While Thursday is an off day for the NBA Finals, with the Raptors defeating the Warriors on Wednesday night, the internet is still abuzz with a plethora of stories around the league.
Perhaps the most important news to come to fruition on early Thursday evening was from ESPN reported Adrian Wojnarowski, who reported that the Brooklyn Nets had traded wing Allen Crabbe, the 17th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and a lottery protected 2020 first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks for Taurean Prince and a 2021 second-round pick.
While the names involved in the trade are not premier players, the trade may have rather large implications on the entire league.
Here are three takeaways from the trade.
3. The Brooklyn Nets are gearing up for something big
With reports swirling that the Nets are interested in Kyrie Irving as well as other big-name free agents such as Kevin Durant and Tobias Harris, this trade gives Brooklyn the ability to sign two free agents to max level contracts starting on June 30th.
With $46 million in cap space to work with, they’ll have the ability to re-sign restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell to a max contract, which he is expected to receive in free agency, as well as a star unrestricted free agent. In recent days, the Nets have been connected to Irving heavily, and Wojnarowski only added fuel to that fire in a follow-up tweet to his announcement of the trade.
Kyrie Irving is serious about the Nets — and the Nets are serious about beating the Knicks — and rest of league — to the biggest free agents in the marketplace, per league sources.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 6, 2019
Whether the Nets want to pair Irving and Russell together in the backcourt is unknown, but that is just one of the many possibilities that are on the table with their newfound cap space.
Brooklyn is looking to continue to take the fast lane throughout their rebuild after shockingly making the playoffs this season, and fighting valiantly against the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of postseason play. They also want to show that they have become a powerhouse of a franchise in terms of being capable of bringing in free agents.
They’ll be competing with the New York Knicks in that sense this offseason, as New York also has two max level spots to work with in free agency. Irving has also been linked to the Knicks, as has Durant.
But with other star level players on the market in Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, and Klay Thompson, it seems likely that the Nets will have a successful offseason in free agency, even if they miss out on Irving and Durant.
Their current roster, organizational culture, and location add up to an enticing option for the most elite names available.
2. The Atlanta Hawks are stockpiling assets
With this trade, the Hawks now own the 8th, 10th, and 17th pick in the first round of the draft. This gives them the ability to do a multitude of things.
They could use all three picks and continue to add prospects to a budding young core led by Trae Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter. They could also try to move up in the draft by packaging two of the picks together if there is a prospect in the top five that they really like.
They could also use the picks to create a package for a star on the market, whether they wanted to take a gamble on Anthony Davis, or chase a star backcourt partner to place alongside Young, like Bradley Beal, who would fit perfectly next to the Rookie of the Year candidate. Wojnarowski also reported the Hawks may look to trade back for a “future asset”.
Atlanta had been motivated to keep No. 8 and use 10 to trade back for a future asset, league sources tell ESPN. Now, Nos. 8, 10, 17, 35, 41 and 44 give the Hawks the flexibility to move up — perhaps as high as Cleveland's pick at No. 5. Hawks GM Travis Schlenk has options. https://t.co/RqjV5uxkNG
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 6, 2019
Atlanta now possesses six picks in this year’s draft, and it is highly unlikely that they use all six picks on their own, without trading at least one of them away. It also wouldn’t make the most sense to do that in this draft, considering it is a rather weak draft class. But for such a young team, it is a good thing to be in the situation they are in.
General manager Travis Schlenk did a good job evaluating talent in last year’s draft by selecting/trading for Young, Huerter, and Omari Spellman. The safe bet is to assume the Hawks are not done making moves, and like the Nets, could be working on something bigger.
Atlanta appears to know what they are doing, and this move only fortifies that belief.
1. Both Prince and Crabbe will help their respective teams
The Nets have cashed in previously on taking in players that were not in the best situations for themselves and helping them find success in their system. DeMarre Carroll is a great example of that, as is Spencer Dinwiddie.
Brooklyn is hoping Prince is the next player to fit that mold. He is just 25 years old and is coming off of a season in which he averaged 13.5 points on 39% shooting from the 3-point line while adding nearly four rebounds and over two assists per game. Yet the writing was on the wall that his time in Atlanta was coming to an end. He was productive, but the Hawks did not view him as an integral part of their future.
The Nets have three forwards, Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Jared Dudley that are free agents. Prince can be an efficient and cheap replacement to these players, especially Carroll, who made over $15 million this season. Brooklyn could still bring back any of these players, as Hollis-Jefferson was one of the Nets’ first projects when their rebuild began, Dudley was a key player for them on and off the court, and Carroll revitalized his career in Brooklyn, but if they decide against any of them, Prince can fill the void left by them.
Crabbe spent about half of the season injured and his field goal percentage dropped, but he still shot 37.8% from beyond the arc and provides length and scoring on the wing.
He’s the kind of plugin shooter that should fit well in lineups with Young, and for a salary dump player, isn’t that bad. In the 2017-2018 season, he averaged over 13 points per game on over 40% from the field and 37.8% from deep. He also averaged over four rebounds. He can play either wing spot, and for an Atlanta team that likely won’t be competing for a playoff spot next season barring a big move, he is a solid stopgap wing.
At 27 years old, he may be done developing, but he should have a positive impact on the team. He is only on the books for next season, as he will become an unrestricted free agent after the year.
While it may appear that the Nets gave up a lot in the trade to clear up cap space, they did so believing they have the ammo to make a big impact in free agency. Meanwhile, the Hawks continue to rebuild smartly and swiftly as they continue to bring in assets.
This trade adds up to a rare but satisfying win-win for both teams involved in the deal.