If you're a Nets fan, are you happier with current Deron-Joe-John squad, or with Derrick Favors and cap space?
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) October 10, 2012
This isn't the first time I've seen this question and it isn't the first time I've thought about it. Ever since the Nets traded for Williams, I've hyperbolically thought about it every single day. And after all that thinking, I do in fact have a firm answer.
I like Derrick Favors. A lot. I was one of the few people who were staunchly against trading Favors for Carmelo Anthony, because I believed (and still believe) that Favors can grow into a high-impact player that affects the game more positively than Anthony does. I'm also a big fan of Kanter, and still think Billy King could've gotten that pick top-3 protected at least for a year.
But as a fan of this team for well over a decade, who's lived through four straight awful seasons, I can unequivocally say I'd rather have the Deron-Joe-Gerald Nets than the Favors-cap space Nets, and it isn't close.
I'm so sick of cap space. After three years of falling for it, I hate cap space now. Every time I look at a roster with cap space I feel bad for them. For three straight seasons, cap space has been either this team's best player or its most useful asset. It's all well and good if you're playing NBA 2K and you can hit a save point if you don't get to sign LeBron James in your association, but it's sickening to watch a team, game after game, year after year, actively tear it down so plainly that even the fans know they're watching a commodity more than a game.
I've said the Nets have half-assed a rebuild for the past three years, but the reality is that they just didn't get the talent. They didn't turn cap space into anything. Now, they have, and then some. I can't describe to you any more clearly how excited and happy I am that I get to watch a team that has a better chance of winning than losing most nights for the first time since I started applying to colleges. Anyone who's watched a bad team in a bad season knows the feeling of dread turning on the television to watch another inevitable 14-point loss. Even the wins feel insignificant. Now, they don't. That's an enormous change, one only possible with today's roster.
And no, they're not a championship team, and they don't have any space to wiggle into one. But the idea that the Nets somehow had a guaranteed future of prosperity with cap space is preposterous. In short, they chose "winning" over "losing in the hopes of winning." They chose to be very good. And, while it's highly unlikely and I'd never pick it, who's to say they can't win a championship? Dwyane Wade can decide to pursue a lifelong dream of pottery midseason. Dwight Howard might become an actor in L.A. and buy Jack Nicholson's courtside seat. Or, the Nets could suddenly get red-hot (or "come together" or whatever lazy people call it) in those glorious few weeks in May and June and confound the best teams in basketball out of nowhere. Results in the playoffs can confound the best of us; that just happened two years ago with the Mavericks. The Nets almost assuredly aren't going to do that, but they're definitely not doing it with cap space as their leading man.
Even in the likely event that they don't win a championship, they'll "win," solely by winning games. To extend that college/grading analogy, the Nets chose a B+ team with A- potential, as opposed to C team with A or A+ potential. After five years of bad grades, I'm not only content with that, I embrace it.