The Nets are just 20-37, but GM Billy King has his eyes on building a winner for next season, reports Colin Stephenson of the Star-Ledger. The GM is counting on Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace, both of whom could elect free agency this summer, to return, but believes the cap flexibility they'll have if they don't would be a positive as well.
"I think we’re headed in the right direction, and if you look at our team this year, being as banged up (as it was), to beat Chicago in Chicago, Philly in Philly, New York in New York… we won some games in tough places,'' the GM said. "And you see things getting in the right direction. Winning is important. And that’s what I told Deron: ‘We’re not rebuilding this year. We’re going to build this team to win next year.’''
King sees the trade deadline acquisition of Gerald Wallace as a key to the team's success going forward, even though the former All-Star hasn't turned the team into a winner since the trade, going 5-7 in the 12 games he's played for New Jersey. Plus, his acquisition likely means they'll give up their 2012 first-round draft pick, unless it falls within the top three.
Much rides on the offseason, when the team could lose Williams, Wallace, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries, four-fifths of its preferred starting lineup. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes that the pursuit of Williams, in particular, is key for owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Still, the free agent point guard says he doesn't know enough about the owner for him to be a factor in his decision. One team executive Williams presumably does have a relationship with is King, so the onus is on him to woo Williams back.
The Nets have built-in advantages with their free agents, since they can go over the salary cap to sign them and, at least in Williams' case, a max deal could be on the table. Plus, the team is moving to Brooklyn next year, a move that can't hurt the endorsement opportunities available for its players. Still, it's hard to see how bringing them all back, and convincing Wallace to take his $9.5MM option for next season, could instantly turn the team into a contender. The trick might be to let some of them go and find other available parts that are a better fit with what they do bring back, or continue to pin their hopes on convincing Dwight Howard and the Magic to end their troubled relationship. In any case, it's going to be a challenge for King to turn the franchise around as quickly as he'd like.