When you get a GM job in the NBA, the first thing they tell you is never to trade with Danny Ainge. Well, maybe they don’t, but they should. No-one knows it better than Billy King, the former GM of the Brooklyn Nets. King was the man that agreed to trade a lot of players, four first-round picks and a pick swap for Pierce, Garnett, and Terry. He now blames Russia invading Ukraine for the Nets failing.
At the time it was made, the trade was considered a win-win for both sides. The Celtics were ready for a rebuild, and Brooklyn seemed like an instant contender with a 2-year window to compete for a title with Pierce and Garnett. After those two years, as King explained it, Garnett and Pierce would be free agents and the Nets would be under the cap to go after Kevin Durant. We all know how that ended. Billy King has an interesting explanation of why thing’s didn’t go as planned. (via Rights to Ricky Sanchez)
“What turned is, Russia invaded Ukraine. Once they invaded Ukraine, Prokhorov said, “The economy is changing, I don’t want to pay that amount of tax.“Billy King
That’s a first. Look, your owner changing his position on paying the luxury tax definitely influences your abilities to build out the roster. But history showed us that it wasn’t really about the Nets not being able to pay the tax. First of all, Pierce and Garnett were further down the line than expected. They couldn’t match up with the best in the NBA at the time.
Secondly, even if the first two years worked, and let’s imagine the Nets don’t resign Garnett and Pierce and get Durant to Brooklyn. They still wouldn’t have their first-round picks. Yes, in this scenario their first-round picks wouldn’t be as good as they were for Boston. But the Warriors case study shows us that when you get superstars and become a tax-paying team, your draft picks are the best way to get cheap contributors.
Fundamentally, it was the owner, Mikhail Prokhorov who thought he could buy a contender right away. That’s not how the NBA works. Therefore, Billy King shouldn’t be labeled just by this trade. But Russia invading Ukraine? That’s a bit much.