|The Blazers drafted Damian Lillard (above) with the 6th-overall pick they received from the Nets in exhange for Gerald Wallace. So far, that trade has worked out pretty well for both teams.|
Where: Barclays Center; Brooklyn, NY
TV: YES Network
When the Nets traded their lottery pick (which became the 6th-overall selection)--along with the expiring contracts of Shawne Williams and Mehmet Okur-- in the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft to the Portland Trail Blazers on March 16th of last season for Gerald Wallace, there was considerable derision and disagreement with the decision from the Nets perspective. Bloggers, writers, TV and radio analysts, and others mocked how silly it was for the Nets, a rebuilding team, to give up a sure lottery pick for an aging Wallace with the option to sign anywhere in the NBA once his contract was up that summer.
We all know how that trade turned out; the Blazers drafted Damian Lillard from Weber State with the pick and the young pint guard has been a revelation for Portland, scoring 20.2 points and 6.0 assists per game just 12 games into his rookie campaign. His Blazers are only 6-6 so far, but they are rebuilding and Lillard has certainly shown that his talent warranted the high draft selection and that he will be a mainstay in the backcourt in Portland for a long time, playing at an All-Star level most likely.
Gerald Wallace isn't near an All-Star berth at this point in his career, but he has done exactly what the Nets have needed and expected him to do, and more. The trade was completed by Billy King with the foresight that the Nets team he would be rebuilding would have a defensive deficiency and he needed someone like Gerald in the starting lineup to serve as the lone defensive specialist in a group of offensive-focused players. There's nothing wrong with valuing offense over defense, it's just that all successful and contending teams in the NBA have a balanced mixture of both. Of course, the Nets representation of offensive and defensive balance is Gerald anchoring the defense by guarding the opposing team's best wing player, lightening the load on his teammates and just helping his team win in general by limiting how much the other team scores on a nightly basis.
Wallace and Lillard probably won't be matching up against each other directly this afternoon but the fact that they were traded for each other is interesting and provides a semblance of a storyline for the game. The point guard face-off between D-Will and Lillard, representing the older and newer tiers of NBA point guards, will be fun to watch as Deron is more of a cerebral and finesse-focused floor general while Lillard relies mainly on his athleticism to run the Blazer offense. Wallace will be guarding Nicholas Batum, the prized forward from France who almost went to divison rival Minnesota during free agency until Portland matched his offer sheet.
Also, Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge might not play due to back spasms in this afternoon's game. If he really does sit out, the Nets will have a huge advantage on the interior, as rookie Meyers Leonard or terrible Jared Jeffries would be the likely fill-ins for Aldridge. Leonard is bigger, around 7-1, but is still raw as a basketball player, and Brook would go off against him most likely. As we have seen from his time with the Knicks, Jeffries is undersized a bit and has run his course as an NBA player, making it a complete gift if Coach Terry Stotts started him.
POR- Lillard (PG), Matthews (SG), Batum (SF), Aldridge (PF), Hickson (C)
NETS- D-Will (PG), Joe Johnson (SG), Wallace (SF), Humphries (PF), Lopez (C)
With Batum, Lillard, and Wesley Matthews on the perimeter, Portland can be a really tough team to stop. However, with Aldridge likely out, this game at home becomes a must-win, compounded by the fact that the Blazers bench is among the worst in the entire NBA. It's key that the Nets don't look past their opponent today to the huge game against the Knicks tomorrow, this afternoon could become a trap-game scenario.