Billy the King

Bill King having a laugh, presumably similar to the one he had today.

Billy King has been criticized regularly since becoming Nets GM. Whether it was for his stint in Philadelphia, dealing for Deron Williams without a commitment, or overpaying for his 2012-2013 roster, the common refrain was that Billy “locked” the Nets into last year’s roster. Sure he did.

The bottom line is simple: the goal for any general manager is to put together a roster that can compete for a championship. Generally, the way to do that is to amass assets, youth, and cap flexibility and turn that into players. And, the new NBA trend is that stars want to play with other stars: this reality makes it imperative to grab a star when you can, and work to surround him with a second star. Billy succeeded by mapping out a long term vision, not because he is a reckless spender. board. Here is a lookback  at some of Billy’s larger moves in his plan for Brooklyn.

1) December 15, 2010: Billy traded Terrence Williams for the Rockets’ 2012 first round draft pick. Billy knew that Terrence did not fit in with his vision, and that a first round pick had more value than Terrence in trading for a star player. The Rockets’ pick ultimately helped the Nets acquire Joe Johnson, a trade which secured Deron’s commitment.

2) February 23, 2011: the Deron trade. This was panned as a huge risk, but you have to have stars in the NBA; the Nets had a chance to get one for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter and that’s a chance you have to take. Billy knew he knew he would have 17 months to sell Deron on his vision, and the only risk was dismantling a 17-40 team for the reward of Deron being a Net long term. It worked.

2) 2011 offseason: Billy was criticized for being passive and only awarding one year deals rather than signing big name free agents in the 2011 offseason, in the belief this would drive Deron out the door. But Billy knew: stars want to play with other stars, so acquiring players that would not convince Deron to stay would do nothing but waste cap space and assets on those players. Billy’s financial prudence from July 2010-February 2012 preserved flexibility for the Nets and is a huge reason the Nets are where they are. Again, the plan was never just “spend money.”

4) March 2012: the Gerald Wallace trade: Yes, Billy dealt the 6th pick in the 2012 draft for Gerald Wallace. But, once the Nets went all in on Deron, this move made sense because it made Deron more likely to stay. Wallace-Lillard comparisons aside, Wallace became Pierce and the Nets would have picked Harrison Barnes.

5) July 2012: the Joe Johnson trade. Billy needed to convince Deron to stay, and Joe was the best player in the league to switch teams before Deron made his decision. Billy’s patience from 2010-2012 opened the door to having the flexibility to pull this trade off, and the trade secured Deron’s commitment.

6) February 2013: Doing nothing, and keeping Kris Humphries: In another example of patience, Billy faced some pressure to flip Humphries at the deadline into something, as he was the Nets’ best trade chip. Rather than swap Humphries in a lateral move for Ben Gordon, Billy remained patient. He knew Humphries value would only increase with time, as his contract approached expiration, and that he could use him to match salaries in a bigger deal. #HelloKG

All in all, the descriptions of Billy as an impatient General Manager are unfounded. In reviewing Billy’s tenure with the Nets, the only move of consequence he made from July 2010 hire, through February 2012, was dealing for Deron. He knew he had tradeable assets in numerous draft picks, young pieces, and expiring contracts, and prudently chose not cash them in for 19 months, knowing he would only keep Deron by finding he right pieces. Wasting assets on marginal pieces would have helped the Nets from 2010-2012, but hurt from 2012 on: Billy sacrificed wins in the short term for long term benefit.

The goal for any NBA GM is to build a championship caliber team. The way to do that is to amass assets, and patiently convert those assets into the right players. Billy inherited a 12-70 team, and 3 years later has Deron, Joe Johnson, Pierce, KG, Brook Lopez, Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche, Jason Terry, Reggie Evans, and credible reserves behind them.

Cheers to Billy, the King of Kings County, and the King of NBA Executives.

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