I know. I should never call for someone to lose their job. All of us work our tails off to provide for our families and if someone called for us to lose our jobs we wouldn’t be too thrilled with it, but hear me out. I don’t mean to sound controversial or to be insecure about Billy King and his livelihood, but the Brooklyn Nets should absolutely relieve King of his duties sooner rather than later. My reasoning? A lengthy history of poor decision making that has now been augmented by King’s own admission just a couple week ago that the Nets probably weren’t going to contend this year. Now, to be honest, I don’t think many people thought the Brooklyn Nets would be anything special this season, but in the fallout of the Deron Williams buyout Billy King spoke about having a happier locker room and better player morale which would presumably lead to better play. Fast forward to today and the Nets have the third worst record in the entire NBA at 10-24 which means that all the good morale and positivity in the world haven’t made the team any better. In fact, this team is much worse than they were last year and it all falls squarely on King.
As we approach the trade deadline in the NBA it is a crucial time for teams to begin either setting themselves up for a playoff run or, in the Nets case, setting themselves up for an offseason of continued building. There have been recent rumblings that the Nets are looking around the league for deals that will help them now and in the future but King should not be the man making those moves. Frankly, he has failed in all fazes of his position as general manager whether it be in free agency, making trades, or drafting players. If we take a quick peek at his track record over that time we will see that he cannot to be allowed to continue making moves for this franchise.
Before we address the most lop-sided trade in NBA history, let’s talk about the trade that ended with this past Summer’s buyout. Back in 2011 the Nets dealt away coveted youngster Derrick Favors and two first-round picks (more on this in a minute) for what would be four and a half seasons of Deron Williams. The Nets at the time were looking for a face of the franchise and Williams was the best they could do after losing out on Carmelo Anthony. While the trade at the time looked like a good idea, the team quickly found out that Williams was neither a franchise player nor the leader they needed him to be. Disappointment in Williams eventually led to his departure but what this trade really did was begin a trend dealing away premium draft picks that could have truly turned their franchise around.
The first of the first-round picks dealt to the Jazz turned into big man Enes Kanter who has become a productive player in the NBA. The latter pick was package by the Jazz with other assets to acquire point guard Trey Burke. One season later the Nets dealt away their first-round pick to the Portland Trailblazers to acquire veteran small forward Gerald Wallace. Unlike the Deron Williams trade, this was seen as a mistake on the Nets part as they gave Portland what would surely end up as a lottery pick. The pick did indeed end up in the lottery and while the Nets received a good veteran, the Trailblazers drafted point guard Damian Lillard who has become one of the best players at his position. Billy King and the Nets evidently didn’t learn from their previous mistakes and it culminated in what may go down as the worse trade in the history of the NBA.
Just one season after acquiring Wallace the Nets flipped him and three(!) first-round picks to the Boston Celtics for one season of Paul Pierce and one and a half seasons of Kevin Garnett. The trade didn’t bite the Nets too hard in 2014 as they made the playoffs and the 2014 first-rounder they gave away eventually became James Young, a young player who has yet to establish himself. What does make this trade a disaster is the picks the Nets will give away over the course of the next three years which coincide with what will possibly be the worse stretch of Nets basketball in a long time. Barring an unforeseen turnaround, Boston will get a lottery pick from the Nets this season that has a good chance at being number one overall. Next season, the Celtics have the right to swap picks with the Nets so unless Brooklyn scores big in free agency this Summer they will be giving away another high lottery pick. Lastly, the Celtics yet again have the Nets pick in 2018. So instead of having Favors, Kanter, Lillard, the possibility of Ben Simmons and possibly another two lottery picks, the Nets are left with neither the draft picks nor any of the players they dealt away those picks to acquire. Does that sound like a track record you can count on?
Unproductive Draft Picks and Free Agent Signings
In good news, the Nets have actually drafted players over the course of the last 5 years. The bad news is that the picks Billy King has held onto haven’t exactly been used to draft good players. Of the 5 drafts that King has presided over the notable players he came away with are MarShon Brooks, Bojan Bogdanovic, Tyshawn Taylor, Mason Plumlee, Markel Brown, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. With the exception of Hollis-Jefferson, who has shown good talent and upside early this season, we can safely say that King doesn’t exactly have an eye for talent. Bogdanovic has been alright, but nothing to write home about. Of the rest, Brooks and Taylor flamed out of the league, and Plumlee has carved a niche for himself, albeit in Portland. That is all that needs to be said about King’s draft record. In fact, Nets fans may be feeling lucky that King doesn’t have any more picks to screw up. But as bad as his talent evaluation has been, it is his free agent signings that have hampered the current iteration of the Nets.
Just before buying out Williams the Nets re-signed center Brook Lopez and forward Thaddeus Young. The Nets arguably had no choice but to re-sign these players as they were already over the cap and had no way of replacing either one of them. While Lopez and Young have played well this season, King should get no credit for either of them. However, the choices that King did make in free agency have been downright terrible. Bringing in Andrea Bargnani, Thomas Robinson, Wayne Ellington, and Shane Larkin to be the Nets key bench contributors has been nothing short of a disaster. I said back before the season started that the bench would be the Nets Achilles heel and I haven’t been proven wrong. None of these players has distinguished themselves and none of them look like long-term contributors for the Nets. This has hamstrung the Nets this season when their starters are not in the game and now with Jarrett Jack out for the year it has left the Nets without anything resembling a starting point guard.
Additionally, in past years King hasn’t been able to bring in contributing players either. To his defense, the Nets rarely had money to spend but that is mostly his fault for keeping the team capped out. Since King became general manager his additions have included Jordan Farmar, Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro, Stephen Graham, Shelden Williams, Shawne Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, Gerald Green, Mirza Teletovic, C.J. Watson, Andray Blatche, Josh Childress, Alan Anderson, Shaun Livingston, and Jason Collins. A whopping 10 of those 15 players are no longer in the NBA and the ones who are, with the exception of Livingston, are non-factors. If that doesn’t make you cringe at the prospect of Billy King getting $40 million to spend this coming Summer I don’t know what will. He cannot be trusted any further.
The simple fact is that Billy King has been a failure. He has failed to make impact trades, failed to draft impact players, and has failed to sign impact free agents. Perhaps the only impact he has made is ensuring that the Nets will be a miserable franchise for as long as it takes for his awful moves to run their course. He has absolutely nothing to show for his efforts and should not be allowed to continue on in his duties as general manager. Hopefully the Nets pull the plug on his tenure sooner rather than later.