Nets Are Peddling – But Who’s Buying?

In the past week, a number of sources have reported that the Nets have been testing the trade market by offering some of their expiring contracts. First, there was the Nate Robinson/Darko Milicic for Rafer Alston/Tony Battie trade proposal, tweeted by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski this past weekend. Then yesterday, in an ESPN chat, Chris Sheridan suggested that the Nets were “peddling” guys like Battie, Bobby Simmons, Josh Boone and Eduardo Najera. Sheridan speculated a possible match with the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for PF Boris Diaw, but he never says such a trade was ever floated by either team. Beat writer Al Iannazzone also speculated that Alston’s name will likely be connected in more trade talk considering how his playing time has been dramatically reduced despite coach Kiki Vandeweghe saying the erratic PG “deserved to play.”

Earlier this morning, Yahoo’s Marc Spears talked about a couple of trades that have seemingly fallen apart: Eduardo Najera to Dallas for Kris Humphries and Shawne Williams – which would have given the Nets a monopoly on player’s named some variation of Sean Williams, though the player from Dallas would have been bought out. To try and open a roster spot for these players, the Nets were looking to send Josh Boone to Denver for Joey Graham.

None of this news is surprising. The Nets are a last place team with a young core and most of the players mentioned in these trade scenarios could provide a playoff-bound team with a veteran piece on a short-term contract. However, depending on what these players may bring back in a trade – and considering that most of these players, especially Alston and Simmons, are experiencing miserable seasons – they may ultimately be more valuable to keep. Because once those contracts expire this summer, it equals salary cap flexibility for the Nets in one of the best free agent markets in recent memory.

Of the rumors being floated, the Robinson/Darko trade made the most sense for the Nets, since both are young players with expiring contracts who could essentially audition for supporting roles on the team next season, or be cast away come the summer for greener free agent pastures. Boris Diaw, on the other hand, makes no sense. While he was once a nice component of those exciting Phoenix Suns “7 Seconds or Less” teams, he’s also owed $9 million in each of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons and is not enough of a difference maker to warrant sacrificing valuable cap space for.  Kris Humphries has a player option worth $3.2 million is not guaranteed money next year, and the Nets would have been dumping Najera, who’s owed money by the Nets for two more seasons due to the absurd contract he was offered before 2008-09.

So what are the Nets options? Whereas the Nate/Darko trades sounds great on paper, common sense says the Nets are more likely to be offered a player of Diaw’s ilk – a salary dump that will clog their flexibility at exactly the wrong time. Humphries is mildly interesting, as he has above average PER 40 minutes numbers, but he’s known as a “shoot first” guy, with poor defense and has been turnover prone throughout his career. I don’t know how he’s that much of an upgrade in the frontcourt over Josh Boone. Plus it would cheat Rob Mahoney over at The Two Man Game of his weekly “Hump Day” post. But I guess if you want change for the sake of a change, he’s an option.

While Kiki may have a soft spot for guys like Alston and Battie – who probably deserve better than to be rarely used bench players on a 3-30 team in their contract years, this hopefully won’t lead the GM to make an ill-advised trade in an effort to make right by then. As I preached last week, the Nets need to stay true to their commitment headed into this season, even if the losses keep mounting. This rings especially true if changing directions brings the Nets a Boris Diaw type-player and contract.