Nets-Thunder trade failure was Blessing in Disguise


After a whirlwind of trade rumors over the past two months, the Brooklyn Nets, largely, stood pat with their roster.  Besides jettisoning Kevin Garnett back to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young in a surprising deadline transaction, the trade circus that surrounded players like Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, and Deron Williams ended with a fizzle.

The most rumored potential deal involved Lopez being sent to Oklahoma City.  After attempting to work out a trade earlier in the month, the Thunder and Nets apparently made one last ditch effort to come to terms on an agreement.  With Brooklyn looking to acquire young players on affordable contracts and draft picks, Oklahoma City seemed like the ideal trade partner.  As trade talks intensified, Thunder point guard Reggie Jackson became the focal point of the haul Brooklyn would receive.

Jackson has top tier physical tools and athleticism along with excellent quickness and speed.  At 6’2 with a 7’0 wingspan and a strong first step, he’s extremely efficient at penetrating and getting to the rim. His explosiveness shows itself best in transition and he succeeds in the pick and roll.  All of those qualities were appealing to Nets brass as they would be for any team.  Yet despite those qualities, Brooklyn’s failure to acquire Jackson, whether by choice or by luck, was the best move for a team in their situation.

As talented as the mercurial point guard may be, his limitations are evident.  Despite his physical tools on the offensive end, he’s essentially a shooting guard in a point guard’s body.  His floor vision has improved since entering the league out of Boston College, but he misses open shooters when he attacks the paint.  He’s shooting under 28 percent from three for the season and shot under 45 percent from the field in 2013.  Despite shooting a low percentage, he’s ball-dominant and the ball has to run through him for him to be effective.  On the defensive side, he hast the wingspan and athleticism to be an above average defender, but he’s slow in his weak-side defense and his lateral quickness is questionable.

At best, Jackson would be the fifteenth best starting point guard in the NBA in the echelon of guards like Kemba Walker, Jrue Holiday, and Rajon Rondo and below Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry, and Ty Lawson.  Acquiring a player in the bottom half of the NBA at his position for your best potential trade piece in Lopez would be difficult to justify.

More importantly, Jackson will be a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason and would likely have required a contract in the area of $12 million to re-sign in Brooklyn.  With Deron Williams and Joe Johnson both locked in for over $21 million each next season the tax  hit for Brooklyn would be steep and Jackson would play off the ball far more than he’d need to in order to be efficient.  As a below average spot-up shooter he’d likely have trouble adjusting to that role alongside Williams.

Aside from acquiring Jackson, Brooklyn would also have given up Lopez, a 26 year-old center who is among the elite big men in the league on the offensive side of the ball when healthy.  The key, of course, is remaining healthy for an entire season, which Lopez has struggled to do lately.  Oklahoma City, however, would have likely been the ideal fit for the young center even with the risk attached.

Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

With Steven Adams capable of playing significant minutes, Lopez wouldn’t have to play 36 minutes per game and he could expend his energy in the 28 to 30 minutes he was on the court. A player capable of scoring 20 points on any given night along while playing solid weak-side defense is something the Thunder have been lacking.  Acquiring Lopez would have allowed Serge Ibaka to once again set his focus on the defensive end and rebounding by giving up some of his offensive responsibilities in the paint.  With the trade failing to transpire, the Thunder went shopping for another big man similar to Lopez and settled on former Utah center Enes Kanter.

After Kanter was obtained, the Jackson-Lopez deal was dead and luckily for Brooklyn they didn’t make the mistake of trading their longest tenured Net in Lopez for a combo guard who could depart in free agency.   Despite Jackson’s physical gifts and Lopez’s injury prone history, a swap of the two young players would have placed the Nets in a more precarious situation than what they faced before the trade deadline, making the offseason even more complicated for Brooklyn ownership, front office personnel, and fans.