clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Nets can't afford to be impatient when fixing this mess

They can't keep trying for quick fixes if they want to succeed.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets cleaned house on Sunday, reassigning GM Billy King and firing coach Lionel Hollins. We pick through the rubble in the latest FLANNS & ZILLZ.

FLANNERY: You covered the Nets' downfall in Monday's Hook, but I'm not ready to let the Billy King era go just yet. Such a rich tapestry of doomed decision-making it provided.

What's interesting to me is that not all of King's moves were as bad as they first appeared (Joe Johnson, for example) and the ones people thought were no-brainers turned into the biggest disasters (looking at you, Deron Williams). If there was one move that defined the King years, it was probably the ill-fated trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but people still liked it at the time.

We're so contradictory. We want GMs to be bold, but not foolish. We want them to be patient, but active. This really couldn't have gone worse for the Nets, but there really were people who thought it would be a good idea at the time. Is it fair to judge a GM solely on the results, or does the process have to come into play here, as well?

ZILLER: You have to judge the process and especially the context. In a vacuum, every big move King made was dicey from the outset. In the context of being hired specifically to take a 70-loss team to the playoffs immediately and win a title within five years, the moves were justifiable in the moment. Even KG/Pierce: the Nets were trying to take a 49-win team considered lacking vocal on-court intensity and grit to the top tier. Pierce and KG could have offered exactly that ... had they been five years younger. The price was incredible -- Danny Ainge fleeced King -- but the logic is there.

I don't think anyone would call King's oeuvre "smart." But the process fit the context, even if none of the moves (other than JJ to some degree) worked. I don't really fault King a ton. He's certainly not the worst New York-area GM of the past two decades ...

FLANNERY: A ringing endorsement: Not as bad as Isiah!

I do fault Billy for throwing away first-round picks like confetti. Did it really take three unprotected first-rounders plus a swap for the Celtics trade? Couldn't he have gotten full lottery protection for taking on Gerald Wallace, or at least top 10? Your column really hammered home what could have been: Brook Lopez + Derrick Favors is a great starting point. Maybe they don't get Kyrie in 2011, but say they get Dame in 2012. Now that's an interesting team to bring to Brooklyn.

Prokhorov Era

So, what does this say about the value of the draft?

ZILLER: He totally over-leveraged them, and protecting the 2012 pick only in the top three in the Wallace deal was a catastrophic blunder (much as the Clippers' lack of any protection in the Baron Davis deal had been a year prior). If you're bad, you cannot give away picks in the short term!

This whole debacle has reiterated that patient, foundation-first growth is way more viable than future-mortgaging, pick-trading schemes. But again, I note that wasn't an option here, and hilariously it looks like it won't be an option for King's successor! Prokhorov is telling the world he expects the Nets to land free agents and be a contender next year. The Nets have no tradable firsts until 2020, and their only players with enough trade value to gain a first are Lopez, maybe Thaddeus Young and maybe Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. What the actual hell?

FLANNERY: Oh, they're screwed. No franchise has a worse long-term outlook than Brooklyn. Even if they somehow brought someone into place with a long-term vision who was empowered to make those kind of subtle decisions, there's just not that much to work with until 2019. And please spare me the idea that big-time free agents are going to want to come to Brooklyn. The John Calipari thing is hilarious, though.

What would you do here: trade Brook or try to build around him?

ZILLER: There's no strong imperative to deal him unless you're getting a bounty (some combo of at least two picks or strong prospects). Barring injury (always tricky with Brook), he'll put up big numbers on a team devoid of talent. If you think the foot is a ticking time bomb, see what you can get now. Otherwise, he's almost assuredly better than anyone you'll pick up in free agency anytime soon.

The one thing Brooklyn can do in free agency is throw insane money at restricted free agents. Other teams with space last year, namely the Sixers, were hesitant to get involved in stuff like the Tristan Thompson episode. Why not send Harrison Barnes a max offer, or throw more money than anyone else at Jordan Clarkson? Hassan Whiteside is unrestricted, but maybe he's a guy you shower in praise and gold. The NBA GM community is getting more conservative when it comes to salary. Let the Nets be the counterweight.

What GM candidates should Prok chase? He appears to deal in the currency of bombast, so maybe Calipari is the right guy.

FLANNERY: The only reason to go for Calipari is if you believe the fantasy that all the Kentucky guys have been champing at the bit to reform in the pros. I mean, you never say never in this league, but that's a huge stretch. People forget that Cal was such a disaster as an NBA coach (and a worse GM) that he made Rick Pitino seem competent. So no, I wouldn't go after Calipari.

(Side note: None of that does anything to diminish my admiration for what Cal has done at Kentucky, which I think is genius. But that's another topic for another time.)

Honestly, I think Prokhorov should reach out to Adam Silver and ask for help. Bring in an experienced hand who knows the league, knows how to scout and has the patience to do it right. I'd also absolutely look to trade Brook for as many picks as possible because they're operating at such a deficit. I like the restricted free agent gambit you mentioned. It's a no-risk chance to show everyone you're serious and maybe one of those guys slips into your hands. If they keep going for quick-fixes, they'll be right where the Knicks have been for years.

ZILLER: Is it too late for our pal Bobby Marks to return to Brooklyn and take back over? I'm perennially intrigued by a guy like Troy Weaver, who seems to have a nice combo of relationship and scouting skills and has worked in one of the league's most successful franchises (Oklahoma City) for a while now. Big-name agents are a GM trend now, so maybe Brooklyn will go that direction.

Hell, maybe the team should have just turned control over to Jason Kidd. [remembers the Bucks' record] Eh, never mind.

FLANNERY: Troy Weaver would make a lot of sense. There's a dozen qualified candidates out there, but as always, this goes back to the guy who signs the checks. Remember this maxim and commit it to memory: Behind every questionable move is an impatient owner.

ZILLER: You're telling a Kings fan this?

FLANNERY: At least you've got a superior infrastructure.

* * *

SB Nation presents: Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov puts team through bizarre workout