For weeks leading up to the NBA Draft, rumors about potential trades for Mason Plumlee were circulating at full force. That possibility came to fruition when they dealt Plumlee and the 41st overall pick to the Portland TrailBlazers for the 23rd overall pick, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Nets ended up selecting Notre Dame Swingman Pat Connaughton with the 41st pick and completing the trade later at night.
Although the trade brought Brooklyn a forward with defensive tenacity, which they don’t currently have on their roster, the value they received did not equal the value they traded away in Plumlee and Connnaughton. When viewed in its totality, the Nets traded Plumlee to move up 18 spots in the draft. Plumlee himself was selected 22nd overall in the 2013 Draft and performed as well as Brooklyn could have hoped considering his draft position.
With the future of Brook Lopez uncertain, Plumlee would have given the Nets some security in the case that he signed elsewhere. Should Lopez now receive an offer from a team like his hometown Lakers, the Nets would have no center on the roster capable of producing at a starting level and would have to resort to a shallow free agency pool of big men whose contracts will likely exceed their worth to the team.
It may have been the trade that Brooklyn didn’t commit that makes this trade look even worse. The Nets reportedly had an offer earlier on in the season that would have sent Plumlee and Deron Williams in exchange for Darren Collison and either Ben McLemore or Nik Stauskas. Sacramento was reportedly told that Plumlee was untouchable in the deal and now the Nets are still saddled with Williams’ contract for the foreseeable future and don’t have a player on a cheap contract of Plumlee’s caliber.
Plumlee, 25, averaged 8.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in 82 games (45 starts) for the Nets last season and gives Portland a potential starter at either power forward or center with both Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge free agents. In the instance that Aldridge does return, Plumlee’s energetic defense and activity around the rim will make him a nice complement. On the wing, Connaughton provides a 3 and D option on a team that’s likely going to lose Aaron Affalo as a backup behind hopeful returnee Wes Matthews. An exceptional shooter who is rebounds well for his size, his versatility will help in transition into a league which is placing more value on that every year.
What makes the Plumlee trade look even worse is that there were two other trades completed in which the team trading up dealt away lesser assets in exchange for a bottom half of the first round pick. The Minnesota Timberwolves traded away two second round picks (31st overall and 36th overall) as well as a 2019 second round pick in exchange for the 24th overall pick.
More notably, the Knicks were able to trade up to acquire the 19th overall pick for shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. It would be difficult to find someone who would argue that Hardaway had a better season than Plumlee and considering the premium on athletic big men, the Knicks trade looks much better from a value standpoint.
If Plumlee and Connaughton become vital parts of Portland’s rebuilding project and Hollis-Jefferson gets little time behind Joe Johnson and Thaddeus Young, this could mark another mistake in Brooklyn’s recent history of lopsided trades.