HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The first trade of deadline week went down Wednesday afternoon, with the Brooklyn Nets acquiring Marcus Thornton from the Sacramento Kings for Reggie Evans and Jason Terry.
The deal adds about $700,000 in salary and $2.7 million in luxury taxes to Brooklyn’s books this season. Next season, when all three guys are still under contract, it adds about the *same amount.
* More salary, less tax, because, at this point, Brooklyn is only in the third of five tax-payment tiers for ’14-15. Give ’em time, though.
So, it’s a bit of an investment for Mikhail Prokhorov. But in theory, it should help the Nets continue to move up the Eastern Conference standings.
Brooklyn is 14-6 since Jan. 1, a stretch in which they’ve gone from 10th to seventh in the East. They’re just 2 1/2 games out of a top-four seed and need to keep moving up to avoid playing the Pacers or Heat in the first round and have a decent shot at the conference semifinals.
After all the money they spent last summer, anything less than the second round would be a colossal failure. So hey, they might as well spend a few more million if it can make them better.
And as good as the Nets have played in 2014, they still have plenty of room for improvement. They rank 15th offensively and sixth defensively since Jan. 1. Given all their talent, they should be better at putting the ball in the basket.
That’s where Thornton comes in. Since Jan. 1, the Nets have scored 108.3 points per 100 possessions with Deron Williams on the floor (a rate which would rank fifth in the league in that time) and just 100.6 with him on the bench (a rate which would rank 25th). Though Williams hasn’t been at his best, he’s still the most important offensive player on his team.
Shaun Livingston has been one of the Nets’ bright spots and has worked well with Williams in the starting lineup, but the Nets’ second-unit offense could use a boost. Terry has been a disappointment, Alan Anderson‘s production has dropped off and, as brilliant as Andrei Kirilenko has been, he’s made two shots outside of the paint all season.
The problem is that Thornton has been having the worst shooting season of his career, with an effective field goal percentage of just 45.7 percent. That’s worse than Terry was shooting.
So, the hope for Brooklyn is that Thornton can find his shot again. It was less than a month ago that he tied a career high with 42 points (shooting 7-for-15 from 3-point range) against the best defense of the last 37 years.
While he’s been rather inefficient this season, Thornton gives the Nets a higher ceiling and more potency than they had with Terry. If he plays well, he certainly fills a need.
The same could be said about Jordan Hill, if the Nets can get him from the Lakers for their disabled-player exception. In the same way that their offense takes a hit when their Williams sits, their defense falls apart when Kevin Garnett goes to the bench.
But you wonder how Hill would fit in a second-unit frontline that already includes Kirilenko, Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic. Each of those guys brings something to the table, the Nets have outscored their opponents by 21.5 points per 100 possessions in 115 minutes with the three of them on the floor together, and at least one of them would see a decrease in minutes if Hill was brought on board.
And then there’s the money. The Nets wouldn’t be sending any salary to L.A. in exchange for Hill, so he would cost them about $1.3 million in salary ($3.5 million prorated for the remainder in the season) and a whopping $16.6 million in luxury tax, bringing their total tax bill to more than $98 million. Add that to their salaries and they’d be a $200-million team.
That’s a lot of dough for a squad that doesn’t stand much of a chance of reaching the conference finals. But you can’t say that the Nets aren’t afraid to make a move or spend some money to address their needs.