This is the second installment of six articles (for six divisions) featuring some potential trades the Nets can make, involving Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez. For the first installment, covering the pacific division, click here. For a piece on Deron and Brook and why the Nets may need to trade one or both at this point, click here. This installment features potential trade partners in the Northwest Division: the Nuggets, Jazz, Timberwolves, Blazers, and Thunder.
-Depth Chart: Lawson, Afflalo, Chandler, Faried, Mozgov; Gallinari (torn meniscus), Foye, Hickson, Arthur, Nurkic, Robinson, Harris, Gee, McGee
-The Nuggets M.O.: It’s hard to say. After creating a 57 win roster in the wake of the Melo trade around an awesome GM-Coach combo in Masai Ujiri and George Karl, the Nuggets bizarrely let both go and have looked lost since. Ty Lawson is a player they clearly see as a cornerstone, but beyond that things are murky (they may see Kenneth Faried as a cornerstone). Similar to the Nets, their one saving grace is Lawson and Faried are the sole deals on the books in the 2016 summer, which allows them to reshape the roster. Ironically, with multiple middling to good veterans in house, many of whom may not be part of the current core, the Nuggets may be looking to deal from that stable, similarly to the Nets.
-Trade 1: Lopez Plumlee and Jordan for Faried, McGee, and Eric Green: If the Nuggets believe Faried is a part of their future plans, the Nets won’t be able to get him. But if they don’t, they have a shot, although he will cost a pretty penny. This deal gives Denver a young piece in Plumlee (whose cheap) to replace Faried, and a now veteran in Lopez who they can look at going forward, while taking McGee off their hands. For the Nets, it adds a piece to the future core. The caution: Faried is a great person, who both plays hard and is super athletic, but those things conspire to make him overrated: he cannot shoot and is a poor defender, especially compared to his reputation (often, rebounding, athleticism, and passion are wrongfully associated with good defense). Given Faried makes $12.1 million (approximately) in 2016-17, the Nets would need to shed Deron in a subsequent deal.
-Trade 2: trade 1, but subbing Alan Anderson for Plumlee – the Nets pitch would be “we’re taking McGee’s toxic deal off your hands, and if you don’t believe in Faried, you shed his deal too, all while retaining flexibility in 2016 and getting a look at Lopez’s skills. I strongly doubt Denver bites, but that’s why you make the calls.
-Trade 3: Another variant: Lopez Plumlee Jordan Anderson, For Faried, Nurkic, McGee: In this variation the Nets demand Nurkic to replace Plumlee as a young developing big…there is likely no way the Nuggets deal Nurkic without taking Plumlee back.
-Trade 4: Deron for McGee, and one of Chandler, Afflalo, Mozgov, or Hickson: There could be mileage here. The Nuggets hate having McGee on the roster through 2016, and the Nets would essentially be saying “we’ll take him off your hands if you take Deron off ours.” Then, it comes down to Deron’s value — the problem is with Lawson in house he has little value to them. Maybe the Nets are able to parlay taking McGee off Denver’s hands into plucking Chandler, Afflalo, or Mozgov. McGee Hickson for Deron is an absolute salary dump (not even like the Darren Collison rumored deal wherein the Kings at least give the Nets SOMETHING), but the deal also works with Nurkic — perhaps the Nets parlay Deron into a young big like him.
-Trade 5: All kinds of other scenarios work because many Nuggets players are similarly salaried. Lopez Teletovic for McGee Chandler Nurkic, or McGee-Chandler-Arthur, for example, works.
-Depth Chart: Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors, Kanter; Gobert, Exum, Hood, Booker, Ingles
-The Jazz M.O.: The Jazz, at 10-20, are rebuilding, and deciding on who their core pieces are going forward. They’ve settled on Hayward, Favors, and Burks. They like Exum and Gobert going forward, though both are still extremely young. Kanter and Burke are just kind of there. The problem for the Nets? A team committed to its youth, with no big or bad salaries on the books (the only salaries over $5 million are Hayward, Favors, and the expiring Kanter). If the Jazz are going to trade, it seems they’d rather package some of this youth into a signature piece, not what Brooklyn has. There is also no way Hayward and Favors are put into a deal.
