Back in late November, I mentioned the Brooklyn Nets’ willingness to trade disgruntled forward Andrei Kirilenko. The team, of course, did make that move in a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers shortly afterwards (which, coincidentally, is an entirely different mess right now).
Brooklyn may not be stopping there and a recent report suggests the next to go could be the team’s Big Three of Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson. Bleacher Report’s (and formerly, ESPN’s) Ric Bucher reports that the three players are among others that he hears are on the trading block. ESPN actually had a similar report a few weeks ago and Bucher confirms that.
The Nets are 2nd in their Division and very much in the playoff race in the annually-down Eastern Conference. So why the move?
Mostly because that 2nd place standing in the Atlantic is wildly deceiving. The Nets are 16-21 and simply one of the better teams in a dumpster fire of a Division that includes the 76ers, Knicks, and Celtics. In addition, while they still have a good chance to reach the playoffs, they currently sit in seventh place and would be one of the final teams in if the season ended today.
Brooklyn was put together with the thought that the team could take advantage of being in a weak conference and potentially reach the NBA Finals. With teams like the Bulls, Raptors, Wizards, and Hawks, though, that just doesn’t seem possible. In fact, it sounds downright far-fetched.
It’s not just the losing, either. Williams has had a somewhat turbulent time since arriving in Brooklyn a few years ago and has often been the subject of trade speculation and fan criticism. Coach Lionel Hollins recently calling Lopez ‘lazy’ also isn’t going to help smooth over the losing, either.
The three aren’t having terrible seasons, but clearly aren’t producing as much as was expected. Lopez is playing a career-low 26.3 minutes per game in an effort to keep him healthy, and his 15.0 ppg average is the lowest of his career outside of his rookie season. Williams is continuing his steady decline, averaging only 13.9 ppg (like Lopez, the lowest of his career since his rookie year) and is shooting below 40 percent from the field. Complicating matters is the fact that he currently has a fractured rib and is out indefinitely.
Johnson leads the team in scoring with 16.5 ppg and is arguably having the best season of the bunch with numbers right around his season averages in most major categories. Still, he certainly isn’t capable of leading a team deep into the playoffs on his own.
While they aren’t all having career years, each player would certainly draw significant interest.
Lopez, for his flaws, is still a gifted true center, which is rare in today’s NBA. He has had some health issues, but is only 26 years old and has a PER of nearly 20.00. Williams has declined since joining the Nets, but at 30, teams would certainly take a chance on him being able to rejuvenate his career – that’s evidenced by the numerous trade speculation that’s surrounded his name for the past couple of seasons. Johnson is the oldest of the bunch at 33, but he leads the Nets in scoring and may have seen the least amount of deterioration to his game of the three. He isn’t posting the All-Star stats he was in Atlanta, but is still a dangerous scorer and, on a team without as many other stars demanding the ball, would be capable of doing even more. On a team with other stars, he is an ideal third option.
Potential destinations aren’t yet known and it seems as though this is mostly a feeling out process to see who might have some interest. It’s worth noting, though, that the Sacramento Kings were rumored to be pursuing Williams last month.
We’ll see if Brooklyn pulls the trigger on a deal. For now, though, the franchise at least seems to be weighing a decision to blow things up and start over.