While the basketball world has had its eyes on where LeBron James (Cleveland) and Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) end up, Brooklyn Nets fans have paid close attention to what’s happening with Paul Pierce. Unfortunately it looks like he’s moving on, or, the Nets are moving on without him.
Pierce has signed a two-year deal to play for the Washington Wizards at the mid-level exception worth roughly $11 million that includes a player-option for the second year, according to Marc Stein of ESPN. The Nets had their chance to re-sign him, but passed due to a luxury tax bill that was expected to have been around $20 million, according to Tim Bontemps of the NY Post.
This is a sign of two things. The first, and most obvious, is that this is the first time since the Nets have moved to Brooklyn that Mikhail Prokhorov has been financially responsible. The other is that the Pierce/Kevin Garnett deal was a huge disaster. The Nets dealt 1st-round draft picks in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and all it got them was one round further in the playoffs. Pierce and Jason Terry are gone and even if Garnett stays, he has one year and $12 million left on his contract, he is a shell of his former self.
It’s hard to blame the Nets for going in this direction. The Nets lost a lot of money last season with a payroll of over $100 million with a luxury tax bill worth about $90 million more. The payroll is already over $90 million for next season and if they get hit with the repeater tax their luxury tax bill will be significantly higher.
Of course, this also brings up the concern about Garnett. He is technically under contract and apparently told Billy King that he would stay earlier this offseason. Now that Pierce is officially gone things could change. When head coach Lionel Hollins discussed KG earlier this week, he did it hypothetically as if knowing that the possibility that he might not return is real.
Pierce, who turns 37 in October, averaged 17.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists per 36 minutes and shot 45.1 percent including 37.3 percent behind the arc in 75 games. That represents a career low for Pierce in points per 36 minutes with the shooting percentages right at career norms.
THOUGHTS: This is a disaster for the Nets. They essentially traded three first round picks for a one-year rental of Paul Pierce and the Ghost of Kevin Garnett. He was willing to re-sign to stay in Brooklyn, but for some reason they hesitated at the price tag. If Prokhorov’s strategy to build a winner involves spending lots of cash, he’d better go all in because half-assing it will only lead to mediocrity.
This does greatly increase the importance of Bojan Bogdanovic and it also increases the importance that Deron Williams and Brook Lopez have a strong recovery from their respective surgeries. Of course, the latter was always important, but it is more so now that the veteran presence and scoring ability of Pierce is gone.