Three Man Weave: Week 18 Edition
For a day or two leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline the Brooklyn Nets dominated the NBA’s rumor mill, with Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, and even Jarrett Jack possibilities on the table. By the end of the league’s most hectic deadline day in its history, the Nets and general manager Billy King managed just a single trade: sending Kevin Garnett back to his first NBA franchise in Minnesota, for forward Thaddeus Young. For the first time maybe in months, Brook Lopez can seemingly relax without seeing his name in trade reports.
Kevin Garnett will a tough loss for a Nets franchise that invested heavily in his services for the last season and a half. His veteran leadership and voice in the locker room have been instrumental to any team successes, particularly on the defensive end, and his relationship with young players like Mason Plumlee has been nice to see, especially in light of Plum’s solid play this season. For such an athletic and talented, young Timberwolves team, KG’s influence on the road trips and in practices will be particularly important beyond his in-game minutes or box-score stats.
The Nets will audition Thaddeus Young for the last 30 games of the season and before he presumably opts out of his contract to enter free agency this summer. He holds a $9.7 million player option for 2015-16 but could relish the opportunity to choose his destiny in free agency after playing for three teams in the last six months. Young has settled in at the power forward position after entering the NBA with some ‘tweener-forward concerns in 2007, and has consistently averaged between 12.7 and 17.9 points per game since 2008-09. He’s not a great jump shooter or pick-and-pop threat and his game has trended away from the paint in recent years (declining dunks totals and shooting numbers at the rim), but he’s 12 years KG’s junior and will get every opportunity to increase his potential-free agent value in Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Nets played just once last week, with the new, extended All-Star break, but #HotSportzTake: When the Nets play with nine days of rest in-between games (and against the Los Angeles Lakers’ 29th-ranked defense), their offense can look really good. In their first game back from All-Star week(end) the Nets snapped their three-game road losing streak with a 114-105 victory in Los Angeles Friday night, led by 57 combined points from their “Big 3” of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez.
The Nets would score 40 in the third quarter alone, with Joe Johnson responsible for 13 points on four shot attempts (4-4 from three with a free throw), and the team assisted on 11 of their 14 field goal attempts in a quarter in which they posted a +20 point differential. It was enough of a cushion to withstand a +10 fourth quarter from the Lakers and escape LA with a win, and it put the Nets’ record at 1-3 at the halfway point of their eight-game road trip and 22-31 on the season.
Deron Williams returned to the starting lineup as Jarrett Jack sat out with his left hamstring strain (suffered in February 10th’s Memphis loss), and played a strong 40 minutes of basketball with 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 15 assists. He still showed signs of rust (5 turnovers, 15 shots, 0-2 from three, and no free throws) but it was handily his best effort since returning from his rib cartilage tear and a nice sign for the stretch run of the season. Bojan Bogdanovic also played well against the Lakers and scored 18 points (on 13 attempts, 2-7 from three, and 2-2 FT’s) with 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in 37 minutes, and Brook Lopez submitted a 22-point, 14-rebound performance in his 33 minutes off the bench.
Brooklyn head coach Lionel Hollins will hope that his team can carry over their 47% shooting from three against the non-Lakers opponents on their schedule, starting Monday night in Denver. The (20-36) Nuggets are fresh off of trading one of their better players in Arron Afflalo to the Portland Trail Blazers (for Will “The Thrill” Barton, Victor Claver, future-Net Thomas Robinson and a 2016 first-round pick), and also JaVale McGee to Philadelphia to clear salary, and have issues of their own this season. A win in Denver would be a nice momentum boost (spoiler: Nets win!) as the Nets close out their eight-game trip with stops Wednesday in New Orleans, Friday in Houston, and Saturday in Dallas. The Nets find themselves in current possession of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference but will face improved opponents in the Detroit Pistons (Reggie Jackson), Charlotte Hornets (Mo Williams), and Miami Heat (Goran Dragic) post-trade deadline and it should be a decent race for eighth in the East.
In Week 18’s Weave our three experts will answer some trade deadline-specific questions, including their thoughts on the single trade made by the Brooklyn Nets, any potential downside to trading Kevin Garnett for Thaddeus Young, and their best/worst transactions from Thursday’s hyper-active trade deadline.
Monday, @ Denver, 9 pm
Wednesday, @ New Orleans, 8 pm
Friday, @ Houston, 8 pm
Saturday, @ Dallas, 8:30 pm
1.) There were plenty of reported possibilities leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline, but just the one trade consummated by Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King. Should the Nets have been more aggressive in overhauling their roster, or was patience the correct move this season?
Austin Reynolds: The Nets have made it known for a while that Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez were all on the trade block. Having the deadline pass without trading a single one of those guys is a failure in my opinion. All three are on the books at least until the end of the 2015-16 season, and Brooklyn is extremely limited in how they can construct their roster with so much money tied up between those three. They almost traded Brook for Reggie Jackson, but then OKC found a better deal. The Nets should’ve been more aggressive, but at the end of the day there’s not a whole lot of teams looking to trade for overpaid players with multiple years left on their contracts.