The takeaway? Do not expect anything on this front. Some mention the Deron back to Utah possibility, but with Exum developing, and no reason to deal Hayward or Favors for him, why mortgage multiple pieces to bring back a player who didn’t want to be around and will stunt Exum’s growth? Brook? There could be mileage, as Gobert is mostly potential right now and teams tend to believe you can never have enough quality bigs.
-Trade 1: Deron for Kanter, Booker, Novak, and Evans or Burke or Hood: This is a bad deal for the Jazz, and yet, the best they likely can do here. With such tiny salaries on the books, all they can do is turn multiple pieces into Deron. Given the state of the roster and Deron’s play, coupled with the fact that Deron nearly totally kills their future flexibility, the sole incentive for Utah in any deal is a deal in which they get Deron, WITHOUT touching their core of Hayward, Favors, Burks, Exum, and Gobert. Translation: you’re getting the spare parts and “didn’t make it to the core youth” of a 10-20 roster.
-Trade 2: Lopez for Kanter, Booker, and Burke or Hood: As with Deron, the Jazz will not deal Hayward or Favors for Lopez. However, Lopez’s smaller salary, and the ability to add him without killing Utah’s 2016 flexibility, together with his playing a position of greater need if Kanter is not in the plans, makes him an intriguing add for Utah. This deal gives the Nets a look at Kanter, and Burke or Hood — the deal works with both pieces but surrendering both is a tough ask for Utah.
-Depth Chart: Rubio, Martin, Wiggins, Young, Pekovic; Dieng, Mo Williams, LaVine, Muhammad, Bennett, Budinger, Adrien, Hummel
-The Timberwolves’ Rebuild: It’s a weird situation. Dealing Love for Wiggins and Bennett signals a rebuild, but was also done of necessity. Flip Saunders is a classic “coach’s coach,” who believes his roster can win so long as it competes, and would like to manage a win now group in his dual role as GM-Coach. He believes very much in Pekovic and Rubio going forward, having given both of them 8 figure extensions. There’s likely little here for Brooklyn to work with. Wiggins is 100% off limits.
-Trade 1: Deron and Anderson, for Rubio Martin and Budinger. I highly doubt the Wolves bite, but maybe Flip sees this as “Deron is an upgrade over Rubio, and I get that upgrade without tapping other parts of the core.” Would it be smart? Not a chance. But nobody said that Flip Saunders was the pinnacle of the GM post. File this under “what?!?!”
-Trade 2: Lopez for Dieng, Mo Williams, and Kevin Martin: Lopez, with Pekovic in house (a lumbering big) is a weird fit, and Dieng likely has way more trade value than this, but the Wolves surely would not deal Pekovic for Brook (who likely is less valuable than Nikola at this point). This allows them to add a twin tower dynamic to the roster while dealing two veterans not in the plans, and the Nets get a young piece for their troubles. Martin is dead weight on the 2016 books, but maybe a Deron trade is stage 2 of things.
