Making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference isn’t that difficult.
Proof: The Nets did it last season.
The Nets – 0-7 and looking the part – have been far worse this season. But, on the bright side, they project to have major cap space next summer.
Or they could make the playoffs this season. If they wanted.
At least so says Brooklyn general manager Billy King.
“We can trade now and eat all that space up, get to 30-something wins and make the playoffs in the eighth spot,” King said at the team’s New Jersey practice facility Monday afternoon. “[But] then, where’s the future now? So it’s about adding the right pieces and being patient.
“We didn’t get here overnight, and we are not going to get out of it overnight. That’s reality. There is not something where it’s, ‘OK, this is the magic wand and we are going to do this and it’s going to change overnight. We knew that going in, we knew that when we made those decisions and it didn’t work, and so now we’ve got to gradually, systematically dig yourself out of it.”
The Nets are over the cap, so they couldn’t simply absorb players on long-term contracts. They could theoretically deal Joe Johnson and his massive expiring contract for a better player on a less-favorable long-term deal, but there are several problems with that idea:
1. Johnson is already one of the Nets’ better players. Whom are they going to upgrade to?
2. Expiring contracts don’t have the value they once did. The Collective Bargaining Agreement demands shorter contracts, leaving fewer players on albatross long-term deals. Plus, nearly every team projects to have major cap space next season anyway, so the impetus to trade for additional space is reduced.
3. Which quality players could Brooklyn add? As noted by the No. 2, expiring contracts are less valuable. There isn’t much immediate help available for just an expiring deal.
At least the Nets can finally trade future first-round picks. In fact, they could deal their 2020 and 2022 first-rounders. Heck, they could even offer a swap in 2019 and 2021. That package of picks could probably command players who’d lead the Nets into the next postseason, even with an 0-7 start weighing them down.
But that’s a much higher price than 2016 cap space – a line Brooklyn shouldn’t, and seemingly won’t, cross.
The idea of exchanging 2016 cap space for the playoffs this season? That seems farfetched for the Nets, even if they think it’s an exchange they have the power to make.
Brooklyn fans ought to feel lucky King isn’t pursuing it.