Trade Rumors Run Rampant for Nets Big 3

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With the Nets losing by 25 to the Pacers and struggling to remain around .500 after playing a third of their games, questions have arisen as to whether they can be competitive in the playoffs as presently constructed.  As a result, various trade rumors have emerged involving their “Big Three” of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez.

With Williams injured and still not performing at an All-Star level, Johnson looking lackadaisical on defense, and Lopez both dealing with health issues & getting exploited in the paint, it may be time for Brooklyn to begin the rebuilding process it’s been delaying for the last few years.  The issue for Brooklyn will be acquiring salaries that match those of the aforementioned players as each makes over $15 million this season.  With that in mind, here are five trade scenarios that could be worth it for the Nets & the respective teams involved.

The Feasible

Trade One: Deron Williams and Darius Morris to the Lakers for Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash, a 2016 second round pick, and the right to swap first round picks in 2016

Why the Lakers Do It: Los Angeles needs something to boost their fans’ spirits after a dismal year and they have little talent next to Kobe Bryant as he rides off into the sunset.  With Rajon Rondo potentially off the market if he re-signs with Dallas, the Lakers next best free agent point-guard option for 2015 would be Patrick Beverley.  Despite Williams not playing at the level people expected, he’d still be a major upgrade and threat in the backcourt.

Adding to Los Angeles’s incentive to execute a trade is the fact that Phoenix has their first round pick if they finish with a draft pick in the top 5; meaning they’d only have free agency and limited trade options to improve their roster.  Even with that pick, they’d have an incentive to add Williams as that would give them the option to trade the pick for a more experienced player or add a small forward like Arizona’s Stanley Johnson or UCLA’s Kevon Looney to Williams, Bryant, and Julius Randle next season.

Why the Nets Do It: The Nets would be unloading Williams’ contract, which has three years and over $60 million remaining and acquiring Lin gives them a capable point guard with an expiring contract. It’d also bring Lin back to the New York market and add to Brooklyn’s appeal on the international level. Although it’d be a downgrade in terms of production, it wouldn’t be by much considering Williams’ recent contributions, including a 5 for 15 shooting night against division rival Toronto in his last full game played before incurring a calf injury.  Lin is averaging .6 less assists than Williams per-36 minutes, but his effective field goal percentage has been better for two out of the last four seasons. Any potential draft picks the Nets can attain is a bonus.

Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

Trade Two: Joe Johnson, Jerome Jordan, Alan Anderson, and Brandon Davies to the Charlotte Hornets for Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo and Gary Neal

Why the Hornets Do It:  The Hornets looked like an up-and-coming team last season and most NBA “experts” had them competing in the playoffs this year.  That notion has quickly died down as they are instead in contention for the top draft pick in 2015. Their signing of Stephenson looked excellent from a talent standpoint, but he hasn’t gelled with the rest of the team and rumors of locker room dysfunction have surfaced.  Sending Stephenson to Brooklyn would help decrease the likelihood of that dysfunction fully materializing and bring them a player in Johnson who would take pressure off of Kemba Walker as another player unafraid of taking big shots.

With Al Jefferson potentially hitting the free agent market, acquiring a player of Johnson’s caliber could convince him to exercise his player option or re-sign long-term for a playoff run in 2015.  Johnson’s .397 three-point percentage would fit well with Jefferson’s post-game and Kemba’s mid-range efficiency.  Along with Jefferson, Gerald Henderson will also likely choose to decline his 2015 player option, leaving only Stephenson as an option at shooting guard, something the Hornets should be preparing for.

Mandatory Credit:Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Why the Nets Do It: At 33, Johnson is about to begin the decline stage of his career and isn’t worth anything close to his contract value as the third highest-paid player in the league.  His defensive intensity has declined and quicker players have consistently driven past him at will. Playing out of position at small forward, he’s had to play more in the post and not had the size advantage he was able to draw at shooting guard.  Although he’s been the Nets best player, this season, he hasn’t looked nearly as dominant as the player he was last season.

Acquiring Stephenson, despite his mercurial personality, would give the Nets a playmaker who flourishes when he attacks the basket.  That ability along with his presence as a rebounder is currently lacking from the Brooklyn roster. With a short-term contract and a load of talent, it also wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for the Nets to flip him to another team after the season ends.

Trade Three: Deron Williams and Cory Jefferson to the Sacramento Kings for Carl Landry, Derrick Williams, and Darren Collison

Why the Kings Do It: Becoming a trade partner with Sacramento seems too perfect for it to not happen. Kings owner Vivek Ranadive wants to win now and isn’t afraid to make swift moves in pursuit of that goal, including firing his head coach 25 games into the season. He also wants the team to focus more on offense, something Williams could certainly help accomplish. As a better distributor than Collison, Williams would be able to lead the Kings new “free flowing” offense that Ranadive wants installed and be reunited with his former Jazz coach, Ty Corbin.  Williams’ star power also far exceeds Collison and should be able to boost both jersey and ticket sales, something that would be helpful in preventing the Kings from a move to Seattle in the next few years.

Why the Nets Do It: Despite making $15 million less than Williams, Collison would be an upgrade in a few areas.  Defensively, he’s a much better on-the-ball defender (averages 1.8 steals per game) and has the lateral quickness to keep guards in front of him.  On the offensive side, that quickness is even more apparent as he’s able to change directions quickly and score in the paint at a high percentage (shooting 49% from two-point range).  He’s also an above average shooter from the perimeter for his career, shooting nearly 38% last season.  Although he may not be as much of a playmaker as Williams, he makes up for it with his defensive intensity.  Most importantly, the Nets become younger, more athletic, and cut salary over the next three years.