Brian McNichols: I’ve gone back and forth approximately 600 times on whether or not I’m happy with the Nets’ maneuvers. The result is that I would rather that they blew it up, but I’m not sure that choice was available to them. I firmly believe in the theory of gathering assets until a move becomes available (see Rockets, Houston) and I don’t think anyone believes that the Nets, as constructed, can do much in the playoffs. So I would have tried to cut salary and get some picks and start everything over, but I understand why they think they can’t (because they’re in NYC) and why they actually can’t (because they gave guys ridiculously un-tradable contracts).
Brady Jennings: I think patience, in this case, was the right move. Not just because there was a 78% chance Billy King would do something dumb, but because this team is destined for the 7-8 seed (or worse) no matter what they did at the deadline. I would have liked to have seen them offer something for Lance, but only for my own personal enjoyment, as I don’t think he and Hollins would have been a very good fit. Waiting this one out was probably the right move, unless there was some godfather offer for Lopez.
2.) In his trade deadline breakdown, Brian wrote of “having trouble seeing any downside whatsoever” in exchanging Kevin Garnett for Thaddeus Young. What was your initial reaction to the trade (good, bad, meh?), and after a couple of days (and Young’s debut against the Lakers), can you find any potential downside?
Reynolds: It’s a decent trade that doesn’t move the needle much. Thaddeus Young is a nice player but he’s 26 years old and kind of is what he is at this point in his career. He’s more productive than Kevin Garnett and probably helps the Nets’ chances of pushing towards the seventh or eighth seed in the East before getting pounded into dust in four or five games by Atlanta, Toronto, Cleveland, or whoever else might end up in one of those top two seeds. The only potential downside is that Young is on a decently large contract and due almost $10 million next season. He does have an early termination option this summer, but I’d expect he stays in Brooklyn to take advantage of that contract. Paying a player like Young that much money through next season sounds bad, but with Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez’s contracts it’s almost like “Well hey, what’s another $10 million!” Thad’s contract alone isn’t going to hurt Brooklyn.
McNichols: That writer is a genius! I still stand firmly behind that statement, even with several days to think about it. Young is cheaper and 12 years younger while giving similar production to the current version of KG. At worst he’s going to slot in the same role, but a 26-year old Thad has a lot more potential for growth.
Jennings: The lone trade made by Brooklyn was fine. Moving KG, in what most of us assume will be his last year for a young (ha) player who has shown some splashes, has more upside than it does downside. Maybe Thad Young thrives in Brooklyn, maybe not. Regardless KG was leaving after this season, and Young is a free agent in 2016 if this doesn’t work out.
3.) This year’s trade deadline was incredibly entertaining (in a chaotic kind of way), with over half the league conducting trades involving 37 players and a dozen draft picks. Of the 11 deals made Thursday alone, which was your favorite and which still leaves you confounded?
Reynolds: I’m in love with the moves Oklahoma City made: shipping out Kendrick Perkins, a disgruntled Reggie Jackson and a future first rounder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin and Steve Novak. Apart from the injuries I’ve felt that the bench was the biggest thing keeping the Thunder back this season, and now all of a sudden they’ve got a legit big man scoring threat in Enes Kanter, a capable backup point guard in Augustin (who I think is a better fit than Reggie Jackson, although Jackson is a better player), and Kyle Singler, who’s going to stretch the floor and knock down threes. Steve Novak is kind of whatever, but maybe they could find a way to incorporate him in a lineup with hyper floor spacing. Something like Westbrook-Singler-Durant-Novak-Ibaka perhaps?
I’m still confused by Milwaukee moving Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams and Miles Plumlee. Knight is one of the more underrated point guards in the league that plays at an All-Star level and is only 23 years old. I don’t have a very high opinion of Michael Carter-Williams at all. He’s a terrible shooter that jacks up threes anyway and has seen his turnover numbers increase since his rookie year, up to 4.5 per 36 minutes this season. I’ve been wrong before (I’m wrong most of the time, really) but I’m doubtful that MCW could ever be the player that Knight is right now, and Knight is only getting better. The Bucks have been one of the surprise teams of the season and my favorite to watch on League Pass. I just hope they know what they’re doing and this doesn’t majorly set them back.
McNichols: My favorite trade by far was Dragic to Miami, who would have an amazing, and amazingly fun to watch, starting five if not for the terrifying Chris Bosh condition. Dragic is one of my favorite point guards in the league and the way Phoenix treated him this year was unfortunate. Miami won’t make that mistake. The trade that confounds me most has to be Reggie Jackson to Detroit. I’m just not a big fan of Jackson’s play (and therefore didn’t love the rumors of him coming to the Nets), and I was pretty impressed by Brandon Jennings under Van Gundy before his injury. Much like Phoenix did by adding Isaiah Thomas, I worry that Detroit is alienating their current point guard by bringing in a new one, especially a new one who may not even be an upgrade on the polarizing Jennings.
Jennings: My favorite deal (before we found out the terrible news about Chris Bosh; get well, CB!) was Dragic to Miami. Dragic/Bosh lefty pick-n-rolls would have been pretty awesome; hopefully we get to see that soon. Miami has been lacking a point guard since that guy LeBron left, and they should be able to sign Dragic long-term this summer. As far as impact this season goes, my favorite trade was Afflalo to Portland. In my opinion, Portland was already a serious contender (and my pick) to win the western conference. Adding Afflalo gives them a proven scorer off the bench, and the ability to play perimeter-based if Robin Lopez gets into foul trouble. Portland has needed real production off the bench for awhile, and Afflalo brings that to Rip City.