This week, we’re looking back at the series of major decisions that led to the current state of the Nets, and asking you: if you could go back, would you do it again?
These will come in (mostly) reverse chronological order. Today, we continue with the Nets deciding to trade for Joe Johnson.
The story: With the Nets needing to make a splash in Brooklyn and Deron Williams still on the fence about re-signing, Billy King orchestrated a trade with Hawks GM and college friend Danny Ferry to acquire Joe Johnson for Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson, Johan Petro, Jordan Williams, Jordan Farmar, and a 2013 first-round pick.
It was later revealed that the Nets also agreed to swap first-round picks with the Hawks in either 2014 or 2015, a part of the deal that was not made public knowledge.
The Nets informed Williams of the deal in their meeting with him, and it was a major factor in his decision to re-sign with the team.
The case for trading for Joe Johnson: On the floor, this is a no-brainer. The Nets gave up Anthony Morrow and four players no longer in the NBA for the player who’s scored more points in a Brooklyn Nets uniform than anyone else, the player who’s hit more crunch-time shots in the last two years than any player in the NBA. The Nets have been far better with Johnson on the floor than without, and he’s given the team their most consistent production of anyone. It’s why we near-unanimously named him The Brooklyn Game’s 2013-14 Nets MVP.
With Lopez & Williams perpetually injured, Johnson’s missed just 15 games in the last three years, playing through plantar fasciitis and tendonitis without much issue. Without him, the Nets don’t get anywhere close to a first-round upset over the Toronto Raptors last season. Nobody on the Nets can confound a defense better than Joe Johnson.
The case against trading Joe Johnson: But: look where they are now. With Johnson healthy, the Nets are struggling to even make the playoffs, while the Atlanta Hawks have cruised to the Eastern Conference’s best record by a wide margin. The Nets will swap a mid-first rounder at best and a lottery pick at worst with one of the last picks in the NBA draft. Depending on the moves the Nets make at the trade deadline, they could end the season even worse. The pick swap this year could set the Nets back years, especially considering the draft picks they’ve lost in years ahead.
I’m sure if you could go back, you’d try to do the trade without the pick swap. But that’s not how this works: you either take the deal you know you can get or don’t take it at all. You take the last two years of Joe Jesus highlights and lose this year’s potential lottery pick, or you keep the lottery pick — which, without Joe Johnson, is almost definitely a lottery pick — but lose the last two years of Joe Johnson’s heroics. No first-round series vs. the Raptors, no insane crunch-time shotmaking, but also, no $20 million-plus pricetag on the cap sheet.
You willing to do that?