The Deron Williams Question: What Does Brooklyn Do?

Deron Williams has been an epic disappointment in Brooklyn.  You can argue about the reasons. Health? Drive? Attitude? Bad luck? Who knows.  The bottom line, however, is that Deron has been a Net for 4.5 years, 3 of which the Nets wanted to win, and he has been an enormous letdown.

However, no matter how good or bad a player, how rewarding or disappointing, how likable or mopey, how fun or depressing, all decisions need to be made with great thought and care.  And what the Nets should do with Deron is an open question with no obvious answer.

The verdict here: the Nets should explore Deron trades aggressively.  If a trade helping the future salary picture comes about, do it, but try to keep Bogdanovic and Markel.  If not, stretch him in 2016.

For starters, while Deron is polarizing, the Nets did play better when he was on the court than when he sat.  When Deron was on the court, the Nets had a +.1 Net rating this season: such a figure would have ranked 17th over the course of the season, and essentially would have extrapolated out to a .500 record.  When Deron sat, the Nets had a brutal -6.7 net rating, which would have ranked 26th in the NBA.   Were the Nets to jettison Deron without compensation, they would be distinctly worse off, from a record standpoint.

However, Deron is absurdly overpaid, to be blunt.  His $22,331,135 option on next year’s payroll stands out like a sore thumb, and complicates Brooklyn’s team building efforts.  Lopez and Young are nucleus pieces, but sign them at their market values, and keep Deron, and the 2016 salary space the Nets have is not as large as at first blush.

The ability to have up to $22 million in additional cap space without Deron would be a boon: the Nets could do so much more with that space in 2016 than Deron would provide.  The Nets can also trade Deron for pieces which extend into 2017, but open some (if not all) of that $22 million in eaten space, a la the Deron to Sacramento deal reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports in December (http://sports.yahoo.com/news/sources–kings–trade-talks-for-deron-williams-hit-roadblock-with-nets-234509077.html).  In such a deal, the Nets would add $10.8 million of salaries in Collison and Thompson to their summer 2016 payroll: about half of Deron’s salary would wash off the cap.  Is Collison, Thompson, and a player making $11 million on a worth it deal, better than Deron Williams? You can certainly argue in the affirmative.

Another wrinkle in this is that Deron has declined each year since he has been a Net.  What will Deron be in 2017? If he declines some more, that only makes a deal even more appetizing. Lopez’s foot and Plumlee’s strong winter made the Nets understandably hesitant about attaching Plumlee to a Deron deal. Now? Lopez is a huge part of the future and such a deal may make more sense.  Decent youth heading into free agency is not as valuable on the market as may be believed: the acquiring team knows they must pay the player.  If the Nets did not attach Plumlee to Deron, given his rough spring, how much would he even be worth on his own.  At this point, if a team was willing to take on Deron and Plumlee, and provide the Nets some cap relief in 2016 (sending the Nets less future salary than Deron’s $22 million plus, but not no future money), Brooklyn would have to listen.

Trading Deron is not something any fan can mandate, however: there is no market for his services.  That is where the stretch exception comes in.  Were the Nets to stretch Deron next July, 2016, they would owe him $7,443,712 per year from 2016-2017 through 2018-2019.  Under this option, Deron could contribute to the 2015-2016 win column for Brooklyn, likely moreso than pieces dealt for him could, but with the added bonus of doing that and still clearly part of his salary from the 2016 ledger.

However, Deron would eat cap space for years without providing any on court value, and the Nets would get no on court value for him.  Were the Nets to deal Deron now, they would at least get some future value for him, in the form of whatever pieces Deron could bring back.

Essentially, the Nets face multiple courses.  Keep Deron, and let him help next year, but watch him suck $22 million of 2016 cap space.  Trade Deron, and likely harm next year’s team (he’s not bringing talent back), but open some future cap space all the while adding some pieces to the future roster.  Stretch Deron in 2016, which enables Deron aiding the 2015 roster, yet reduces his 2016 summer hit in the way the above trades would.  Or stretch Deron in 2015.  Under that scenario, Deron would be owed $8,674,787 per year through 2020, and the Nets would get nothing for him, but he would be off the team if no trade materialized.

There is something to be said for using the stretch exception now if a trade fails.  Handling Deron’s situation sooner than later helps with the continuity concerns Billy keeps discussing.  Deron is continually in and out of the lineup.  When in the lineup even, his role constantly changes because of his body.  One day he’s game 4 of the playoffs Deron, carrying the team. Another day he cannot stay on the court and Jarrett Jack is the better player. The Nets cannot develop continuity in part because Deron’s bizarre up and down nature (and his injuries) prevent the Nets from playing a steady style.  One day it’s his team. One day he’s the 4th guy off the bench and it’s Brook’s team. If Deron is not part of the plans for the new 2016 and on Nets, the sooner he is off the roster, the quicker you can build that group’s roster, and continuity going forward.

