The Nets’ Failed Experiment

The Brooklyn Nets and Deron Williams agreed to a buyout on Friday afternoon, ending a disappointing stint that began with so much promise. The Nets had grand plans when they acquired Williams and subsequently re-signed him to a massive five-year contract a year later, but they’re left with very little to show for it.

Brooklyn traded for Williams on Feb. 23, 2011, sending the Utah Jazz Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first-round picks and some cash. At that point in his career, there were discussions about whether he or Chris Paul was the best point guard in the NBA. Williams struggled initially after the trade thanks to a nagging wrist injury that required surgery, but the future seemingly remained bright for the Nets.

The following year, Williams was an All-Star and put up big numbers, but the Nets’ season was derailed by injuries to Brook Lopez. Williams was non-commital about re-signing with the team, but he wound up signing a five-year, $99 million deal in the summer of 2012. That deal was part of an eventful offseason that featured a trade for Joe Johnson and new deals for Lopez and Gerald Wallace, who was acquired in the spring from the Portland Trail Blazers (the pick in that deal became Damian Lillard.)

With the Nets moving to Brooklyn and the shiny new Barclays Center, there were high expectations for the 2012-13 squad. But the season ended in disappointment when the Nets lost to an undermanned Chicago Bulls squad in the first round of the playoffs. Williams played well in that series, but it wasn’t enough in the seven-game series loss.

The next year saw the especially grand experiment that included the trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to go along with the hiring of Jason Kidd as head coach. That season infamously almost spiraled into utter disaster before the Nets got out of their funk and made the playoffs, and they even won a playoff series! But they were dispatched by the Miami Heat in the second round, which was a major disappointment considering the massive amounts of money spent on the roster.

Williams struggled in those playoffs, and he and the Nets took a major step back this past year. Kidd made his infamous power play to get to the Milwaukee Bucks. Pierce left. Garnett was traded at the deadline to the Minnesota Timberwolves. And Williams, continuously hampered by injuries the past few years, had his worst season as a pro, averaging 13.0 points and 6.6 assists while shooting 38.7 percent overall. He had one awesome playoff game, but disappeared in several others as the Nets lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.

And now Williams’s watch has ended in Brooklyn, leaving just Lopez and Johnson as the two players remaining from that highly touted “Super Team” from 2013-14 that only resulted in one second-round exit. Johnson could be on his way out as well, but the Nets are having trouble unloading his near-$25 million salary for next season.

Brooklyn went for it all these past few years, but there’s very little to show for it and there’s not all that much to look forward to, at least for the time being. Lopez is back on a new deal, Thaddeus Young is a nice piece and some decent young players have been brought in, but there’s not much hope of building through the draft, as all those assets were squandered trying to build that supposed “Super Team.” The Nets will have cap space in the coming years, but so will everybody else. Brooklyn’s failed experiment will likely have them in NBA purgatory for the foreseeable future, and it’ll be tough for Billy King to get them out of it.

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