The Brooklyn Nets Biggest Mistake in the Past Ten Years

Mistakes happen. We sleep in a little too late or we forget to do a project. But for us, mistakes are simply, just that – mistakes. For the thirty NBA teams, mistakes cost them, potentially, tens of millions of dollars, a playoff appearance, or even a championship. They have been riddled throughout history. It can be draft picks (Blazers fans know what this is like), it can be free agency (can I get an amen from Knicks fans?), or it can be virtually anything else (in the case of the Kings, EVERYTHING ELSE). Thus, we present the worst mistakes from each NBA team over the past ten years.

The Brooklyn Nets Biggest Mistake in the Past Ten Years

The Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) Nets have had easily one of the most eventful, least successful past ten years of any major sports franchise. Much like Wile E. Coyote, the Nets’ front office longed to capture the elusive Road Runner, one of the major free agents in that memorable 2010 class, the cornerstone piece in a blockbuster trade, the Larry O’Brien trophy, but instead, they watched as their elaborate, short-term plans comically backfired, exposing the team’s execs for the inept strategists they actually were.

The Mistake

Of all the terrible, borderline-offensive moves that the Nets have made in the past ten years, the worst mistake was replacing legend Rod Thorn with Billy King as general manager. It could be unfair to blame the past six years (and counting) entirely on King, not crediting the unrelenting, yet negligent owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, who was ‘all-in’ on the team while being thousands of miles away tending to his businesses abroad. No, that’d be to assume initial competency on King’s part, that somehow he was pressured into all of his decisions over the course of his tenure as Nets GM.

Billy is no King

King got his start in Philadelphia as a general manager in 1998, after being promoted from VP of Basketball Administration. His teams saw success, reaching the finals in 2001; and to his credit, King did pull off a terrific deal in getting Dikembe Mutumbo at the ’01 deadline (only to stupidly sign him to a 4 year deal at the end of his prime).

But King took over that team with Allen Iverson already on it. I could have run that team after inheriting a Hall of Famer in his prime and a team with a ton of cap space. And King’s fortunes soon changed after he valued his team’s present more than its future, trading for then-busted big man Chris Webber, an early indication of King’s tendencies as an executive. With a few dull seasons in between, before the 2007 season, the 76ers uneventfully replaced their incompetent GM.

Upending the Nets

For the sake of this not becoming a 10,000-word article, take a look back at the Nets’ transaction history over the past six years.

Since hiring King in 2010, the Nets seldom made a move that didn’t end up hurting their long-term growth. From the Travis Outlaw deal (and foolish amnesty) to the Deron Williams trade to the Joe Johnson trade to the Pierce-Garnett-Terry deal, King continually put the team of today ahead of the team of tomorrow. Even the general manager of a used car dealership would tell you that his actions were irresponsible and even selfish.

The Nets threw away draft picks in deals, sending away their 2010 top three pick in Derrick Favors to the Jazz for only a shot at keeping Deron Williams long term. King looking to sure up a team that was 12-70 just two years prior, traded a pick (named later) for Gerald Wallace. He choked the cap when he traded for the albatross formerly known as Joe Johnson. This is all to mention that as Brooklyn’s GM, King missed out on practically every big name free agent and tradable asset.

A King’s Ransom

Getting its own paragraph (and subheading!) is Brooklyn’s 2013 trade with Boston, fetching Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry. The team, constructed for the brutes of the 90’s, had a brief period of relevancy, even a legitimately exciting series with the Toronto Raptors. At the time, the trade rejuvenated the borough; it seemed like the Nets established a gritty persona. However, the team wasn’t built to last; rather, it was built on aging vets and broken Brook Lopez, in a system that didn’t match the changing pace of basketball.

Following a semifinals blowout, the unraveling began. The front office could not hold onto their head coach, Jason Kidd, reportedly because King refused to hand off some of his duties. The wheels were falling off on some of those vets, and King’s deal-making left the team vulnerable.

To make matters worse, the trade included a first round pick swap and THREE first round draft picks, with barely any restrictions. One of those guys hasn’t even been picked yet. The other two? James Young and Jaylen Brown. Here are some other names that were drafted in Brooklyn’s slot but traded away by King in present-minded deals over the past six years: Damian Lillard, Draymond Green, Kelly Oubre.

Again, the deals at the time were defendable. The Nets were good again! Even looking at some of those names now (no not you, Travis Outlaw), one might wonder if Billy King just got unlucky. But King did nothing to service the near future of his organization, instead, doubling down on an unstable, aging foundation. King treated the organization like a US swimmer handles himself off Olympic grounds, without foresight and care for possible consequence.

Perhaps the worst part about Billy King’s tenure as Nets GM is having to still see his incompetence unfold today. Jaylen Brown sure would have looked great in black and white, as would have Lillard and Green, and ditto for whomever that 2018 draft pick becomes. So, when your child asks you why the Brooklyn Nets haven’t made the NBA Finals in 25 years, try to say Billy King without laughing uncontrollably (followed by some silent weeping, for my fellow Nets fans).




Main Photo

NEW YORK, USA – APRIL 15: Joe Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets handles the ball against the Orlando Magic during an NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on April 15, 2015. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)