The Truth Will Set You Free
USA Today Sports
To say the Brooklyn Nets haven’t met expectations thus far would be understating their futility. A quarter of the way into the 2013-14 season, the Nets stand at 8-15 in the laughingstock of the NBA – the Atlantic Division – and are the second-worst defensive team in terms of Defensive Rating.
They have won three of their last four games, a tiny uptick that has stalled the need for panic within the organization for the time being. However, with no real signs of improvement outside of beating two truly terrible teams and one playing it’s third game in four nights, the Nets may not be too far from attempting something drastic to salvage their season. If winning now is the absolute priority for the Nets, one window they should consider peeking through is trading Paul Pierce.
Pierce was brought over in the deal that stamped Brooklyn’s name in headlines as a potential title contender, but he has done little to show for it. Pierce has been as inefficient a scorer as imaginable, shooting under 36% from the field and 28% from long range. His turnover rate is at a career high, and recently head coach Jason Kidd has sanctioned the struggling ex-superstar to the pine in favor of Alan Anderson in the starting five.
Brooklyn’s poor play isn’t completely on Pierce to blame, not by a long shot. Pierce is actually third on the team in on-court NetRTG behind Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Why trade Pierce of all Nets then? Unlike the marginal Joe Johnson and deflated Kevin Garnett, Pierce’s $15.3 million contract expires at the end of this season, making it one teams could be interested in trading for.
The biggest hindrance in a team taking on Pierce’s mediocre basketball in exchange for solid contributors is that the Nets don’t have many assets to deal with Pierce. Every one of their tradeable first round picks are gone, so Brooklyn would have to find a team that sees a lot in the Nets’ few young pieces. These are Mirza Teletovic, Tyshawn Taylor, rookie Mason Plumlee and overseas 2011 first round pick Bojan Bogdanovic. None of the current Nets listed are showing clear signs of a lofty ceiling, however Bogdanovic has caught the eye of Masai Ujiri, GM of the Toronto Raptors – one possible suitor for a Pierce trade.
Ironically enough, the Raptors are currently involved in trade talks with the Nets revolving point guard Kyle Lowry. Pierce’s bloated contract wouldn’t fit in well with a trade for Lowry, but another player the Raptors may be keen to ship is DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan’s contract extends through 2017, and although young and talented, DeMar hasn’t portrayed star potential and is an odd fit in the team’s future plans. DeRozan could give the Nets some athleticism and youth they are desperately lacking. DeRozan and another rough contract in Landry Fields being traded to Brooklyn for Pierce, Mason Plumlee and the rights to Bogdanovic is a potential deal here, but begs the question of whether the Raptors can find a better package for DeRozan elsewhere – especially in a league running dry of great shooting guards.
A similar issue is in play with another team that could potentially deal for Pierce, the Philadelphia 76ers. Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes have been linked to trade rumors, with Jason Richardson’s contract being one GM Sam Hinkie is likely yearning to send elsewhere. However, Turner is looked upon to have a bright future in the right situation, and thus yet again it’s questionable as to whether or not a better asset collection than Plumlee, Teletovic, Taylor and Bogdanovic comes along. If not, the Nets could trade those four with Pierce for Turner, Hawes and Richardson.
It seems the only thing keeping GM Billy King from smashing the panic button is the shallow makings of the Eastern Conference, and how close the Nets are to being in the Playoffs despite how far they are from the .500 mark. Still, King may soon look to swap out some unsteady blocks in the Jenga tower he constructed in Brooklyn. In such a case, among the team’s players, Pierce should be the first to go.