According to recent reports, the Brooklyn Nets are open to trading point guard Deron Williams. Besides his rookie season, the former All-Star averaged career-lows last year with 14.3 points and 6.1 assists per game for a Nets team that underachieved. Williams was supposed to be the franchise player after signing a five-year, $98 million deal in the summer of 2012, but he has not lived up to the expectations of being one of the top point guards in the NBA.
Before a decision is made by general manager Billy King and the rest of Brooklyn’s front office, the team needs to identify where they stand. Currently, the Nets appear to be stuck in a position no team wants to be in. Apart from their atrocious financial situation in terms of salary and taxes, the Nets are stuck in a difficult place in the Eastern Conference. The roster is not good enough to be a threat and compete for a championship, but also not bad enough for management to enter a rebuilding mode. They are right in the middle of the pack; a playoff team, but will most likely be eliminated in the first or second round.
If the Nets believe they are capable of contending in a conference that lacks a really dominate team with LeBron James now out of Miami, then Williams should not be traded. However, if the Nets instead want to cut their losses and trade Williams while he is still worth something, then that should be the course of action.
With that being said, trading Williams in order to relive the team of about $20 million per year would not be a walk in the park. Finding a team to take on an enormous contract of an aging player on the decline would be extremely difficult, especially if the Nets want assets in return. In addition, with the recent success of young point guards around the league, not too many teams right now seem interested in acquiring the services of Williams.
In a trade, the Nets would desire a combination of young players who have potential and draft picks. Over the past few years, the Nets have traded away tons of first round-draft picks via the Williams trade, the Gerald Wallace trade with the Portland Trail Blazers (which turned out to be Damian Lillard), the Joe Johnson trade with the Atlanta Hawks, and of course the blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics last offseason. Therefore, acquiring draft picks to jumpstart the rebuilding era should be a top priority for the Nets in a possible trade that includes Williams.
However, a scenario where Brooklyn receives a package of young players and/or first-round draft picks is highly unlikely. In fact, another team taking on Williams’ absurd contract is the greatest thing in the Nets would receive, because it would give them flexibility to build towards the future. Teams that would be interested in trading for Williams are teams looking to add a big name, and even younger teams with cap-room looking for a veteran leader.
The Nets though should not give up on Williams right now, because his value is at the lowest it has ever been. Williams is two years removed from being considered one of the best point guards in the entire NBA, with his abilities to score and pass at an elite level. Last season, Williams was constantly plagued by ankle injuries, but there is optimism. If Williams can remain healthy, there is a chance he can turn his career around and return to the player he was with the Utah Jazz and when the Nets were in New Jersey.
He may not ever be worth his pricy contract, but it is hard to imagine his production being worse than last season, and selling him now at his lowest value would be a mistake. The East this year has plenty of talented teams, but near the top it is wide open, and a healthy Williams could propel Brooklyn deep in the playoffs.
Jordan Berkowitz is a Brooklyn Nets and NBA writer for RantSports.com.