Free MarShon Brooks.
This is a rallying cry that Brooklyn Nets fans have been clinging to for a majority of this past season. The guard who is going into his third season is seemingly in constant trade rumors along with time machine enthusiast, Kris Humphries, to obtain the “final piece” of the Nets’ championship puzzle.
Brooks undoubtedly has talent, but the braintrust in Brooklyn don’t appear to understand how to utilize it. Last season, the knock on Brooks was that his defense was such a liability that it rendered his outstanding offensive capabilities moot. This appears to be a relatively sound argument, but it does bring into question the ability of the Nets front office to acquire good players, and the since-fired coaching staff’s ability to develop them or the painfully slow backline of Brook Lopez, Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche or Humphries, who provide little to no help for the guards on the perimeter.
The pressure to contend for a title has led the Nets to make increasingly bad decisions. To be clear, contending for a title is or should be every team’s goal for the upcoming season, but relying on overpriced veterans instead of allowing young players to grow into their potential is a recipe for stagnation and disaster. We’ve already seen the consequences of overreaching for stop-gap veterans instead of incorporating youth in Brooklyn.
Prior to the 2012 NBA Draft, Billy King inexplicably traded the sixth pick in the draft to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gerald Wallace. It was not a good decision. Wallace is a “pro’s pro,” but his four-year, $40 million contract is not worth his meager production. Let’s compare two players to further make this point.
7.7 PPG 4.6 RPG 39.7 FG% 28.2 3PT% 63.7 FT%
9.2 PPG 4.1 RPG 43.9 FG% 35.9 3P% 75.8 FT%
Player A is Wallace and Player B is Golden State Warriors wing Harrison Barnes who would have been available for Brooklyn to draft with the aforementioned sixth pick. Also, Barnes accomplished this averaging five less minutes per game while being roughly $7 million cheaper.
Hopefully, the Nets will learn from their mistakes and recognize that building a championship team requires a solid balance of youth and veteran savvy. The Chicago Bulls defeated the Nets in the first round with sheer hustle and determination. Could having a younger, less beat-up small forward have tilted the scale in Brooklyn’s favor? There’s no way to be sure, but having that spark of youth on a veteran team can have a revitalizing effect that was definitely missed during the 2013 NBA postseason.
Brooks could definitely be that J.R. Smith-esque source of scoring off the bench. If the Nets cannot find a way to utilize a player that was on the 2011-12 NBA All-Rookie Team then trade him. He cannot simply languish on the bench while the team struggles to score.
A championship team has to incorporate young players into to the rotation to develop them. If Brooks actually received adequate minutes this year his defensive acumen could have improved. The Nets can move on from the Brooks mistake, but under new head coach, Jason Kidd, they cannot make the underdevelopment mistake twice if they want to knock the Miami Heat from their perch.
The Heat have gone to three consecutive NBA Finals. They lost their first. Their starting point guard in those finals was Mike Bibby. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole have been the point guard tandem for the last two. Youth matters. Free MarShon.