The Nets had a payroll this year of $102,825,181. That is a lot of luxury tax — nearly doubling the amount the team paid to the players and the league.
With that kind of a payroll comes outsized expectations — championship expectations. You do not spend that kind of money without expecting to win a little bit. And win a title.
The Nets did not do that. They are out of the Playoffs in the second round. And the questions will begin to pour in on this injury-riddled and aging roster. It has not taken long for those questions to arise.
The first big bombshell and domino to fall might very well be Deron Williams. The former all star was constantly hurt this year and may require surgery on both ankles according to some reports. He turned in an abysmal season, averaging 14.3 points and 6.1 assists per game. He did not look like he player who was spoken of in the same breath as Chris Paul so many years ago.
Howard Beck of Bleacher/Report is already asking the Nets at least consider trading their one-time franchise cornerstone. It was undeniable his play was the X-factor in a team with a bloated roster and lots of guys that needed to get the ball in the right place. They needed Williams to be more playmaker than scorer most nights and he has simply not been the same playmaker.
The other moving pieces involve the players the Nets gave up to create their “super team.” That would be three first round draft picks to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. And there is no guarantee that either will be back next season. Brooklyn mortgaged its future to have this chance at glory and fell woefully short.
The going convention right now is that Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez provide the best bets for building up toward the future. Johnson truly had an All Star season (or ended up with one at least) and carried the offense through the Playoffs. Lopez is the youngest star player on the roster.
But injuries have kept Lopez from being the best player on the team and taking over. And the Joe Johnson Hawks teams showed Johnson is not necessarily a player to build an entire roster around.
It leaves Brooklyn in an extremely precarious situation.
No one can doubt at this point that the Nets care about outward appearances. This “new” franchise had decided to go all-out on winning no matter the costs. They made splashy moves. But the new salary cap rules have hamstrung their ability to fill out the roster. Alan Anderson and Mirza Teletovic are nice players, but are not versatile enough to give the Nets the boost they need. Shaun Livingston, this year’s nicest surprise, is likely moving on for a bigger contract — one the Nets probably cannot match.
If Brooklyn is serious about winning a championship, some major change appear necessary. Are the Nets willing to go through those growing pains?
Two years in the borough suggests not. The Nets will likely turn over the roster again and try quick fixes to make the team a Playoff contender. In the East, that seems to be enough to at least get in the Finals discussion.
What that turnover likely means is Pierce and Garnett are moved on (either by their own choosing or not). Deron Williams could very well see his head on the chopping block. If someone would take Joe Johnson, he might be sent packing too. Lopez really should be about the only player the Nets would be hesitant to part with.
Then again, they could just double down and go deeper into the luxury tax, making things worse for their long-term future.
This will again be a summer of change for Brooklyn as the team tries to continue to take away New York’s market share on the island and be the “it” team for the tabloids. Unfortunately, being that “it” team does not necessarily mean winning. Brooklyn still has to learn that.