Coming into this season, Billy King will be watched closely. Over the last couple of years, King has earned a “love him or hate him” relationship with the fans.
The Brooklyn Nets shoved all their chips into the middle of the table in a full breach to the NBA title with owner Mikhail Prokhorov issuing a blank check in 2010. They were spending money like a college kid who just got their first credit card.
For the last three years, it must have been so much fun being Billy King. He had full autonomy to build a team in his image without worrying about the salary cap. At the time Prokhorov wanted a NBA title no matter what the cost.
Billy King took full advantage of that situation.
After dropping a shade under $100 million dollars in a max deal contract to keep Deron Williams in town, the Nets helped Danny Ainge’s dream come true. Blow up the “Big Three” in Boston and build the franchise through the draft. Brooklyn gladly ushered draft picks for years to come to take on the aging Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry on draft night in 2013. Boston got younger, still made the playoffs and has a bright future. All the while Brooklyn got older and is looking at the lottery where they may have no pick.
Even though Pierce was amazing in the playoffs leading the Nets to their only series win over the Toronto Raptors, the Brooklyn Nets did not want him back.
Check out the conversation with David Aldridge of NBA.com when he became a free agent…
“Obviously, this is my first time in free agency. I didn’t know where I’d end up. Truthfully, I thought I was going to end in Brooklyn, with Kevin [Garnett]. I told Kevin, if you are not going to retire, then I probably will come back. But when Brooklyn didn’t give me an offer, it was like, I talked to him, and I kind of started looking at my options then.”
Kevin Garnett was physically done by the time he came to Brooklyn. He was a true professional, but other than playing mentor and occasionally knocking down jumpers he wasn’t worth it. Billy King got lucky at the trade deadline and traded Garnett back to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young.
Jason Terry was in the trade but he was shipped out to Sacramento for Marcus Thornton. Thornton is long gone… along with all of the draft picks for these players.
Throw this deal along with the Joe Johnson contract, RealGM reports that the Nets possibly could go without a quality pick until 2019 because of pick swaps and unprotected draft picks. Now the Brooklyn Nets roster has to go under construction to gain anything close to salary cap flexibility for the future.
Now Lionel Hollins is in command and boy Hollins earned his paycheck this past year. He was rumored to be fired right along with the potential sale of the Nets by owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Infighting in the locker room, player beefs and all around bad basketball at times gave Hollins fits.
With all of these bad moves, bad contracts, dealt future picks and assets, Billy King is still the GM. After all of the coaching drama, King is the sixth longest tenured general manager in the Eastern Conference.
Most Brooklyn fans are asking why hasn’t Billy King got the ax?
They have a point on the surface. His moves have cost the franchise millions of dollars in salary cap penalties with a blueprint that is built around aging players that are on their last legs.
However there is a hidden talent in King that fans need to realize…
Billy King has an eye for talent that is very rare in GMs in the NBA. He has shown that positive example back to the Sixers days. Plus, it does look like he is trying to change his philosophy.
The first smart move is that King did not fire Lionel Hollins as Head Coach. Hollins is exactly what the Nets need right now going forward.
He has turned over to the youth movement as opposed to chasing aging superstars. Plus he is trying to build the Nets (wisely) in defensive mentality of Lionel Hollins.
The aforementioned Young for Garnett trade is a start. Looking over King’s entire tenure in Brooklyn it is his best trade as GM.
Signing Thomas Robinson on the cheap will be a big payoff for the Nets. For the life of me I can’t understand why this guy can’t stick with a team. He plays hard and will definitely take advantage of his possible last chance in the NBA.
The draft night trade Billy King swung shipping out Brooklyn’s 41st pick, Pat Connaughton and Mason Plumlee to the Portland Trailblazers for Rondae Hollis Jefferson the 23rd pick out of Arizona should buy him some time with Nets fans.
Then Billy King turned and traded the throw-in player in the Portland deal, Steve Blake, for Quincy Miller, whose contract is not guaranteed. A very wise move for a team on a budget.
Now the draft did not go without risk. King did select Chris McCollough with the 29th pick out of Syracuse. McCollough is rehabbing from an ACL tear. He may not even see the floor next season. However, if he can recover to full health, Nets fans could be looking at lottery level talent here.
Couple these moves with players on the team such as Markel Brown shows that Billy King has a philosophy of going after versatile athletic players who can defend as opposed to swinging for the fences with players acquired in the past.
The one thing Billy King did (which is amazing if you think about it) is get the Nets below the luxury tax line, which was done with the Deron Williams buyout.
Billy King has enjoyed a good offseason to offset a ton of mistakes he has made over the last few years. There wasn’t going to be much improvement over the 38 win campaign last year. The Nets were hamstrung financially from the gate.
But if Markel Brown can develop a jump shot, Hollis-Jefferson pans out and Robinson becomes the old school Buck Williams hard-hat type of player, the Nets can build for the future on the cheap.
With Joe Johnson’s contract coming off the books next year, and if Chris McCollough realizes the potential that scouts say he possesses, Brooklyn might be the biggest surprise stories in the NBA next year.
Then maybe I will jump on Billy King’s bandwagon.