Mandatory Credit: Sacbee.com

The Improbable

Brook Lopez, Alan Anderson, and Jarrett Jack to the Denver Nuggets for Javale McGee, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Randy Foye, and a 2015 first round pick ((top 10 protected in 2015 and 2016, and becomes two second round picks in 2017 and 2018 (Nuggets pick) if not conveyed in 2016)).

Why the Nuggets Do It: The Nuggets haven’t lived up to their talent level and have no legitimate post threat on their roster.  With the ability to average 20 points per game, Lopez would give them that threat and help their half-court offense improve leaps and bounds from its current state. His scoring prowess, shooting range, and ability to draw double teams would allow Kenneth Faried to focus on rebounding and cutting to the basket, and allow Ty Lawson to have more room to drive into the paint.

It would also give Coach Brian Shaw the type of versatile scoring option that he hasn’t had during his short tenure in Denver and possibly help him keep his job next year.  With Gallinari out for the season, McGee not living up to his contract value, and Chandler more of a complementary rather than core player, the Nuggets main loss would be the draft pick, which likely wouldn’t yield the type of talent Lopez brings to the table.

Danilo Gallinari

Why the Nets Do It: The Nets are starting from scratch and despite Lopez’s talent, his health is a concern. A 7-footer with multiple foot surgeries could be a problem for any team that signs him to a long-term contract and Brooklyn could be faced with that decision in two years.  Although there’s a chance he could stay relatively healthy for the rest of his career, it’s a risk that has a major impact on the future of the franchise.  Acquiring Chandler would give the Nets a better starting option at small forward than they currently have on their roster and he would immediately become the team’s best defender.  Gallinari’s return in 2015 would fall in line with the international appeal in Brooklyn and if healthy, give them another deadly shooter from the perimeter (career 37 percent shooter from three) or at least another trade piece in the future.

The most important acquisition could be the first rounder, which Brooklyn needs to start acquiring after trading a plethora of draft picks in their trades for Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce. Even if the selection is in the late teens, Billy King has a history of getting value out of draft picks late in the draft, which would bode well for a rebuilding team.

The Impossible

Option 1: Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani for Deron Williams

Option 2: Tim Hardaway, Andrea Bargnani, and Arnett Moultrie for Brook Lopez & Darius Morris;

Option 3: Joe Johnson, Jerome Jordan, and Alan Anderson for Amar’e Stoudemire and Wayne Ellington.

Why the Knicks Do It: The Knicks are having one of the worst seasons in their franchise history and will be lucky to break the 20 win mark.  Carmelo Anthony may need knee surgery, which would keep him out the rest of the season and they have no frontcourt talent to build around.  They’ll have about $44 million in salary committed to the club next season, including Iman Shumpert’s Qualifying Offer, which gives them about $14 million in cap space to add one high-quality free agent. As New York’s previous forays into free agency have proven, there is no guarantee in free agency and they could come out of it with a player not worth the value they pay him.  Deron Williams would give Coach Derek Fisher the type of ball handler and shooter to help run the triangle offense and consequently remove the face of their cross-bridge rival.

Acquiring Lopez would give the Knicks a threat in the paint and someone who could draw defensive attention away from Anthony.  If Lopez is healthy for a majority of the rest of his career, it’d also give them a core piece to build around and be a constant reminder to the Nets of the mistake they made trading away the man who was once viewed as a potential cornerstone of the franchise.  Acquiring Johnson would give the Knicks two major pieces in the form of a talented sidekick next to Anthony and a huge expiring contract in 2015. Teams would have to make a decision as to who to defensively commit to as both have the ability to drive, play in the post, and shoot from the perimeter.

It would also allow them to use Andrea Bargnani’s expiring contract and Tim Hardaway’s rookie deal in a subsequent trade for a post player to quickly turn their team into a contender.  A team of Calderon, Johnson, Anthony, a top 10 draft pick like Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, and a frontcourt player acquired by trade, would make New York a playoff contender in 2015.

Why the Nets Do It: The Knicks have a ton of expiring contracts and those contracts could be helpful in opening up cap space.  With cap space, the Nets could obtain players with one-year contracts with draft picks from teams looking to open up more space for free agency.  Acquiring Calderon would give the Nets a capable starting point guard and eventually valuable trade piece for a playoff team.  More importantly, sending Williams to the Knicks would further limit the Knicks’ roster flexibility.

Sending Lopez would be the hardest potential deal for the Nets to swallow, but they’d be doing so to acquire another young player in Hardaway and get immediate cap relief.   Trading Johnson for Stoudemire would be solely about decreasing the luxury tax and gaining cap space before the 2015 season.  Brooklyn would likely look to next trade Stoudemire or Kevin Garnett as there would be little playing time available for both players in the rotation. If the Knicks were to add Hardaway or Iman Shumpert to the deal it’d be more beneficial as it would give the Nets another young trade piece to jumpstart the rebuilding process.

Jose Calderon and Joe Johnson

*With the complex nature of trades and salary-matching requirements involved, any trade will be difficult for Brooklyn to execute before the trade deadline.  With their “Big 3” having such high salaries, they will likely need to have multiple players and possibly multiple teams included in order for a trade to work. The good news for Brooklyn is that Williams, Johnson, and Lopez all have a level of talent that would be excellent additions to teams looking to make an improvement this season.  With Los Angeles, Sacramento, and New York looking to win in the immediate future, they could be willing to gamble on transactions with an eye on the playoffs.  As fans and ownerships become more impatient they could look to the Nets who are looking to deal players in search of a fresh start.