The Real Cost of Gerald Wallace

Looking into the new 2012-2013 NBA season, there is little debate about the Nets being a much improved team. Whether you buy into how successful the team will be, there is little debate, if any, that the team has drastically improved. However, the speculation that still exists at this point is not only by how much, but also at what cost?

After the most recent offseason free agency spending spree of the Nets and the failed attempt to land Dwight Howard on the team, one thing that really sparked my interest is the actual cost and eventual domino effect that Gerald Wallace had on the Nets’ franchise.

What ended up being a 6th overall pick being sent to Portland in the 2012 NBA Draft, may have actually cost the Nets much, much more than just that pick.

I thought that at the time it was a terrible trade (and I still do), which would eventually prevent them from keeping Deron Williams. However, clearly I was wrong about that as Deron has resigned long term with the club.

But even so, this trade may have hurt the Nets even more than what most people think. In fact, while they were able to supposedly keep Williams via Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson additions, I think that it was this trade may have the biggest impact on the Nets’ future, and how thing eventually shaped up for the team.

Here are some things to consider about that trade.

1. The 6th overall pick.
You can see already why this isn’t exactly a good trade. This isn’t a knock on Gerald Wallace at all, but I certainly wouldn’t have traded a guaranteed top ten pick for him.

Now, assuming that the Nets still had a 6th overall pick in the draft, let’s take a look at some of the players available that would have been good fits for this team’s future.

Harrison Barnes. Yeah, you know, the guy that was supposed to be one of the top picks when he entered North Carolina. Sure, things didn’t go as good as people initially thought they would, especially in this year’s tournament run, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a good NBA player. He isn’t as good as Wallace right now, but is a cheaper and better long-term solution for the team. Frankly, I think he still has potential to be a good NBA player.

Andre Drummond. He is no Dwight Howard yet, but I believe that he can be very similar. Simply put, he is one of the most physically gifted big men I’ve seen in a long time. He would probably be an excellent pick and roll guy to have with Williams, and not only that, would be someone to protect the rim defensively. If the Nets weren’t going to get Dwight Howard, why not try your luck with Dwight 2.0. Williams and Johnson probably could have made him look pretty good, along with all of the New York marketing of him.

Thomas Robinson. No, I know, he wasn’t available. But perhaps a deal could have been made to trade up in the draft. It was only one spot ahead, so I’m sure that it wouldn’t have cost them that much. Maybe a second rounder would have done it, or even taking on one of their bad contracts instead. Sacramento probably would have been pretty happy with getting Harrison Barnes anyways.

2. Record with Gerald Wallace.
After trading for Gerald Wallace, it was obvious they became a better team. The record before was 15-29. Their record after the trade was 7-15, and with him playing was 6-10. Do you see where I’m going with this? Had it not been for the injury to Wallace, the team probably would have gotten a few more wins. The Nets were in obvious tank mode at the end of last season and were purposely losing because they would have kept it if they were bad enough to get a top-3 pick. It’s even possible they may have even moved up at least a spot or two as the difference between their record and the 2nd worst team Washington Wizards was only two games.

So, did Gerald Wallace end up costing the Nets a few more wins last season, which would have meant a higher draft spot? If you ask me, it definitely did.

3. Would they have been in New Orleans’ spot with those odds?
As I mentioned, the game differential between them and the second worst team was only two games. Strangely enough, the Nets were only 1 game ahead of New Orleans in the win category. So, while the draft skeptics out there may have their own theories or simply think otherwise, that one extra win may have put the Nets in New Orleans spot heading into the draft.

We all know how that eventually turned out. That spot, or rather, one less win ended up netting (pun intended) the prize of the draft, Anthony Davis.

4. 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th pick instead?
So, perhaps the Nets don’t luck out with pick number one. Fair enough. So then let’s consider where else they could have ended up. But surely they would have been higher than sixth.

Now, suppose that they land at number two and land Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG is a very similar player to Wallace, and with much more upside. He was actually compared to Wallace in mock drafts. However, from what I’ve seen I would say he is more of a Shawn Marion.

Suppose they land at number three and draft Beal. Now there’s absolutely no need to go out and trade for Joe Johnson since Beal is a legitimate shooting guard that they can build around and will hit open three’s from Williams passes.

Suppose they land at number four or five and draft Waiters or Robinson. Again, there is no need for Johnson if you have Waiters. With Robinson, you now have a solid replacement for Kris Humphries to build around that you can now let go of, or simply have come in off the bench.

Suppose in the very small chance they actually stayed at number six and drafted Harrison Barnes.

So while it’s difficult to determine as to where the Nets where have ended up without Wallace, I think it’s safe to assume two things. One that they would have been higher than the sixth overall pick and two, that anyone that they had drafted would have been better for the team long-term even if they did end up at 6th.

5. Was it enough to lure the Magic to trade Dwight?
This one is probably the most important, which is why I saved it for last. Well, one would think so. All you have to do is look at what the Magic ended up getting for him. Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Nikola Vucevic, and Moe Harkless. You can’t tell me you’d rather have any of these players instead of someone the Magic could have had from the draft.

The only argument against this idea is that maybe the Magic just didn’t want Howard to get what he wanted. But, do I really think that the Magic would have resisted the chance to get that 6th overall pick, or as I’ve said, potentially top-5? My answer to that is probably not.

Secondly, would the Magic also resist a team willing to take back its bad contracts, such as Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis? Again, probably not. Remember, that at the time of the draft the Nets are without a Lopez max deal, a Joe Johnson max deal, a massive Gerald Wallace contract, and a Kris Humphries contract. The Nets at the time were one of the most financially flexible teams, so taking back those contracts from Orlando would not have been an issue for them.

Frankly, no matter how tough it may have been to give in to Dwight’s demands, I just don’t see the Magic saying no to a deal that would have had a much greater benefit to the team than the current one.

 

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The investment of going all in for Dwight would have eventually paid off. Most importantly, he wants to be in Brooklyn, if you couldn’t already tell. Also, he’s a franchise player, and would have had this team competing for a championship. You just can’t say the same about the current plan of the Nets.

So Nets fans, until Dwight Howard somehow finds a way onto the Nets, that’s what Gerald Wallace may have cost you.

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