A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The Nets trading a lottery pick for Gerald Wallace: Not as insane as it looks

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Gerald Wallace

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The most controversial deal of trade deadline day involved the New Jersey Nets trading their surefire top 10 draft pick (top 3 protected) this season for Gerald Wallace, who will be 30 this year and a free agent in a year and a half assuming he opts in this summer.

Under normal circumstances this would be one of the worst trades of all time. You just don’t trade a high lottery pick for a declining, soon to be free agent like Wallace. It’s about return on investment. Your return for a lottery pick could last a decade. Wallace’s return would be a year and a half – in other words, pointless unless you can contend for a title in that time, and the Nets of course can’t. This is also why I hated Portland’s initial move for Wallace, although they did a fantastic job reversing their course with this trade.

On the surface it looked like this was a panic move to make Deron Williams resign instead of bolting to Dallas once their Dwight Howard card dried up with his opt-in. A feeble attempt to prove they are a “win now” team.

However I believe the truth may be more complex. If something doesn’t look right (like this trade being made in the realm of keeping Deron Williams), chances are it isn’t. Here’s what I think is really happening: This is still about Dwight Howard. Remember Howard hasn’t extended, the assumption is the will-he-or-won’t-he saga for his free agency is only suspended until after this season. When the summer starts, it’s back on for Orlando to convince him to stay. So why should we think the Nets have given up? If they were all in on getting Dwight Howard before, they should still be.

In other words, maybe the Nets traded for Gerald Wallace because they want to trade him for Dwight Howard. My best guess is this: We know Orlando had a trade prepared at the deadline if Dwight waffled on his opt-in at the last minute. What makes sense to me is if the trade involved the Magic getting something like Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez, Marshon Brooks, Kris Humphries and Houston’s 1st, Portland getting that New Jersey 1st, and New Jersey getting Howard and Turkoglu. With the 3rd best record in the East presently, the Magic swapping those talented players for Howard including a win now one in Wallace would likely give them a chance of a a Denver Nuggets like non drop-off in play the rest of the year on the road to a great seed in the East – while including enough young talent like Lopez and Brooks to help them after this season. Meanwhile New Jersey’s 1st in this situation would have been less valuable with Howard helping the Nets win games the rest of the year – and in this case if the Nets got Howard, they didn’t care which picks they gave up. Also, before this season a rumor was around of Wallace being offered to Orlando in the Dwight package, with New Jersey rerouted 4 future 1sts to Portland. If true Orlando getting Wallace in their Dwight trade makes sense. Under the presumption of this trade being on the table, when the Magic dropped out of the situation, New Jersey simply made the Wallace/NJ 1st deal with Portland on its own. Why would they do this? Because their plan would now involve offering Orlando the Wallace, Lopez (S&T), Brooks and draft picks for Howard and Turkoglu offer in the summer. It’s incredibly debateable whether Orlando would like Wallace as much in the summer instead of at the trade deadline with a good season to maintain, but the Nets in this situation would be willing to try with an offer they know Orlando likes. Furthermore having Wallace instead of a New Jersey 1st makes the trade easier to maneuvure, as to trade that lottery pick in the summer would require holding off on signing his rookie scale contract which is a tricky situation to navigate – Also Wallace’s salary allows New Jersey to take back much more from Orlando, like the Turkoglu contract.

Now, I still don’t like the deal. If New Jersey’s plan was to build an offer for Howard in the summer, there were better ways to do it than a move as potentially devastating long term as swapping a lottery pick for Wallace. Trading it for a different young player or a 2013 1st would’ve been possible, and while difficult, including that 2012 rookie in the package before he signs his contract is not impossible. And in fact if Dwight makes it clear he wants a New Jersey trade in the summer, the Nets won’t be bidding against anyone else. So the difference between Wallace being in the trade or not likely isn’t a HUGE difference from their perspective. An offer of Lopez, Brooks and a young player instead of Wallace is still the deal they have to take, if Dwight makes it clear the Nets are the team he wants. Yet that also makes it true that Orlando could very well take this Wallace, Lopez, Brooks offer. Without the rookie the teams can breathe easier negotiating the trade, and Wallace’s contract makes it possible for the Nets to easily take back contract like Hedo Turkoglu.

So at the end of the day, while this trade may be ill advised, the Nets may be still laughing eventually by flipping Wallace in a deal where they get Dwight Howard. Will this happen because they made the Wallace deal? Probably not. But if they get a Deron and Howard combination, all previous ill deeds will be forgiven and how they got there will be trivial. Essentially the Nets using a Wallace acqusition eventually to trade for Dwight Howard would be like a Shawn Marion jumpshot, it may have come from a weird and fundamentally flawed place, but if it goes in, one cannot complain about the end result too much. If I’m right about this being about the Nets still going all in on Dwight Howard, not a lot has changed from that perspective. If Howard is dead set on being with the Nets eventually, he likely ends up traded there. If he wants to stay with the Magic and Deron as a result signs with Dallas, that would’ve likely happened without the Wallace trade as well. So what this trade really does is effect how much of a loss the Nets are taking. It’s like before this trade the Nets had their life savings on the table in a poker game, and by doing this they just threw the keys to their car in too. They’ll be taking a bigger loss if they fail, but they were going to take such a big hit of disappointment if their hand lost anyways. So it just makes a strikeout on Deron-Howard an 11 on the scale of suck instead of a 10, while getting Howard remains a 10 on the scale of *winning* just as it was before the trade.

As for Portland’s side? It’s just a phenomenal trade for them, a pure win in value. After a few years of doing the wrong thing by pushing in chips for a short term gain that was likely to lead to 1st round knockouts, they’ve taken a step back and will likely have two top 12 picks this year to load up talent beside Lamarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. On a day where they also fired Nate McMillan and waived Greg Oden, Portland set up their future past the Roy-Oden era, finally. In the long run this was a great day for Blazers fans.

Written by jr.

March 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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