The What If Marvel Comics series were always one of my favorites. It took a superhero like Spider-man and altered his narrative (What if Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four?) just for the fun of it.
Despite being undefeated in 2013, the Nets remain a team with bloated contracts, a pouty superstar and a fired coach just one month after he won Coach of the Month in November.
The summer of 2010 was supposed to be huge. Mikhail Prokhorov bought 80% of the Nets and the free agent class was historic. Billy King replaced Rod Thorn as GM. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer and Rudy Gay were on the Nets radar. They swung and missed with all of them.
Instead they settled for Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro and Jordan Farmar. Two of those players barely get off the bench on their current and the other is not even in the league anymore.
However, a blockbuster trade in February of 2011 netted Deron Williams—at the time one of the top two or three point guards in the league. The Nets traded a promising big man and the future 2011 3rd pick.
Another swing and a miss for Dwight Howard in 2012 led to trading that year’s draft pick for Gerald Wallace. Joe Johnson was acquired in another trade primarily to retain Deron Williams in the absence of Howard.
But what if it didn’t matter that the Nets were moving to Brooklyn? What if the Nets had a GM like Sam Presti (Thunder) or R.C. Buford (Spurs)? Teams that don’t look for the home run free-agent signing but build slowly through the draft. What if…
…the Nets never traded for Williams, they would have retained Derrick Favors, the third overall pick in 2011 which turned out to be Enes Kanter. In that same draft, they chose Marshon Brooks.
I listed the current roster’s (I just used 10 players) Player Efficiency Rating (PER), a stat invented by an ESPN writer (John Hollinger) who recently got hired by the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s a stat that tries to boil down everything to one number. 15 is average, 30+ is LeBron territory, and single digits really sucks. I also include their ages and salary. Salary’s are rounded and not precise.
|PG||Deron Williams||17.48||28||$98 million for 5 years|
|SG||Joe Johnson||14.23||31||$123 million for 6 years|
|SF||Gerald Wallace||13.73||30||$40 million for 4 years|
|PF||Reggie Evans||11.06||32||$5 million for 3 years|
|C||Brook Lopez||25.42||24||$60 million for 4 years|
|Bench 1||Kris Humphries||14.53||27||$24 million for 2 years|
|Bench 2||Andray Blatche||23.43||26||$1 million for 1 year|
|Bench 3||Marshon Brooks||14.7||23||$2 million for 2 years|
|Bench 4||Keith Bogans||6.74||32||$1 million for 1 year|
|Bench 5||CJ Watson||12.61||28||$2 million for 2 years|
Average PER: 15:39
Average age: 28.1
Total salary: $356 million for 30 years
After they failed to trade for Dwight Howard in 2012, they signed Gerald Green from the D-League and traded their 2012 first round pick and two warm bodies for Gerald Wallace to Portland. That pick turned out to be Damian Lillard, who is making a strong case for rookie of the year. I kept DeShawn Stevenson on the team for some veteran presence. The Nets had both Jason Kidd and Ersan Ilyasova on their radar, so I added them to fill out a 10 man roster.
The What If version of the Nets would look something like this.
|PG||Damian Lillard||16.59||22||$13.7 million for 4 years|
|SG||Marshon Brooks||14.7||23||$2 million for 2 years|
|SF||Gerald Green||7.6||26||$10.5 million for 3 years|
|PF||Derrick Favors||18.13||21||$10.7 million for 2 years|
|C||Brook Lopez||25.42||24||$60 million for 4 years|
|Bench 1||Enes Kanter||15.02||20||$13 million for 3 years|
|Bench 2||Draymond Green||7.45||22||$2.6 million for 3 years|
|Bench 3||DeShawn Stevenson||7.45||31||$6.7 million for 3 years|
|Bench 4||Jason Kidd||17.21||39||$9.2 million for 3 years|
|Bench 5||Ersan Ilyasova||14.95||25||$40 million for 5 years|
Average PER: 14.75
Average age: 25.3
Total salary: $168.4 million for 32 years
So the current team is about a half a point above the What If team. I’d call that even. But the average age of the What If team is three years younger (25.3 vs. 28.1). The salaries are where the differences are huge. $356 million for 30 years for the current team vs $168.4 million for 32 years.
Now I know Proky’s pockets are deep, and money doesn’t matter to him. But it does matter to NBA GMs. With a team salary cap at $58 million, many teams will be hesitant to trade for a Joe Johnson or a Gerald Wallace should Billy King decide to go that route.
Here’s my problem with the current team. Prokorov came in to “steal Knicks fans”. But he’s not much different that Knick owner James Dolan, arguably the most hated owner in the league (although many can make a case for the Clippers’ Donald Sterling).
Sure, this year’s team can make some noise in the playoffs, but I don’t think they’ll be able to touch the Heat or the Bulls with a healthy Derrick Rose in a seven game series.
I’d bet if Presti/Buford were GM and had an owner that trusted them, they’d concede these next few seasons to those “win now” teams. They’d let a young nucleus of Damian Lillard, Brook Lopez, Derrick Favors, Marshon Brooks and Enes Kanter figure things out in Brooklyn. With an exciting young core like that, perhaps they’d land a superstar in free agency, but even if they didn’t there really would be a potential for the What If Brooklyn Nets to become the Oklahoma City Thunder in a few years.
The What If team could have had a lot of flexibility. The current team is built to win now, but teams like the Heat, Thunder, and Clippers are just better. But the reality is that the current team is above average, and it’s the team I’m stuck with for the most part.
I guess it’s better than a starting lineup of Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Joe Smith, and Brook Lopez, so I’m not complaining. I think.