Welcome, NBA fans, to one of the best times of the year! It’s NBA trade deadline season.
We are officially within four days (to the hour) of the trade deadline of February 8 at 3pm. For the moment, things will likely stay quiet. Teams want to flout trades to the media and do victory laps; why get upstaged by the Super Bowl. And on Monday and Tuesday, teams may be quiet because closer to the Thursday deadline is when teams make their best pitches, and become most desperate in selling their players.
With the deadline upon us, let’s get to the nitty gritty.
What should the Nets strategy be from a “what to acquire” standpoint?
Simple. Cash out as many pieces on the roster for assets as possible. If the Nets are to contend in the 2020’s with teams as talented as Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland (?), and other star laden groups, they are going to need more high end talent than this core will afford. The last thing the Nets want to do is pay a cache of role players, and then when future opportunities for young stars arise, lack the draft capital to deal for them, the cap space to sign them, or the high lottery picks to draft them outright.
How can the Nets manufacture leverage?
Patience. Patience at the deadline is a virtue. The Nets probably can get a second rounder or two for Joe Harris, right now. They can probably dump DeMarre Carroll for a second rounder and a castoff young player, right now.
But trades in the NBA are not defined by true market value. They are defined by desperate teams overpaying for players. What if the Cavs become desperate to unload their “Brooklyn pick” for something to appease LeBron, and a Dinwiddie-Carroll-Harris-Raptors pick package gets the job done because Cleveland is desperate to make their star happy (h/t @pscar80)? Improbable? Sure. But if the Nets deal Joe Harris right now for two seconds, they’ll be kicking themselves — and we’ll be kicking them metaphorically — if something that thin goes down with Cleveland and another team.
Or what if, more simply, dealing Harris to a team and taking bad money back nets a FIRST rounder, rather than two seconds, because someone is anxious to unload a deal at the last opportunity. Unlikely? You bet. Market value for Harris? No. Impossible? No.
You can always circle back to a team at noon on Thursday and get second rounders for Harris. Or something small for Carroll, or Stauskas, or another piece. Before doing that, it is worth seeing if someone will overpay, or if multiple assets in combination provide a large return (as opposed to multiple assets, in separate deals, providing multiple small returns).
The overall point? Don’t settle for simple market value deals for your pieces. See if someone is willing to overpay, due to desperation or overvaluation.
So who can they move.
Below is a list of Nets players and trade assets — from most to least (in my estimation using educated guesswork – I do not have a source but I am using logic) likely to get dealt.
Joe Harris: The amount of consternation about dealing Harris is unusual. Harris is a role player. Nothing more. Rebuilding teams cannot tie their cap up going forward in bench players, and then lack the flexibility for stars as a result. Harris is a guy the Nets need to deal for picks. Fans should take little stock in the “they’re not shopping they’re listening” type of talk. Listening is all you need to do to make a deal.
Tyler Zeller: Having gone from starter to barely if playing, he is a clear candidate for a deal. His value is minimal so any asset based return is a win.
Isaiah Whitehead, Quincy Acy, James Webb, and Milton Doyle: These are low value, low cost young players who the Nets can throw into a deal if it greases the skids or makes the money work. If all that stands between a deal to get assets and no deal are these pieces, neither side will balk. That makes none of them likely to fetch an independent return of assets but all of them likely to be moved.
Nik Stauskas: Stauskas has next to no trade value. He was a clear throw in in the Nets deal and had negative value in Sacramento as well. The Nets can try to fetch an asset but that feels unlikely.
Jahlil Okafor: It’s about time we judge players by their performance and not their draft position. Okafor failed in Philly. There’s a reason: his game is an obsolete relic. Some like to say he can be an Enes Kanter – but is that a good thing? Kanter can’t play for playoff teams in important games. If the Nets can turn Okafor’s expiring into an asset they should consider it. Perhaps the way to do it is to pool his deal with Stauskas, and eat a contract into 2018-2019.
DeMarre Carroll: I view his situation simply. If he reigns in a first rounder (or a comparable young player far from his extension year), the Nets need to pull the trigger because this may be the peak of his value. If he does not, trading him for a paltry return is pointless because he is under contract next year. In that latter instance, I would bring him into 2018-2019, and see if he has more value as an expiring deal, rather than cashing him in for little.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: It is hard to see RHJ becoming more than a role player in the NBA. A role player who cannot shoot and is not versatile defensively, at that. The Nets should maximize his value by getting a pick or rookie at some point in time before his 2019 free agency.
Spencer Dinwiddie: Dinwiddie is an amazing story. But when he gets his next contract, and when the Nets try to contend in the 2020’s, what will matter is talent, not stories. Dinwiddie is a below average or fringe starting point guard, and he does not figure to progress much further than that because he does not shoot and score consistently enough. Can the Nets commit to that going forward? If a team offers a mid first or other comparable goodies, the Nets can’t just shut their ears.
Jeremy Lin: This is similar to Carroll in that you likely get more value for him next year — that is especially true considering he will opt in. His injury kills his value so much that dealing him now is unlikely; you are better off waiting to see if he recovers value next year.
Caris LeVert: LeVert’s upside given his age is not quite Allen’s or Russell’s but he is a key part of the future. It would take a significant return to pry him. Still, the Nets cannot shut their ears if he gets them into the lottery, where players have larger growth curves. LeVert is a critical piece. But he’s far from untouchable.
Timofey Mozgov: He has 0 trade value. Perhaps a buyout is possible, but the Nets would be remiss to stretch Mozgov’s money over further out salary cap seasons than 2020, and it is unlikely he agrees to a buyout under any other condition — would you?
Allen Crabbe: Crabbe is tough to move with 2 years, $37 million left after this year. The Nets should not dump assets to unload him unless a gigantic acquisition requires that — unlikely — and Crabbe is unlikely to bring an asset in with his contract. He is most likely to continue playing for Brooklyn. Quietly, his non shooting skills are improving. Hopefully he starts shooting it well.
Jarrett Allen: At 19, and developing rapidly, he is what the Nets WANT, not what they want to trade. Perhaps he can be dealt for a GIGANTIC young player return but that feels unlikely.
D’Angelo Russell: Since his injury he flat out has not looked good. However, I am confident he will find himself. And he is the clear cornerstone of the roster. Barring a top 5 pick in return, it is hard to trade him in a smart deal for the Nets.