Nets Fans Should Give Billy King a Pass
The Brooklyn Nets are in a tough spot for a number of reasons, but the biggest reason in the eyes of many is former general manager Billy King.
Mentioning the name Billy King around a Brooklyn Nets fan is one of the most offensive things you can do. He earned the legacy of being the person responsible for putting the Nets in their current situation. That situation is being the worst team in the league for the second consecutive year without their own first round draft pick until 2019.
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King was hired as the New Jersey Nets general manager in 2010, replacing former Nets general manager Rod Thorn. He was brought in by the new majority owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, to bring a championship team to the franchise within five years. Prokhorov moved the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn and with it, wanted an NBA Championship.
Prokhorov set a blank check mandate with the goal of using any amount of money to buy a contending team. This put new GM Billy King in a difficult position; he had to turn one of the NBA’s worst teams into the NBA’s best team in a short amount of time.
King Begins To Deal
King started the process in 2011 by aggressively pursuing Carmelo Anthony via trade, but lost out to the New York Knicks. He made up for losing Anthony by making a trade for Deron Williams, a premier point guard at the time. The trade sent point guard Devin Harris, forward Derrick Favors, cash and two first round picks (2011 and 2013) to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Williams. This was a trade viewed favorably by both fans and pundits.
King wanted to give Williams a legitimate partner in the backcourt to go along with the team’s move to Brooklyn. So in 2012 he made a deal with the Atlanta Hawks for shooting guard Joe Johnson by sending point guard Jordan Farmar, center Johan Petro, shooting guard Anthony Morrow, center Jordan Williams and shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson along with a 2013 first round pick acquired from Houston.
This deal gave the Nets a star-studded backcourt, but it wasn’t enough for the Russian billionaire owner. The team wasn’t in the news enough and they weren’t competing for championships yet. He wanted more. He aspired for larger success. And King had to produce.
King’s Big Gamble
And produce King did, with the deal that he is most remembered for. The deal that fans and pundits alike claim mortgaged the Nets’ future. In 2013 King made a trade with the Boston Celtics to acquire small forward Paul Pierce, power forward Kevin Garnett and shooting guard Jason Terry.
The Nets sent small forward Gerald Wallace, shooting guard MarShon Brooks, power forward Kris Humphries, shooting guard Keith Bogans, small forward Kris Joseph, three first round picks (2014, 2016 and 2018) and the right to swap first round picks in 2017. It was a huge gamble for King, one that he would end up regretting.
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In three years King traded away seven first round picks, 12 players and plenty of cash in hopes that the assets he brought in would produce a championship. In the end, everyone knows how the trades ended up for the Nets. They made the playoffs the first three seasons in Brooklyn, only making it passed the first round once, but never truly contended for a championship.
The team is now in the middle of a full rebuild, with Billy King used as the scapegoat. Looking back at the history of his tenure, he did what he could with the situation he was handed. Pressure from the new owner caused him to make the deals that were available to him, no matter how costly.
This is not saying that King deserves no blame — he does — but there were other factors that contributed to the Nets ultimate failure. The biggest of them were injuries to both Williams and Lopez for long periods of time. The starting unit was rarely on the floor at the same time and never able to build up the necessary chemistry together.
Coupled with the injuries, owner Mikhail Prokhorov must shoulder a good portion of the blame himself. He placed this blank check mandate on King and asked him to do the near impossible. King made bad deals because he was forced to in order to keep his job, not because he wanted to.
So yes, the franchise is in the situation it is because Billy King made bad deals that traded away majority of the Net’s future. But take away the nagging injuries to Williams and Lopez and the team he constructed could really have had a chance. So, before Nets’ fans continue to bash King, just think about this and give him more of a pass.