If there was one major question hanging over the Nets before the NBA trade deadline, it revolved around whether players they are developing would be converted into trade assets or whether they would pay dividends in a Nets uniform. The answer came at 3 p.m. Thursday when the deadline passed and DeMarre Carroll, Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie, the most high-value trade chips, still were with the team.
General manager Sean Marks completed one minor deal clearly intended to fortify their injury-riddled roster, acquiring power forward Dante Cunningham from the Pelicans for wing Rashad Vaughn. Both are on expiring contracts, and no other considerations were involved in the deal, an NBA source said.
Vaughn just joined the Nets on Monday as part of a trade that sent center Tyler Zeller to the Bucks and also netted a future second-round pick. In essence, Marks turned Zeller into Cunningham and what likely will become the Bucks’ unprotected second-round pick in 2020.
Recently, the Nets have been without starting power forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (groin), forward Quincy Acy (sprained finger) and guard Caris LeVert (concussion protocol, knee). They have been forced to play small lineups because of a sudden lack of depth in the front court. The 6-8, 230-pound Cunningham, a nine-year veteran who made 24 starts for the Pelicans this season, should help shore up that problem.
Cunningham is in the final season of a deal worth $2.3 million. In his career, he has averaged 6.0 points and 3.8 rebounds and shot 32.4 percent from three-point range, although that number spiked to 39.2 last season.
Coincidentally, Cunningham’s first game with the Nets (19-37) will be Saturday night at Barclays Center against the Pelicans (28-25), the team he joined at the start of the 2014-15 season. Although the Nets announced the trade Thursday, it was an off day and there was no comment from anyone in the organization.
The Nets have lost eight of their past nine games, including six of the past seven with Hollis-Jefferson sidelined. They have one of the most productive benches in the NBA, but it was outscored 30-15 by the Pistons’ bench Wednesday night in Detroit.
“We’re struggling,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of the current manpower shortage after the Pistons game. “We’re mixing and matching because we’re a little shorthanded. The guys that have been inserted in, we have to do better. It’s hurting us right now.”
Now that the trade deadline has passed, whatever uncertainty Dinwiddie, Carroll and Harris may have felt about their value to the Nets has been resolved. Because Harris is on an expiring contract and is a top three-point shooter, there was considerable speculation that he might be moved for a second-round pick.
Before the Detroit game, Harris made it clear he’s happy with the Nets. “We have three more games going into the All-Star break,” he said. “I’m more inclined to focus on trying to win games . . . At the end of the day, I love being a part of this organization.”