an already existing star. This perfect team would also need to be able to take on Johnson’s $48 million contract, but suitors do exist.
The biggest hurdle in a Johnson trade would be finding a balance between unloading Johnson while also acquiring talent or draft picks. The Nets aren’t looking to dump Johnson, and would need value in return, as opposed to Deron Williams who the Nets would be happy to trade for much less value.
The Detroit Pistons have shown interest in Johnson, and would send a package including Brandon Jennings and expiring contracts.
Prediction: Johnson stays a Net… Right until the trade deadline, where the Nets find the perfect trade partner.
Jarrett Jack, PG: Jarrett Jack has quietly been one of the Nets’ most integral players this season. For all of Jack’s current value, he isn’t the Nets long term solution at point guard. If value could be found in the 31-year-old point guard, the Nets would definitely listen to any trade offers. Jack’s trade value is enhanced by his spectacular run with the Golden State Warriors just a few years ago. Backing up Stephen Curry, Jack proved to be one of the most valuable bench players in the league. Most top-tier playoff contenders have a starting point guard, but solid backup point guards are becoming a rarer commodity in the NBA. A fringe championship contender would much more solid with Jack backing up their star starting point guard.
Returns for Jack wouldn’t be tremendous, though his $6.3 million contract for each of the next two seasons isn’t bad given his production. A non-lottery draft pick or inexpensive, developing player could be possible options for the Nets to consider.
Prediction: Jarrett Jack is traded only if other major deal(s) happen. He will only be traded if the Nets are truly rebuilding.
Alan Anderson, SF: Alan Anderson would not be a focal point of a trade before the deadline, but could potentially be a sweetener to any deal the Nets make. If a team doesn’t want to give away multiple players for one star player, Anderson could be a perfect compliment. Due just over $1 million this season and also next season, Anderson outputs a respectable 6.6 points per game in his 23 nightly minutes. Anderson is a cheap, solid rotation player. The Nets would be happy to keep him, but would also be open to parting with him to secure the right deal.
Prediction: Anderson goes with Johnson, or stays in Brooklyn with Johnson.
Kevin Garnett, PF: Kevin Garnett holds a no-trade clause, and insists he is happy with the Nets. Still, it’s hard to believe the 20-year veteran would want to spend his final days playing meaningless games in Brooklyn. Reunions often are a player’s end of career dream, but neither the Minnesota Timberwolves nor the Boston Celtics have reason to deal for Garnett as both franchises are rebuilding.
If Garnett waives his no-trade clause, or a mutual buyout is agreed upon, playoff contenders could potentially lineup for the big man. Teams rumored to be linked to Garnett include the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors, two teams at or near the top of their respective conferences. These teams would give Garnett a chance to go out a champion in his final NBA season.
Prediction: Garnett ultimately decides where he wants to go, agreeing to a buyout or forcing the Nets hand in a trade.
- To Oklahoma City Thunder for Kendrick Perkins, Mitch McGary, and a first round pick
- To Charlotte Hornets for Lance Stephenson and Cody Zeller
- To Denver Nuggets for Javale McGee, J.J. Hickson, and a first round pick
- To Miami Heat for Norris Cole, Chris Anderson, and a first round pick
Brook Lopez needs to bring back value in a trade, and these trades all bring back value. A first round pick would be the Nets best return here, and three of these four potential deals bring that back. The Hornets trade does not, but could ultimately be the best option here. Lance Stephenson can produce at a solid level in the right situation, and Cody Zeller is still growing into a great big man. A frontcourt duo of Zeller and Plumlee would be a building block for the Nets for years to come.
The Thunder trade would also be one the Nets would be wise to make, as Mitch McGary is another emerging big man. In addition, a future first round pick would allow the Nets to rebuild even more through the draft, an opportunity they currently do not posses.
- To Charlotte Hornets with Alan Anderson for Lance Stephenson, Gerald Henderson, and Marvin Williams
- To Detroit Pistons with Alan Anderson for Brandon Jennings, Caron Butler, Joel Anthony, and Jonas Jerebko
Both these trades have reportedly been offered to the Nets, and both should be strongly considered. The Hornets trade is essentially a swap of Johnson and Stephenson, something that may or may not appeal to the Nets. Johnson is currently enjoying more success than Stephenson, and the two would essentially be swapping roles. The Nets only pull the trigger on this trade if they believe Stephenson, still only 24-years-old, is continuing to develop as a star player.
The rumored swap of Johnson for Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings is perhaps one of the most intriguing deals the Nets have received yet. Jennings, currently out for the season after rupturing his Achilles, would be the Nets point guard of the future. His acquisition would shed $13 million from the Nets salary cap next year, giving the Nets more flexibility while arguably becoming a better team. These trade talks could just be rumors, but if not, the Nets would be very wise to ship Johnson to Detroit.
- To Sacramento Kings with Mason Plumlee for Darren Collison, Derrick Williams, and Jason Thompson
Other than this reported trade offer from December, it’s hard to see another suitor for Williams’ services emerging before the trade deadline. If the Kings are truly interested in Williams, this trade could regain traction, provided the Kings don’t request Plumlee. Perhaps the Nets throw in Alan Anderson, and the Kings withdraw one of their three offered players. In this case, the Nets would be giving up little to shed Williams contract while getting minimal yet adequate returns.
- To Atlanta Hawks to re-acquire rights to Nets first round pick
- To Washington Wizards for Garrett Temple and a second round pick
- To Golden State Warriors with Alan Anderson for Shaun Livingston and Justin Holiday
Jarrett Jack trade rumors have been scarce, although he could be traded for the right return. These hypothetical deals all give championship contenders a strong backup point guard and bench player to spark a deep playoff run. The Hawks trade, while very hypothetical, allows the Nets to control their own draft selection this year, a pick that would be top 15 rather than in the 25-30 range. The Warriors trade would deal a lot of fan service to both organizations, as Jack would return to Oakland to backup superstar Steph Curry and the Nets would reacquire the fan favorite, lanky point guard Shaun Livingston. The Nets would also acquire a project shooting guard in Justin Holiday, a player with potential for growth in the future not available from Anderson.
- To Toronto Raptors with Alan Anderson for Terrence Ross and Landry Fields
- To Golden State Warriors for future first round pick
- To Atlanta Hawks for two future second round picks
Kevin Garnett would have to waive his no-trade clause in any deal, but the chance at one last championship may be too much for the veteran to pass up. Would a playoff team give up talent or even a future first round pick for three months with a player nearing 40-years-old? If it’s Garnett, yes. The opportunity to add a tough, gritty rebounder with a deadly midrange shot and leadership is too much to pass up. Any team that meets Garnett in the playoffs will be cautious of how he can change a game even at 38-years-old. If Garnett agrees to leave Brooklyn, he would instantly make a title contender a title favorite.
The Nets have a lot of moving parts in their future plans. Leading up to the trade deadline, the Nets have the rare power to control these moving parts. How they handle their roster isn’t important for this season. The Nets won’t win a playoff series and don’t own their first round draft choice. These trades must look towards the future, 2016 and beyond. Creating cap space and adding quality players is the only way the Nets can save themselves from being stuck in NBA purgatory for years to come.