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 Gerald Wallace, and re-sign him to a four-year deal worth $40 million.
The Story: Looking to add veterans and keep Deron Williams around, the Nets dealt away Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, and their 2012 first-round draft pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gerald Wallace at the 2011-12 trade deadline. Neither Okur nor Williams played a minute with the Blazers.
Wallace sat down the stretch of the season (much to his chagrin), but that didn’t stop the Nets from signing him to a four-year deal worth $40 million. He only lasted one season in Brooklyn.
The case for trading for, & re-signing, Gerald Wallace: The biggest bugaboo in the Gerald Wallace trade was not Wallace himself, but what the Nets gave the Portland Trail Blazers for Wallace’s services: that top-3 protected pick that eventually turned into Rookie of the Year and star point guard Damian Lillard.
But there’s two bits of revisionist history there. For one, the Nets already had Deron Williams, and weren’t going to spend the sixth pick on Damian Lillard. They were more likely going to target a big man like Tyler Zeller . But Lillard rocketed up draft boards, and at the time seemed like a reach with the sixth pick.
Secondly, though Wallace’s on-court contributions were often sparse, no one was consumed by the team’s losses more than the forward, and the team was 3.2 points per 100 possessions better with Wallace on the floor in his lone season with Brooklyn. His crashes were sometimes the best reason to watch during the team’s low points.
The case against trading for Gerald Wallace: Well, uh…
Even if you consider the fact that the Nets wouldn’t have drafted Lillard — and Deron Williams’s presence blocking the Nets from potentially selecting Damian Lillard is another argument — the Nets still tossed a top-3 protected pick away for a player that could barely stay on the floor near the end of his lone full season with the team.
Then, after his lack of shooting was a key reason they couldn’t make it out of the first round, the Nets packaged Wallace with three more draft picks, Kris Humphries, and contract filler for one season of Paul Pierce and a rapidly declining Kevin Garnett.
And there’s the issue, really. Not only did Wallace lose the Nets their shot at Damian Lillard (or Harrison Barnes, or Terrence Ross, or Andre Drummond), it then sent off a chain reaction whereas the Nets traded away three more first-rounders with Wallace.
This is nothing against Wallace, who sacrificed his body night in and night out to make plays for the Nets. But as Wallace, Pierce, and Garnett inch towards retirement, Damian Lillard inches towards superstardom. The deal ultimately goes down as perhaps the worst value move in Nets history since giving away Julius Erving, and only looks worse with each passing day.
Trading for Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce