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 start with the Nets deciding not to re-sign Paul Pierce.
The Story: After a solid year in Brooklyn for the 37-year-old Paul Pierce, free agency negotiations between Pierce’s representation and the Nets stalled in early July. When an offer later loomed from the Washington Wizards, the Nets had an opportunity to return to the table and re-sign Pierce, likely on a two-year deal worth around $11 million.
But the Nets front office, who would have had to commit an extra $15 million in luxury tax payments this season (and perhaps more the year later) had already moved on from Pierce, who they’d acquired an offseason earlier in a blockbuster trade, and decided not to spend the extra dough to keep the 37-year-old around. Pierce later said the Nets never gave him an offer.
Through February 2nd, Pierce had put up nearly identical numbers in Washington as he did in Brooklyn, averaging 12.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in 27 minutes per game, shooting 38.9 percent from three-point range.
The Case For Re-Signing Pierce: Pierce was a big shot-maker and key component of the Nets’ longball lineup last season, playing as a nominal power forward and helping spread the floor. The Nets have lacked both his attitude and that on-court dynamism, partially with Shaun Livingston leaving[note]Note: we’re not doing a “would you do it over” on Livingston, because they never had a shot to re-sign him.[/note], but partially because Pierce’s wonky fit at the 4 helped them take advantage of bigger lineups. They’re now one of the league’s worst three-point shooting teams.
The Nets had already committed to a “spend-like-hell” mantra that landed them so deep in the luxury tax they couldn’t see cap space with a telescope. When you’re just trying to be competitive, why let him go?
The Case For Letting Him Go: How competitive would the Nets have been with Pierce this season, really? His presence, though welcomed, wouldn’t have moved the needle — they’d already proven during last year’s playoffs that their core wasn’t competing for a title any time soon, and Brooklyn’s fortunes aren’t going from 18-28 to 38-8 on Pierce’s 37-year-old legs alone. Why keep digging a deeper hole into the luxury tax and further restrict flexibility?