Nets reportedly put Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez on trade block
Brooklyn is reportedly willing to break up its expensive team, but finding a taker for all three cornerstones will be challenging.
The meandering, expensive Brooklyn Nets have put all their key players on the trade block, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ohm Youngmusic. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez — the team’s three highest paid players and the only significant contracts that stretch beyond this season — are now available in trades, the writers report.
The Nets are coming to this stance after an 8-11 start that nonetheless puts them in the No. 8 slot in the awful Eastern Conference. Monday’s blowout loss to the Cavaliers at home may have been the last straw, even though Johnson and Lopez did not play. The Nets spent big upon moving to Brooklyn in an attempt to compete immediately, but that’s merely resulted in one playoff series win in three years. Nevertheless, Brooklyn does want to acquire players that’ll help with a playoff push, according to Stein and Youngmusic.
Yet a willingness to trade each player doesn’t mean much if nobody wants them. All three have massive salaries and several drawbacks that make them difficult assets to move. Williams is in the third year of a five-year maximum contract that’ll pay him an additional $63 million and has declined from his superstar play in Utah. Johnson is in the fourth year of an even bigger six-year deal that’ll pay him $23.2 million this year and nearly $25 million next. Lopez’s four-year, $60 million deal that ends after next season looks like a bargain by comparison, but the Nets’ big man has struggled with foot problems in each of the last two seasons.
Will the Nets find takers for any or all of the three?
Why they will
The old adage about there never being an untradeable contract in the NBA is true. If Gilbert Arenas and his $111 million contract can get moved less than a year after a felony gun charge, so to can Williams, Johnson and Lopez. Williams and Johnson, while overpaid, remain productive NBA players, while Lopez is a polished big man that teams have gambled on for decades. If the Nets are willing to take back a lot of junk and don’t press for significant assets like first-round picks (that, if should be noted, they currently lack thanks to their spending spree), it will behoove other teams to poke around, especially given the rising salary cap that’ll make these contracts look less damaging.
Why they won’t
One by one:
Williams: While he’s played better this season, it’s clear he’s no longer one of the league’s best point guards despite being paid like one. Point guard is one of the deepest positions in the NBA. Teams either have a player committed at the position for the long haul or are purposely spending less at that spot to spend more elsewhere on the roster. The Rockets have been linked to Williams in the past, but why would they make a trade when they are 16-4 and getting production out of Patrick Beverley for a fraction of the cost?
Johnson: The seven-time All-Star is finally starting to show signs of aging after putting together one of his best seasons last year. His scoring and shooting percentage is down, he’s struggled with nagging injuries and he’s lost a step on the defensive end. Merely finding enough money to match up to his $23.2 million salary will prove to be a challenge.
Lopez: Simple: he can’t stay on the floor. He’s only played close to one full season sine 2011, missing nearly all of the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons with foot injuries. He’s played in 16 of Brooklyn’s 21 games this season, but has looked like a shell of his former self. His numbers (16 points and six rebounds on 49 percent shooting) are respectable, but far below his career averages.
Likelihood of a trade
A Nets fire sale seems inevitable, so surely one of the three players will be pawned off for little return at some point. But all three? That’ll prove to be a significant challenge.
7/10 for one of the three players.
4/10 for two of the three players.
1/10 for all three players.