The trade deadline came and went, and the Nets still have a 4 man rotation of Evans-Humphries-Teletovic. Still, they made the right decision not to act rashly, and here is why.
First: Look Who Was Traded: It’s Not Like the Nets Blew A Chance To Get Somebody
The Josh McRoberts, Dexter Pittman, Dahntay Jones, Charles Jenkins, and Jeremy Tyler swaps would not have moved the needle for the Nets. The Knicks would not have given the Nets Ronnie Brewer because of the intercity rivalry. The Nets cannot reacquire Anthony Morrow until July per CBA rules. Jordan Crawford makes Brooks’ shot selection look good and is a huge reason for the Wizards’ struggles. Eric Maynor is struggling coming of ACL surgery and the Nets are set at point guard. JJ Redick fits but he wants $10 million a season this summer and cost the Bucks two young assets: I’d rather pay Kyle Korver or Morrow less than half that and keep our young pieces. The Thomas Robinson deal feels like a miss but he has not done anything and could be a bust; in addition, the Kings likely dealt for Patrick Patterson to give Demarcus Cousins a former Kentucky teammate to make him feel comfortable and the Nets could not offer that.
So in looking at what was traded, it is not as if you can say “man, the Nets really should have been involved here” with any of the deals.
Second: The Smith Deal That Never Was
When you look at this year’s deadline deals, you see a common theme: teams do not want to take on money. This doomed the Nets because Humphries is owed $12 million next year. From the moment the Nets kept Humphries, he was viewed as an asset to eventually flip for a better player on a longer deal. He is that piece because Williams Johnson and Lopez are not going anywhere, Wallace’s 4 year deal makes him untradeable for now, and nobody else on the team makes enough money to match salaries in a big deal.
The problem: look at what the Hawks nearly got for Smith: Ekpe Udoh, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Beno Udrih, and a protected pick. Udoh has higher value around the league than Brooks as a good young big, Moute is a decent rotation player, and Udrih provides payroll relief with his expiring contract. Making the Hawks take on Humphries, the Nets could not beat that package of 3 assets and payroll relief with just Brooks and a pick. To beat that, the Nets would have had to throw in at least two more young assets, and more likely three. Your’e talking Bogdanovic and two more firsts, or Bogdanovic a first and Shengelia/Taylor in all likelihood.
The takeaway: Humphries does not expire, and the Hawks would have charged the Nets multiple assets in exchange for their having to waste summer cap space on him. Udrih is not that good, but has value because he is expiring. Jose Calderon and Kevin Martin are better than Humphries but also not great, and yet were key pieces in deals netting Rudy Gay and James Harden. Everyone is running away from the tax, and from payroll obligations: an expiring deal is considerably more valuable than a two year deal.
In short: maybe the Nets could have gotten Smith, but it would have required emptying the cupboard of all of their young assets because of Humphries’ contract. Doing something similar next year when Humphries offers payroll relief will bring in a player similar to value in Smith yet cost the Nets much less in young assets. That leaves more youth on hand to build the team with, or use in a separate deal to improve.
While the Nets cannot do a sign and trade of a free agent unless the end result was them getting under the apron (essentially, taking on salary but shedding a ton more, unlikely to happen), they can do your garden variety deal for a piece. Look at the guys dealt in the last 12 months: Gay, Harden, Joe Johnson, nearly Smith: nobody predicted those specific names would be available, but players always become available. Whether for CBA or team building reasons, if you’re not LeBron or Durant essentially, you are subject to becoming trade fodder at any moment.
Maybe Smith himself is available again this summer or at the deadline if his new team dislikes his contract. Maybe Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce are put on the market, or Carlos Boozer is seen as too expensive in Chicago. The Nuggets are loaded with talent but are expensive: maybe they look to get rid of one of their high priced good players for young kids. Maybe Detroit parts with one of Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond, Golden State David Lee or Andrew Bogut. And I did not even go through all the teams. All we know now is that players will become available, we cannot identify who in particular.
But what I know is this. This summer or next February when a player is available, the Nets won’t be stuck asking teams to use their summer cap room on Humphries, so they will not be quickly shot down or asked to surrender every single young piece they have. They will be able to offer an expiring deal that helps provide teams with payroll and tax relief.
And if and when the Nets get their man, for less than they would have had to pay yesterday, we should look back on this trade deadline, and be thankful that they did not deal every asset they had on Feburary 21, 2013 to bring in a piece.
Hello Brooklyn. Thank you for being patient.