After Dwight Howard ended the Nets’ dream of pairing him with Deron Williams next season, the Nets have apparently gone to Plan B: mortgaging the future, at least a bit, in an attempt to please Williams by constructing a mid-level playoff team next season and chasing a star free agent again in the summer of 2013.
New Jersey will acquire Gerald Wallace from the Trail Blazers in exchange for Mehmet Okur’s expiring contract, Shawne Williams and New Jersey’s first-round pick in the loaded 2012 draft, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.
A key detail here: The Nets’ pick is only top-three protected, which means the Blazers receive the pick if it falls in the No. 4 slot or lower. The Nets currently have the sixth-worst record in the league, and it will be borderline impossible for them to finish below Washington, Charlotte or New Orleans in the standings; an upward push for the 8th seed would seem more likely now that Wallace is a Net. The protection allows the Nets to keep the pick if they exceed expectations in the lottery, but they will mostly likely send the Blazers a pick in the 5-10 range.
That’s a solid return for a Portland team in free-fall this season, and it allows it to slot Nicolas Batum in as its present and future starting small forward. Batum has been starting as the team’s nominal shooting guard of late, and that has created a log jam, given the presence of Wesley Matthews, Jamal Crawford and explosive second-year player Elliot Williams.
Wallace has a $9.5 million player option for next season, which he’s very likely to exercise; his deal expires after that.
Exchanging Wallace for Williams saves the Blazers about $6.4 million in salary for next season, and if Jamal Crawford declines his player option, Portland could have enough cap space to re-sign Batum at market price and have between $15 and $20 million in cap space left over. That’s not a bad place to be, especially if a certain max-level free agent point guard becomes available. The Blazers will have that cap space, plus a franchise big man in LaMarcus Aldridge, two solid wings in Batum and Matthews, some decent young pieces and (assuming Portland and New Jersey both miss the playoffs) two 2012 lottery picks. Again: Not bad. Read More…