Nets Ready to Overhaul Roster?
With six days until a large portion of the players who signed this offseason become eligible to be traded, the Brooklyn Nets are letting it be known that they are open for business – with no untouchables apparently. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Nets are shopping Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, a trio that just hasn’t lived up to expectations and is generally regarded as overpaid.
While Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Nets are primarily focused on trading Andrei Kirilenko to the Philadelphia 76ers right now (the Nets would also send a second-round pick, while the 76ers would buyout or waive Kirilenko immediately), multiple other reporters confirmed Stein’s report.
Trading them will be no easy feat, though. Johnson is owed $48 million over the next two seasons, Williams is owed $62 million over the next three (the last year is an early termination option for $22.3 million) and Lopez is making $15.7 million this year with the option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer if he declines a $16.7 million player option.
However, as history has taught us, in the NBA there’s typically a home for any deal, no matter how bad. Nobody thought the Hawks would be able to trade Johnson before they shipped him off to the Nets; the same goes for the Washington Wizards with Gilbert Arenas’ six-year, $111 million deal that had a couple years on it when they persuaded the Orlando Magic to take him off their hands. Trading Johnson, Lopez and Williams is possible.
The Nets are short on draft assets as they mortgaged most of them to trade for Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. However, they do have some attractive young assets in Mirza Teletovic, Bojan Bogdanovic and Mason Plumlee to use as sweeteners. Garnett’s $12 million expiring deal would be easy to trade, but he has a no-trade clause and tends to be opposed to change.
The market is not going to be overwhelming, but given their limited leverage, the Nets’ asking price probably isn’t going to be too high.
Williams’ decline has been exaggerated to a certain extent. He’s still one of the more productive point guards in the league, averaging 17 points, three rebounds and six assists a game while appearing in all of the Nets’ 19 contests so far this year. Teams who are planning on making a run at Rajon Rondo this offseason but don’t like their chances could view making a move for Williams now as a safer way to ensure they acquire an upgrade at point guard. Rondo may be a little cheaper on average, but his deal will come off of the books two years later. The teams that come to mind are the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, both equipped with the young talent, expiring contracts and pressure to compete at a higher level than they currently are may consider taking Williams’ deal on. The Sacramento Kings are another potential suitor, as they have shown a willingness to take on long-term contracts and have been rumored to be interested in acquiring an All-Star level point guard, although Darren Collison’s inspired play for far cheaper makes them less likely now. The Dallas Mavericks made a run at Williams when he was a free agent, but lack the assets needed to acquire him. Same goes for the Houston Rockets. The only other team that makes any sense is the Detroit Pistons, but they would likely want to rid themselves of Josh Smith’s contract, which pays him $13.5 million annually through 2017, in any major deal. Paying a 32-year-old Williams $22 million in 2016-17 may be an unappealing reality to have to accept, but between his instant impact and the salary cap increase that should be in place by then, a team can probably resign to it.
Owed $24.8 million next season, Johnson is basically out of the question for any team that is interested in having cap space this summer. It’s going to take a team that is really desperate for a boost on the wing with limited resources to address the need otherwise. The only team that really comes to mind is the New Orleans Pelicans, whose playoff chances are hanging in the balance. As noted above, the Pistons would probably be game if it helped them unload Smith. The Charlotte Hornets are also in a place of desperation, but Michael Jordan taking on his contract, even with how much more willing to spend he’s been recently, is doubtful. The dark horse team for him could be the Denver Nuggets. In terms of helping the Nets stay competitive, they could offer the best combination of assets.
If it weren’t for injury concerns, Lopez may be the easiest to trade of the trio. He’s potentially an expiring contract, and he is one of the league’s best low-post scorers when healthy. Because he’s likely to opt out if he excels in the second half of the season and is only dealing with minor injuries right now, the injury risk is easier to take on. The list of teams that Lopez makes sense for is lengthy, including the Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Nuggets, Knicks, Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder in particular.
Fire sale doesn’t seem the right term to classify what’s going on in Brooklyn. They’re not just going to give away these three talented, albeit expensive pieces, but they’re definitely open for business, especially if they can save some money and not take too far of a step back in the process.
Magic Hopes Lakers Keep Losing
Former minority owner and all-time Laker great Magic Johnson always has bold statements when it comes to the team. He’s never scared to share his opinion, even if it’s negative toward team owner and president Jim Buss. In his latest, Johnson is calling for the Lakers to do what has been regarded as the unthinkable in Hollywood for so long: tank.
“I hope the Lakers lose every day,” Johnson said to Newsday. “Because if you’re going to lose, lose. I’m serious.
“If you’re going to lose, you have to lose because you can’t be in the middle of the pack. You either have to be great or you have to be bad to get a good pick. The Lakers are in a good space, too, next summer if they can sign or trade for a talented guy. I’d rather be all the way bad than in the middle.”
There’s a lot of truth in Johnson’s comments, but Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has always seemed more interested in rebuilding through trades and free agency than the draft. However, after two years of missing out on top-tier free agents and limited avenues in which to acquire a high-level player, the draft may be the Lakers’ quickest way back to contention.
Currently, the Lakers are 5-16, which puts them in a tie with the Utah Jazz for the fifth-worst record in the league. If their pick is outside of the top five, it goes to the Phoenix Suns as a part of the Steve Nash deal.
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