-Trade 3: Johnson for Martin, Dieng, Bennett, and Budinger: file this under extremely unlikely. The Wolves would essentially be saying “we see Wiggins, Pekovic Rubio, and Young as the core, we have flexibility to add in 2016, and this trade improves the roster (or adds to the core) without tapping into that. For the Nets, they add a young big in Dieng which affords the luxury of attaching Plumlee to a Deron deal, get to look at Bennett, and Martin and Budinger become disposable trade fodder.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
-depth Chart: Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, Lopez; Kaman, Leonard, McCollum, Blake, Robinson, Freeland, Claver
-Blazers M.O.: Sitting at 24-7, in second place in the west, I emphatically doubt the Blazers rock the boat in assuming a large Brooklyn Nets’ contract. The sole issues in Portland, which truly are nitpicky: they lack elite talent at center, and lack a bench. That makes dealing for Deron or Joe totally impractical. Why do a 3 for 1, or 2 for 1 deal, when you have a clearly better starter at one position (Lillard) and likely better starter or at least an equal who makes less than half the money at the other (Matthews), when your team’s issue is that your depth is lacking (and a deal would require tapping into that weakness). Robin Lopez, while clearly not the talent Brook is when healthy, fits this Portland team to a T. With so much talent offensively and no need to get scoring from the center position, a center who runs the floor, defends, sets screens, dives to the rim, and stays out of the ball’s way is a superb fit: that’s Robin.
-Trade 1: Lopez for Kaman, Robinson, and McCollum: this is basically the best Portland can do for Brooklyn, and given Brook’s salary, and likely desire for a long term deal, something they STILL might reject. Portland would be lunatical to tap into their starting unit. This allows them to add a player who, on paper, improves their roster, and allows that occurrence without tapping into the fearsome starting unit. The Nets get to look at Robinson and McCollum as fringe prospects, while Kaman is nothing more than a body on the roster. The deal works subbing Robin in for Kaman, but would Portland even consider it?
-Trade 2: Brook and Anderson, for Kaman, Robinson, McCollum, and Leonard: The Nets would make a similar deal to above, but request yet another “let’s see what he has” type of fringe prospect in Leonard. Portland gets Lopez for its bench — maybe they gamble playing with his brother helps him enjoy the game again — and the Nets, for charging 3 young prospects, at least send Portland Anderson as a perimeter defender off its bench.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
-Depth Chart: Russ, Roberson, Durant, Ibaka, Adams; Jackson, Lamb, Morrow, Jones, Thomas, Collison, Perkins, Telfair
-The Thunder M.O.: Win a championship around KD, Russ, and Ibaka (clearly, none of the 3 are obtainable) and do so while keeping costs to a minimum. If the Thunder refused to give James Harden $15 million a year, why trade for Deron, Joe, or Brook? The best Nets hope? That the Thunder, in giving up on Perkins, deal him and other non core pieces for Brook. No player besides their big 3 and Perkins makes over $3.2 million, so he’d have to be a part of any deal. Don’t expect the Thunder to part with Steven Adams, either. One thing about OKC: they’re bold, and optimize assets. They either want to keep you, or see you as disposable and are ready to turn you into an asset.
-Trade 1: Lopez, Plumlee, Bojan for Jackson, Perkins, Collison, McGary Jerrett: file this under “oh come on that seems ridiculous” but there is one salvo here for the Thunder. Jackson is likely to command $12-$15 million on the market (and indeed, that’s a consideration for Brooklyn, who’d have to followup with a Deron deal to pay Reggie). The Thunder would lose him here, but shed Perkins and Collison (whose roles are decreasing as the Thunder look to their newest batch of kids), and end of the bench youth, and would acquire Bojan (with three years of cost control: and perhaps his shooting improves with better talent getting him better looks) and a nice athletic big for its bench in Plumlee, who also has a longer periof of const control for OKC than Jackson. Lopez would provide bench production until 2016 when the Thunder would likely look to flip him or would let him walk.
-Trade 2: Lopez for Perkins, Morrow, and a first rounder: this also is unlikely, and would represent a salary dump of Lopez, together with adding a fan favorite to the bench and trying to pick a draft pick out from Sam Presti’s grasp: don’t count on it.n
There is not much the Nets can do here: it’s hard to deal pricey pieces to a team that watches its ledgers this closely. These two deals: a total salary dump, or going after the sole young piece over which OKC lacks cost control (in Jackson — the Rockets did this to get a steal and maybe the Nets can) feels like the only available avenues.