As you all likely know, the Nets are potential players in a three team deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, in a deal in which the Nets would receive Jarrett Jack. How will this deal work? That requires looking at 2 recent, likely similar Utah Jazz deals.
Last summer, the Warriors sent the Jazz the long, bad contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins, along with two first round picks, for Kevin Murphy’s nonguaranteed contract. This allowed the Warriors cap space for Andre Iguodala.
This summer, the Jazz made a similar deal, acquiring Steve Novak’s brutal contract and a second round pick, from the Raptors for Diante Garrett’s nonguaranteed deal. This deal allows the Raptors to be players in 2015 free agency.
What’s happening in these deals for the Jazz? Think logically. The Jazz are rebuilding. As a rebuilding franchise, they care about stockpiling picks and assets for their future. They are not looking into signing free agent talent, and hamstringing their cap. Paying a Luol Deng, a Trevor Ariza, a Paul Pierce is not of import to them. Their goal is to add youth, add picks to the roster.
Which is precisely what the Warriors and Raptors allowed the Jazz to do the last two summers. Last summer, the Jazz figured “we are not signing any free agents. This cap space is just sitting here. Rather than sign random players, let’s take advantage of a team looking to dump salary. But hey, we won’t just let you dump salary here as some salary dump wasteland. Let’s charge them two first round draft picks.” So the Jazz, rather than pay marginal, no impact free agents last summer, charged the Warriors two first round picks to swallow their bad contracts. They replicated that work with the Novak deal this summer.
As for Thornton and Jack? The same will likely apply to the mystery third team we all seek to identify. Per Chris Broussard and Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers hope to shed Jack’s contract — not for 2015 cap space, but for cap space NOW, to make an effort at signing LeBron. The Nets do not offer that, as if they take Jack’s salary on, they must send out salary (i.e.: send out Marcus Thornton). However, if the Cavs and Nets find a third team with cap space — one who can swallow Thornton’s contract without taking salary on — they could route Jack to Brooklyn, Thornton to that team, and then Cleveland could shed Jack. Cleveland would receive a nonguaranteed deal from that team (like Murphy and Garrett above) — and just waive that player on arrival.
Is Thornton overpaid at nearly $9 million? Sure. But the lottery team receiving Thornton does not care — they’re not trying to win today, and it’s not like they will use that cap space to actually sign anyone meaningful. What’s in it for them? Like Utah, they’ll charge the Cavaliers a pick. Now, they see it as a win. Rather than sign random players to $9 million total, they add Thornton, and get a draft pick for their trouble.
The Nets? They likely would not get a pick here. The third team DEFINITELY would not convey one. Could they get one from Cleveland? That is possible: given their LeBron desperation, I could certainly envision them dumping a second pick in this deal. But I would not bank on it?
The mystery team? Impossible to predict the team, but think a lottery bound team in complete rebuilding mode, which is replete with cap space, and clearly not spending right now.
What Does this Mean for the Nets
It means that a Thornton for Jack trade, which has been reported at multiple different times since prior to the draft, is beginning to look more likely. Which begs the question: why do this trade?
First, the obvious: Livingston is gone. The Nets have a clear need for a second point guard; they like using Deron with another off guard and that’s tough to do if Jorge Gutierrez is your best reserve point.
Second: the Nets, as I have stated a few times before, have one cap exception of $3.3 million dollars, and are otherwised confined to minimum salary deals. They will be hard pressed to find a better point guard than Jack, especially if they use the mini midlevel on Bogdanovic, which they should given the lack of talent available at the price (and lack of upside).
Third, trading Thornton for an upgrade (on a worse contract) is one of the more obvious ways for the Nets to improve. They can trade Deron Brook or Joe, but in all three cases you’re talking about a huge shakeup to the roster. Paul Pierce if traded is likely at a loss. Kevin Garnett: likely to play for the Nets or retire, as that contract is not being dealt. Mirza Teletovic? He’s worth the $3 million he makes, so it’s unlikely he fetches back a better player, given salaries must be matched in deals.
That leaves Thornton. As a player on a one year deal, the Nets can improve by dealing him for a player on a two year deal, who is better, but on a worse contract: Jack fits the bill. Looking around the league, not many players fit the bill. Martell Webster in Washington? If the Nets bring over Bojan and keep Pierce, they have Kirilenko and seem to have enough forwards of that ilk. Thornton for Kevin Martin? Why take on post 2016 salary. Something bigger? Thornton, Markel Brown, and the 2015 second the Nets got for Jason Kidd, for Jeff Green? That does not feel like enough for Green, but Green is a nice player (albeit overpaid). Feel like Ainge will ask for more than we can afford. Thornton, Teletovic, Gutierrez, and the Bucks second for Eric Gordon? The Pelicans are in win now mode and likely do not devalue Gordon into floatsam.
What does Jack Offer
Jack played quality basketball under Mark Jackson in Golden State. He floated through this past season, but when he’s focused, he’s a very valuable piece. He was viewed as a big loss for the Warriors, and legitimately impacted numerous critical games for the Warriors. He’s better at his best than Thornton at his. Thornton was arguably better last year, but given their track records, this feels like a buy low sell high type of transaction for Brooklyn.