By Ben Golliver
ESPN.com reported the proposed trade on Friday.
The Nets and Bobcats have had discussions about a trade that would send Charlotte's Ben Gordon to Brooklyn for Kris Humphries, according to league sources. The talks are ongoing, but sources said no trade is imminent.
The New York Times confirmed the talks, noting that Charlotte initiated the dialogue.
The Charlotte Observer also confirmed the talks adding that a deal "wasn't close" and that the Bobcats pursued Humphries in free agency last summer.
Humphries, 28, is averaging 6.0 points and 6.4 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game this season. He's been a bit of a forgotten man for Brooklyn after a career-year in 2011-12 that saw him average 13.8 points and 11.0 rebounds as a full-time starter, numbers that were aided by a long-term injury to All-Star center Brook Lopez. This season, Humphries has had his role squeezed by the return of Lopez and the additions of Reggie Evans, a rebounding specialist, and Andray Blatche, who is averaging 10.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game after resuscitating his career. Humphries was signed to a two-year, $24 million contract last summer that is guaranteed through the 2013-14 season.
Gordon, 29, is averaging 13.1 points, 2.2 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 22.1 minutes per game off the bench in Charlotte. A microwave-style reserve scorer, Gordon was acquired in a trade from the Pistons in June 2012. He holds a player option for $13.2 million for next season and it's a virtual certainty that he picks it up.
The size and length of their respective contracts are virtually identical so the motivations behind this move would be primarily basketball-related for both teams. It seems strange to clarify that, but at this time of year dollars and cents almost always trump shooting and defense when it comes to trades involving eight-figure contracts.
Brooklyn, currently sitting at No. 5 in the East, simply needs Humphries a lot less than they did last season. He was rewarded with a contract befitting a starting caliber power forward after averaging a double-double. Evans and Blatche provide similar skills at cheaper price tags, though, and Gerald Wallace's ability to swing to the power forward position in small ball lineups has reduced Humphries' role. In fact, Humphries' playing time has almost been cut in half this year compared to 2011-12 and he's in just three of the Nets' nine most often used lineups after being in all twenty of their most used lineups last year.
Is Gordon a better fit? It would seem so even when his defensive limitations and his mostly one-dimensional offensive game are considered. Brooklyn's starting guards Joe Johnson and Deron Williams have logged more than 500 minutes more this season than any of their teammates, so a little added depth couldn't hurt. The Nets, with an $80+ million payroll and limited flexibility going forward, are in win-now mode. Gordon-for-Humphries would balance the roster a bit, giving coach P.J. Carlesimo a solid four-guard rotation with C.J. Watson. Maximizing the effectiveness of Johnson and Gordon could prove tricky, with both needing the ball, but Gordon would give Brooklyn a go-to backcourt scoring option when Johnson sits. He's also shooting 41.7 percent on threes this season, which would be tops among Nets rotation players.
Charlotte currently holds the worst record in the league at 11-37. The're already playing for next year and, in many ways, they began this season playing for next year. Charlotte ranks No. 29 in rebounding rate, No. 29 in offensive efficiency and No. 30 in defense. While Humphries is no stalwart defensively, he's proven that he can be productive in major minutes as a scorer and on the glass. The Bobcats are in need of some roster-balancing too: their four top scorers are guards and their best big man -- Byron Mullens -- isn't a traditional low-post force. Development from 2011 lottery pick Bismack Biyombo has also been slow. Humphries wouldn't be lacking for minutes, touches or anything else on this squad and is averages more rebounds per minute than anyone on Charlotte's roster. If the Bobcats have the option of overpaying for either Gordon or Humphries next season, Humphries would seem to be clearly preferable.
Big picture, the clock will eventually start ticking for Bobcats GM Rich Cho. He obtained a potential future star in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and he will have another high lottery pick this season. The slash-and-burn rebuilding strategy is proceeding along nicely but it must build some upward momentum at some point. Does Humphries represent a driver of that momentum? That's probably overstating it, but he could be a piece that fills some major current holes. Both teams should give serious consideration to this trade.