January 28, 2008
So, yesterday, I sat down to write a long post that detailed the trading options of the New Jersey Nets, who are rumored to be trying to initiate a long-overdue rebuilding process, and apparently interested in trading Jason Kidd.
Kidd's agent, Jeff Schwartz, is fresh off issuing New Jersey's front office a trade demand, and though Kidd's age (35 in March) and contract (19.7 million bucks this season, 21.3 million the next) make him a tough sell, one would think that his skills would be enough to encourage a team to make a deal for the All-Star.
One would think.
Then I started crunching the numbers. I started working on a list of teams that would be willing to give up quite a bit for Kidd, teams that think they're a hard-charging point man away from winning the championship, and started looking around the NBA for assets (expiring contracts, young talent) that New Jersey would want to accrue in return. I started to put together possible deals.
I'm still trying to put together possible deals.
Is any deal possible?
Let's look at the sorts of teams that would want to take Kidd on. The Dallas Mavericks might lose Devin Harris to what looked like (last night, at least) a high ankle sprain, and they've been rumored to be after Kidd for a while. The Denver Nuggets have no issues paying the luxury tax, apparently, and have a gaping hole at point guard that Anthony Carter (in spite of his best, and downright surprising, efforts) can't fill. The Lakers would still like him.
The Celtics would kill for him, the Magic might want a turn, the Rockets would be willing, as would the Cavaliers, and Trail Blazers.
The Nets, on the other hand, finally appear to be cognizant of their situation. They'd likely ask for no more than expiring contracts, some lower-rung draft picks, a talented if-not lottery-level youngster still on his rookie contract, and the ability to send Jason Collins' contract somewhere else. It isn't a fair return, but this is the NBA, the salary cap makes even deals tough to pull off, and that's how it works.
Then the issues set in. There aren't many expiring contracts of any real value floating around. The Miami Heat have one in Jason Williams, and the Los Angeles Lakers will see Kwame Brown's come off the books, but the biggest expiring contracts out there that the Nets would covet come in the form of players who are already bought-out. Uh oh.
The Lakers, even with Andrew Bynum out, would seem amenable to shipping Brown out to help facilitate a trade that brought them something nice back, but it makes precious little sense for them to aid the Nuggets, Mavericks or even the Cleveland Cavaliers in getting a player in Kidd to push them over the top.
Making things more complicated are the tradeable (we think) contracts that the Nets won't want. The Lakers could send Lamar Odom and Kwame to New Jersey in a half-second for Kidd, but why would the Nets want to rebuild with Odom's contract on the books? Odom's in his ostensible prime, he's not some young stud who can develop on a rebuilding team, and his contract expires the same year as Kidd's.
In Dallas, the Mavs might be open to sending Devin Harris, Jason Terry and parts to New Jersey, though even I think that's sort of a stretch (Jose Barea is a championship-level backup point guard?), but why would the Nets want Terry's contract on the books? He's worth the money, but not to a rebuilding team.
And if you're Mavs GM Donn Nelson, don't you believe in the championship aspirations of this roster as presently constructed? No point in giving up Harris (or, as some have suggested, Josh Howard) for a chance at Kidd.
Even if Howard's name came up (which, I have to re-iterate, Dallas would want nothing to do with), why would New Jersey want to take him on? This guy is going to be 28 in April. He's in his prime. By the time any rebuilding effort started to bear fruit, he'd be 31. By the time you could put a championship team around him, he'd be 33. The same goes for Denver's Nene Hilario, who could be sent to the Nets with Eduardo Najera and J.R. Smith, but why would New Jersey want to rebuild with Nene's eight-figure contract on the roster?
Denver's an interesting cog because they could send Nene to a third team in any swap to help round-out salaries, but would they want to be the team that sends a cancer patient to, say, Cleveland?
In fact, the one trade that seemed to work out best for all sides would have the Cavs sending a series of lower-rung or expiring contracts to New Jersey (Cedric Simmons, Dwayne Jones, Ira Newble, Devin Brown) with Nene heading to Cleveland, Denver losing J.R. Smith and Eduardo Najera to gain Kidd. But would Denver ship Nene in the midst of his recovery?
Atlanta could send a whole batch of expiring contracts to New Jersey, but they've been loathe to make any deals while their ownership situation gets figured out; and although Kidd (rightfully) has no say in where he'd end up, he'd pitch a bitch in Atlanta, even for a Hawks team that is better than his current Nets squad. And the Hawks idea brings up another issue: roster space.
Teams can't trade for more players than they have roster spots available for, so for any big deal to happen that would send six players New Jersey's way, they'd have to cut a few guys. Possible movable contracts like Jamaal Magliore and Malik Allen would have to be cut, and rendered untradeable, which would stink for the Nets.
And that's it. There's no magic conduit to not only put Kidd on a contender, but to get him off the team in the first place. Nets personnel Number Two Kiki Vandeweghe did a fine job unloading undesirable contracts while breaking up the remains of Dan Issel's mess in Denver, so he has some experience, but there aren't as many obvious options this time around.
This doesn't mean a deal can't get done, or that the Nets would prefer to buy the man out.
What it does mean, however, is that whichever deal goes down between now and the February 21st trading deadline will likely involve someone making a bad move. Taking on a contract they don't need, aiding another rival, giving up too much ... something like that. It won't be a win-win.
You're more than welcome to offer your (cap-legal, I would ask) suggestions in the comments section, but prepare for a lot of, "why would (insert team name) do that deal?" responses. It won't be an easy break.