As I sat watching the NBA Draft Lottery and began working on my NBA mock draft one mystery kept popping into my head and that has been driving me insane ever since, so insane in fact, that I researched it to try to make sense of it. I called my contacts, I read articles from the darkest corners of the internet, and nobody could give me a good answer or sensible explanation to this mystery. I had been considering this mystery for quite some time, but never really dug into it, and am still perplexed and unable to find any plausible reasoning behind it.
The mystery of “Why the hell would the Brooklyn Nets trade a top three protected 2012 lottery pick to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for potentially a two month rental of forward Gerald Wallace?”
There is no possible explanation for this trade and not one person I have discussed it with or article I read could come up with a good answer regarding the logic or reasoning behind this move. It makes zero sense. I have put together a breakdown that does not do justice to the pure stupidity of the trade unless the Nets know something that the general public and insiders do not.
BACKGROUND (Just the Highlights): In September 2009 Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov made an offer to buy the New Jersey Nets, which was approved by the NBA in May of 2010. The Nets are moving from New Jersey to a brand new arena in Brooklyn at the start of the 2012 NBA season and want to attract fans by acquiring major star power. They acquired many young assets and draft picks with the intention of using them to assemble a team of stars to draw fans to their new arena, and draw the attention of Knicks fans. This plan launched in the summer of 2010. The Nets first courted free agents, attempting to sign Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh (who all signed with the Miami Heat) but left the summer of 2010 with just small forward Travis Outlaw (who played so poorly the Nets used the amnesty clause to release him in the Summer of 2011). At this point, long term general manager Rod Thorn was replaced by historically horrific former 76ers General Manager Billy King, the same guy who could not acquire another decent player to play alongside Allen Iverson. During the start of the 2010 season, the Nets had not acquired any stars and were playing terrible basketball.
DERON WILLIAMS TRADE: The Nets had tried to trade for Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, but he was instead shipped to the rival Knicks, and it looked like the Nets had missed out on another opportunity to acquire a superstar. In a surprise move, the Nets were able to trade for their first star player, as they traded for point guard Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz in February of 2011. The move cost them just point guard Devin Harris and third overall pick rookie forward Derrick Favors, plus draft picks and cash considerations. Deron Williams was a free agent in the summer of 2012, so the Nets had a year and a half to acquire another star player, or they would risk losing Williams as a free agent. During this period, the Nets continued to stink.
DWIGHT HOWARD DRAMA: During the 2012 season one of the best players in the NBA, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, demanded a trade and the Nets tried feverishly to acquire him to play alongside Deron Williams. They finally would have the two stars that they wanted for their big move to Brooklyn, and they had a great offer (which included their first round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft) to trade for Howard. However Orlando was reluctant to trade Howard and decided against it at the deadline, and Howard was talked into picking up his player option to keep him in Orlando (and extend this insufferable drama) for one more season, which he now regrets. (Really, the Dwight Howard Drama should be a whole write up itself).
AN INEXPLICABLE TRADE: Now the stage is set for the whole purpose of this article, the 2011-2012 NBA trade deadline was approaching and the Nets were unable to trade for Dwight Howard (or any second star) to pair with Deron Williams, who would become a free agent that summer. The move from New Jersey to Brooklyn and the brand new arena was looming, the Nets were in danger of losing Williams to free agency, and playing in front of an empty new home arena because they had no star players. The Portland Trail Blazers were out of contention in the Western Conference and were looking to dump the salary of forward Gerald Wallace, who was not going to pick up his player option and would become a free agent that summer. The Blazers were not looking for much in return for Wallace, the team that made the trade would essentially be getting him for a two month rental, they just wanted to get something in return for the borderline All Star. The Nets, still a horrible team, jumped at the opportunity to acquire Wallace and when I heard they did, I was not surprised. What did they give up for him? A second round pick or two? A young player, maybe even rookie shooting guard MarShon Brooks? The rights to some European who will probably never play in the NBA? When I heard the answer I was floored.
The Nets traded Portland a top three protected first round pick in the 2012 NBA draft, one of the deepest in recent memory, which was their best trade asset for Gerald Wallace. The Nets were one of the worst teams in the NBA and nowhere near playoff contention, so it’s not like the acquisition of Wallace (a solid energy guy but non-star) was going to put them over the top. If they wanted Wallace so badly they could have just offered him a contract during the summer when he became a free agent. Their lottery pick was their best asset, and I could not believe they gave it up. When asked why he traded this pick by shocked basketball writers and fans, Nets General Manager Billy King said “We only like three players in the upcoming draft” which is the worst reasoning I have heard.
King knows you can trade draft picks, right? We know now that the Nets pick ended up sixth overall, and now belongs to the Portland Trailblazers, due to this terrible trade. In a deep draft, the Nets could easily have used that pick to acquire at least a young player that the new fanbase could get excited about (maybe Connecticut big man Andre Drummond, for example, who reminds scouts of a young Amare Stoudemire) or tried again to use the pick as a trade asset to acquire either Howard or another player who is rumored to be on the market this summer (say Atlanta forward Josh Smith). If the Nets offered the sixth pick in the draft and say center Brook Lopez, they could make a respectable offer to any team that makes a star available this summer, or at least not get laughed at and hung up on when they call. The Nets now have nothing to trade and are in serious risk of being forced to try and sell an inferior product to the most knowledgeable basketball fans on the planet in New York City.
The only way that this trade can possibly make any sense would be if Deron Williams told Billy King and Nets management “If you acquire Gerald Wallace, I will resign with the Brooklyn Nets next summer” so the Nets pulled the trigger. Rumors have been circulating quite the opposite is true, and Deron Williams is actually telling those close to him that he has one foot out the door, and he will leave the Nets unless they acquire Howard. I cannot see acquiring Wallace being enough to coerce Williams to stay, he is a be a solid piece and you can probably win a championship with him as your fourth best guy, but he is not good enough to be the second best player on a playoff team.
The Nets have stated they have every intention of resigning Wallace and Williams this summer, but with both players opting out, they are in real danger of losing both. If the Nets lose Williams and Wallace this summer, with no sixth pick in the draft, they will be playing in front of an empty new home arena in Brooklyn and this will go down as one of the worst trades in the history of professional sports.