It is a bit surprising to walk away from the news of a three-way deal between the two-time defending champs, a team run by Billy King, and a squad run by your pick as the 2009 NBA Executive of the Year thinking that the end owned by King came away the big winner. Especially when King, by all accounts, traded away the best player in this three-way deal, and you're not even that big a fan of the big fish King is trying to acquire with the assets he's stockpiling.
But there it is, for right now at least. The Nets appeared to have made themselves a pretty healthy deal.
New Jersey sent 2009 lottery pick Terrence Williams(notes) to Houston, veteran big man Joe Smith(notes) to Los Angeles, and took in former Laker guard Sasha Vujacic(notes), and Houston's 2012 draft pick as a result. Houston picks up Williams in essentially a one-for-one deal, and the Lakers are sending their 2011 draft selection to New Jersey merely for the right to lop Vujacic's salary off their tax-addled payroll.
The selling point for Nets (possibly soon to be "New Yorkers") fans comes with the realization that the team now has four possible lottery selections (and five overall, with the Laker choice) in its mitts spread out over the 2011 and 2012 draft. Two of their own picks, one from Golden State, and one from the Houston Rockets. All these choices make turning over 2010's lottery pick (Derrick Favors(notes)), Troy Murphy's(notes) expiring contract, and any number of those lottery picks to Denver for Carmelo Anthony(notes) all the more palatable.
On paper, at least. If that. Honestly, if I'm a Nets fan, I'd be more chuffed in hanging onto the selections and seeing what the team could get with Murphy's contract with someone else. Possibly in a two- or three-for-one deal to add some depth. I appreciate Anthony's ability to drop 30 in his sleep, but that's quite a Herschel Walker-sized ransom if the Nets send nearly (and it has to be "nearly," as NBA rules dictate you can't go without a first-round selection in consecutive years) every one of those lottery choices to Denver for the Nuggets All-Star. And it's quite a stiff price to pay even if you just send half of them, plus Favors.
Houston's role in this is a little more confusing, as Williams has quite a bit of talent, but to part with a 2012 pick for him? Even if the payoff doesn't hurt for another 18 months, and even if the Rockets do rebound to pull themselves out of the lottery, spending a first-rounder on a player like Williams is still a gamble. On paper, his ability to create shots for others and play either wing position is exactly what Houston needs. But he's done nothing but disappoint New Jersey in his brief time in the NBA save for one killer run to end 2009-10.
The Lakers will do nothing but tick off their fans with this move, but they made out expertly in this. Once luxury taxes are figured into this, the champs are lopping over $8 million off their payroll. And while they won't get the $3 million going rate for a late first-round pick in this instance, the Lakers have pretty sound depth right now, two appealing rookies as it is, and don't really need to add another guaranteed contract with who they think would be the 28th-best (or thereabouts) player in the 2011 draft.
This all teeters on New Jersey's plan, from here on out. They are clearly after Anthony, and we can't blame them. But the great unknown (packaging these picks/expiring contracts for depth and talent from other outlets; keeping the picks and building a winner through the draft) seems way, way more appealing at this point. And though Denver is in a state of flux right now, if they can score big for the rights to a player who was leaving anyway, the Nuggets could turn out to be the real winner in this deal.
It all banks on the moves of a GM in King who has a lot of making up to do, in this league. But with a series of potential lottery picks, Murphy's expiring deal, and owner Mikhail Prokorov's hard cash burning a hole in his pocket, he's got a good starting point to rebuild that reputation.