Although injuries prevented the pair from seeing the floor together this season, it’s clear that the Nets will be contenders once they are both fit to play. Irving showed that he is still one of the best point guards in the league, albeit playing in limited games due to shoulder impingement.
The jury is still out if Durant returns to his MVP form, but all signs point to him still being pretty darn good even after recovering from an Achilles injury.
As fortunate as they were to sign both stars in 2019, the free agency period hasn’t always been kind to the Nets. Like every NBA team, the Nets have also been known to throw money around to free agents who weren’t exactly deserving of it.
Let’s rank five of the most awful contracts handed out by the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets franchise.
5. Andrei Kirilenko
2-year, $3.1 million contract (2013)
Kirilenko was no longer the once-feared “AK-47” when he joined the Nets in the twilight of his career. In hindsight, the deal wasn’t so bad since it was short and not for a lot of money. Though the case could be made that the roster spot could have been used on a younger player. Kirilenko’s personal relationship with then Nets owner and fellow Russian Mikhail Prokhorov was mainly the driving force of the deal.
Kirilenko appeared in 45 games for Brooklyn in 2013-14, pitching in career-lows of 5.0 points and 3.2 boards. He went on a lengthy absence for personal reasons the following year, playing in just 7 games. The Nets shipped him to the Sixers for draft picks in 2014.
4. Gerald Wallace
Re-signed to 4-year, $40 Million contract (2011)
Back in his heyday with the Bobcats, Wallace was one of the best two-players in the league. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, he was no longer the same guy when they acquired him from the Blazers in 2012. They initially got him via trade that included a top-3 protected first-round pick (which became Damian Lillard) during the deadline.
Wallace played considerably well for the team at first, norming 15.2 points in 16 games. Perhaps this enticed the Nets bras to offer him a generous extension to retain his services the following year.
“Crash”, however, never lived up to that contract as his production took a huge drop off in the 2011-12 season. Despite getting starter minutes, Wallace could only muster 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds in 69 games. Brooklyn sent him packing to Boston the following year.
3. Todd MacCulloch
6-year, $34 million offer sheet (2001)
The Nets, who were still based in New Jersey at the time, heavily invested in MacCulloch in the summer of 2001. The lumbering center was coming off a reserve role for the Sixers who finished as runners-up that year.
MacCulloch averaged 9.7 points and 6.1 rebounds a contest in his lone year in New Jersey. Those numbers were all right for a reserve, but the Nets certainly expected more from him given that he was now part of the starting unit.
The Nets reached the finals in 2002 only to get swept by the Lakers. Shaq and Kobe had no problems finishing in the paint against MacCulloch’s underwhelming defense.
The team eventually traded him back to Philly after just one season. MacCulloch’s career would come to an abrupt end when he was forced to retire due to a rare genetic neurological disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
2. Deron Williams
Re-signed to a 5-year, $98.7 million contract (2012)
People nowadays forget that there was a time when Williams was better than his fellow point guard and 2005 draft mate Chris Paul. The Nets truly believed that they had the team’s best facilitator since Jason Kidd when they broke the bank just to get him to stay in 2012. To be fair, the three-time All-Star was phenomenal for the Nets when he first arrived through trade from Utah in the 2010-11 season.
He justified that huge payday at first, giving the Nets (who had just moved to the Barclays Center) reasons to believe that they could return to the promised land. Williams tallied 18.9 points and 7.7 assists in 78 games. The next two seasons, however, signaled his career’s downfall. Injuries sapped some of Williams’ speed and athleticism as his efficiency dropped across the board.
Despite acquiring more talent to help Williams, Brooklyn failed to make it past the second round during that stretch and soon returned to irrelevance. He was waived by the Nets in 2015 after agreeing to a buyout from the final two seasons of his contract.
1. Jayson Williams
Re-signed to 7-year, $86 million (1998)
Much like the Deron Williams scenario, the Nets also thought they will get more productive years from Jayson Williams when they extended his deal in 1998.
The 6-foot-10 banger, after all, blossomed into a fearsome double-double machine in the last two seasons. Williams tallied impressive numbers of 12.9 points and 13.6 rebounds per contest and made the All-Star team in his contract year. He even led the league in offensive rebounds.
Judging by his improvements, Williams did deserve that pay bump. However, one unfortunate twist put a dent on the Nets’ massive investment on him. Williams could only play 30 games for the Nets upon signing the contract as he broke his leg in the 1998-99 season.
The ensuing surgery proved to be career-ending after doctors put a plate and five screws into his leg. He officially retired the following season while currently just on year one of the massive deal.
Williams’ fortunes took an even darker turn upon retirement after he pleaded guilty for aggravated assault in 2010.