Nets patience better than Damian Lillard trade hunt



3 July 2023 | 21:19

One of the biggest prerequisites for being a fan is fanaticism, and fanaticism does not always breed patience.

But that’s what the Nets need right now.

After weeks of being linked in rumors about departed Portland star Damian Lillard, and days of being talked about in three-team talks to bring back Tyler Herro, it’s obvious the Nets could bring back some significant names. But could doesn’t always mean should, especially if it undercuts your future.

Herro is a good player. Lillard is a great one. There isn’t a team in the world that they wouldn’t do better. But the question the Nets need to ask — and, for their sake, answer correctly — is not just how much either player would help, but how much they’d really cost, not just today, but a year or two down the road.

Because the Nets are nowhere near contending for a championship. Adding Herro doesn’t change that, and — as dominant as he is — neither does trading for Lillard. For that, they need patience.

The Nets were just 10th in the Eastern Conference after the All-Star break at 11-13. It emphasizes how far they have to go, and shortcuts are not the way to get there.

Nets general manager Sean Marks
Corey Sipkin for NY POST

After being spoiled by Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving — and the title aspirations that come with them — it’s easy to see why fans crave an All-Star like Lillard or a young scorer like Herro. But general manager Sean Marks would be wise to consider the costs — in terms of salary, assets and lost opportunities.

Lillard, who turns 33 on July 15, has four years and $216 million left on his contract. The Nets entered last season as the NBA’s sixth-oldest team and finished the 10th-oldest according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They got even younger this week after handing out Patty Mills, 34, and Joe Harris, 31, and are now in the middle of the pack in age.

Their three oldest players recently turned 30, with two of them – Royce O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith – both drawing first-round draft picks recently. Core players Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges and Nic Claxton are 27, 26 and 24, respectively. Additionally, Brooklyn’s two first-round draft picks this season – Noah Clowney and Dariq Whitehead – are only 18, the two youngest players they’ve ever drafted in franchise history .

Forget what the Nets have said about struggling. Don’t listen to your mouth, watch your hands. Everything they’ve done since the trade deadline points to a very different timeline, and Lillard doesn’t fit into it as well as he would in the lineup.

Meanwhile, everyone from Yahoo! Sports for the Miami Herald, Bleacher Report and SNY have reported that the Nets are in the mix for a three-team deal that would land Lillard in Miami and bring Herro to Brooklyn. And while the cost of first-round picks would be far cheaper, what is the cost of lost opportunities?

The Eastern Conference has an upper hierarchy, and right now the Nets are not in it. The Heat are fresh off the NBA Finals, and that deal would add Lillard to their winning mix. Milwaukee had by far the best record in the league. Add in Boston, the 76ers, and the Knicks, and ask, how many of those teams are the Nets skipping?

Damian Lillard
NBAE via Getty Images

While Herro, 23, fits Brooklyn’s timeline, there are reasons Portland has no interest either. About 120 million plots in fact, with a hefty four-year extension starting this coming season.

In addition to the outgoing picks, a contract as large as Herro’s may necessitate the use of Ben Simmons to match, and selling low on a depressed asset is unwise. If the talk from both the Nets and his camp about Simmons’ offseason recovery is accurate, selling for pennies on the pound would be bad business.

More to the point, Herro is solid, but he’s no star; and he would clog up the Nets’ salary cap when they’re ready to take their next swing at a difference-maker.

Tyler Hero
Getty Images

In two years — when Simmons is either rehabilitated to All-Star form or gone — the free-agent class could include OG Anunoby, Anthony Davis, Brandon Ingram, Kawhi Leonard, Lauri Markkanen and Jamal Murray. And that doesn’t even include Brooklyn keeping its powder dry if superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo (who can opt out in 2025) or Luka Doncic ever decide to ask out.

But that’s only if the Nets keep their powder dry.

That is only if they are patient.

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