During their final season in New Jersey, the Nets were in the process of acquiring a solid core before crossing the river to Brooklyn. Billy King knew that he needed to bring in an athletic wing player to complement Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Cue Gerald Wallace.
New Jersey acquired Wallace from Portland in return for the Nets' protected 2012 first-round pick, and two expiring contracts.
At the time, a first-round pick for Gerald Wallace didn't seem lopsided. However, the key to the deal was New Jersey's protection on said pick.
For those unfamiliar with the rule: teams can “protect” a traded pick when they believe it will be too valuable to give up. This deal was top-3 protected, meaning that if New Jersey ended up with any of the top 3 picks in this year's draft, Portland wouldn't get the pick in 2012. Instead, the Blazers would get the Nets' 2013 first-round pick.
As fate would have it, New Jersey landed the 6th pick in the 2012 Draft with which Portland selected soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard.
Billy King's explanation for only protecting the top-3 picks, according to Nets Daily, went as follows:
"'This trade was really done to get us a small forward. A former All-Star, somebody to give us some great defense, versatility, someone to play hard." As for protecting the pick only #1 through #3, King said, following conversations with their scouts, "the team did not see any immediate-impact players beyond their projected top three in next year’s draft.”
At this point, any level-headed GM would recognize his mistake and cut ties with the aging vet. Naturally, Billy King decided to sign Wallace to a 4 year, $40 million dollar contract extension.
King, and Nets fans alike, hoped that Wallace would look more like his younger self while playing next to Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Well, here are his career numbers compared to this year's:
Career: 13.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 47% FG, 72% FT
2012-13: 8.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 41% FG, 64% FT
While looking at his year-by-year stats, we see that the writing was on the wall. King made a big mistake with this trade, but compounded it by signing Wallace to an extension. Now, the Nets are forced to pay Wallace $30 million over the next three seasons. His contract is among the worst in the league, and he's not producing enough on the court to command All Star level money.
At this point, Gerald Wallace's contract destroys any wiggle room that Brooklyn needs to make them a true title-contender. It would have been nice for Brooklyn to have room to go after Dwight Howard or Josh Smith in the offseason. Unfortunately for Billy King, it seems that “crash” has wrecked those hopes.
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