My take, simply, is that a trade is an infinitely better option to stretching Deron.  A trade provides value.  The Nets would be much better served trading Deron and trimming, say, half of his future salary obligation off their books, and actually getting some value back for Deron, than using the stretch exception to trim a similar amount of money off the 2016 payroll, but 1: still owing Deron money beyond 2016, and 2: not getting any value for Deron.

In conclusion, the Nets should try to trade Deron this summer.  Use Plumlee and even Karasev or Jefferson as bait. If a deal comes along where you cut future financial commitments and do not deal a pick, do it. If not, they should keep Deron, then apply the stretch exception next July, 2016. 

Of note in attempting to deal Deron: it will not be easy.  His salary is gargantuan, so the opposing team must send the Nets a ton of salary for Deron.  He eats up cap space in a summer where everyone wants it. He is a point guard, in a league chock full of better and cheaper points.

At the same time, you never know in the NBA.  The untradeable contract does not exist, and the market can work in mysterious ways.  Who had the Wolves gifting Thaddeus Young to the Nets in January?

The formula for a potential Deron deal? Think teams sending the Nets unwanted players.  Think teams with potential weaknesses at point guard. Think smaller markets who perhaps do not believe they can score in free agency, so will look to add talent that is already under contract.

Keep in mind with all of these proposals: they are just speculative proposals.  No source says these deals are available.  And, of course, the Nets could offer any of these deals, only for the opposing team to say no.  With that, here are the deals.

Proposal 1: Deron and Plumlee for Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams, and Jeff Taylor (in 2 separate trades).

Kemba Walker is talented, and more valuable than Deron Williams, but struggles with his efficiency.  Trading for Deron would allow Walker to split point guard duties, and play more off the ball, where his ability to score and attack the basket could shine through.  If the Hornets saw Deron as a nucleus piece (a third or fourth banana), they may pull the trigger here.  The Nets getting Marvin Williams too is a lot to ask, but there is no other contract on the Hornets roster that makes sense.  And the Hornets’ distaste for Stephenson is well chronicled: while Brooklyn may not want to take a chance on him because he was so awful last season (he cannot shoot in a league built around shooting), he is likely more talented on paper than anyone else the Nets could get for Williams. Tossing in Plumlee would at least provide the Hornets with something of an asset, although they already have young bigs on the roster.

Proposal 2: George Hill, Luis Scola, and Chris Copeland to Brooklyn; Deron, Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, and Mason Plumlee to Indiana; and Roy Hibbert and Sergey Karasev to Portland.

The Pacers, according to some reports out there, are hopeful to transition into a smallball attack going forward.  That will require wing depth, and a boost at point guard, which Deron may (or may not) provide over George Hill.  Indiana, in taking Deron’s toxic contract and shipping out Hibbert, adds Afflalo and Deron to their guard rotation, and two cheaper bigs in Lopez and Plumlee to balance out the roster.  Portland chased Hibbert when he was a restricted free agent, and may do this as a gamble that Hibbert reverts back to his form between 2011 and the first half of 2013.  The Nets ditch Deron’s contract, and get Hill, a capable point guard who also defends rather well.

Proposal 3: Darren Collison, Nik Stauskas, Randy Foye, and JJ Hickson to Brooklyn; Deron Williams, Ben McLemore, Sergey Karasev, and a Kings first to Denver; Ty Lawson and Mason Plumlee to Sacramento.

The Nuggets seem fed up with Ty Lawson, and given some recent reports regarding the Mavericks, Lawson seems equally fed up with them.  While they would be assuming Deron’s contract, they would likely hope he could produce reasonably well, and would be ditching Foye and Hickson’s contract, as well as McLemore, an intriguing prospect, and a first rounder from a team that has lost  The Kings are working hard to upgrade their roster surrounding DeMarcus Cousins, and this trade would easily accomplish that.

As for the Nets, they would not be getting much in the way of value here, but Deron does not have any value.  This trade would provide them with two decent reserve guards, a prospect in Stauskas, and Hickson is just a contract.

Proposal 4: Deron and Plumlee to Sacramento for Collison, Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams, and Nik Stauskas

This harkens back to one of the more original Deron rumors.  The Nets would essentially be getting Collison for Deron, and taking on dead weight.  The Kings are known to like Plumlee, but perhaps Brooklyn could pry Stauskas if the Kings take Mason from the Nets.

Have another Deron trade idea? Leave a comment!

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