You knew Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King would be aggressive as the NBA trade deadline approached. Heck, with an open wallet in a league where teams are bit timid to spend big money ever since the new CBA was implemented, why not? Brooklyn may be a team with the potential to give Indiana or Miami a serious scare in round two, but they are still a team with a ton of flaws. They were able to plug a hole Wednesday afternoon in small but spectacular fashion when they agreed to send Reggie Evans and Jason Terry to Sacramento for Marcus Thornton.
The most impressive part of this trade was the fact that King was able to turn what was essentially the two least productive assets on this Brooklyn roster into a player with the potential that Thornton has. Reggie Evans was a beast on the glass last season, but he’s always been a zero on the offensive end and a terrible defender. This season has been his worst as a pro and he’d completely fallen out of Brooklyn’s rotation. Jason Terry is a champion and a great locker room guy, but he’s 36 years old, shooting 36.2 percent from the floor and is on the books for $5.8 million next season. Yeesh.
For the Nets, the acquisition of Thornton makes sense on a number of levels. On the surface, he makes this roster younger and slightly more athletic while theoretically providing Brooklyn with some much needed scoring punch off the bench. Now, Thornton has been atrocious this season. He’s averaging just 8.1 points per game and shooting a career low 38.1 percent from the floor. But he’s a month removed from a 42-point explosion against the Indiana Pacers and he’s still just 26 years old. Sacramento isn’t exactly the most ideal NBA situation, either. It’s possible a change of scenery, a new coach and a competitive situation could make a world of difference for a young, struggling player like Thornton and again, Brooklyn gave up two assets that weren’t contributing. Worst case? Thornton doesn’t perform and he gets buried on the bench.
Even though Thornton is grossly overpaid, his contract is actually a perfect fit for the Nets. With a year remaining on his deal after this one that’ll pay him $8.6 million, Brooklyn is able to maintain they’re cap flexibility in 2016 (Kevin Durant, anyone?). Also, Thornton’s expiring deal could potentially become a valuable trade chip next deadline for a team looking to shed salary. It was reported that Brooklyn was also in the market for Jarrett Jack, but financially this deal makes much more sense for the Nets because Jack would’ve essentially guaranteed repeater tax territory for the Nets, an area just about every team in the NBA is hellbent on avoiding due to the restrictions it will cause.
Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokorhov and the Nets are all in. After the Thornton deal, Brooklyn’s payroll is now $190 million. They’ll pay a record $88 million in a luxury tax this season and the team still isn’t .500 yet (and that’s assuming they stand pat! There’s still time!). But you have to admire an owner willing to win at all costs and, maybe more importantly, players around the league are bound to take notice. Who wouldn’t want to play on a team with an owner willing to pay any amount to win a championship?
In the end, Billy King and company are taking a low risk, high reward gamble on a 26-year-old who’s already proven he can be a big time scorer in this league. Marcus Thornton won’t have to travel far, as he’ll likely make his Brooklyn debut on Saturday night in the Bay Area when the Nets take on the Warriors. Does this trade put the Nets over the top? Of course not. But Brooklyn is better now than they were yesterday and they didn’t risk any of the few assets they had left to get here.