Nets Urged to Upgrade Frontcourt with Trade for ‘Kenny Hustle’

Kenrich Williams, Thunder (left)

Getty Kenrich Williams, Thunder (left)

The Nets, when fully healthy, have as well-stocked an NBA roster as anyone in the league, but if there is one area in which the team could probably use a change-up, it is in the frontcourt—particularly if an opportunity to add some fresh young legs presents itself.

Kevin Durant has, actually, played most of his possessions as either a center (39%) or a power forward (59%), according to Basketball-Reference.com, a big change for a player who has spent most of his career as a small forward. The other options the Nets have at the 4-position—Paul Millsap (36 years old), Blake Griffin (32), James Johnson (34)—are mostly near the end of their careers.

The Nets need help defensively, without question.

It’s a little better at center, where the Nets have 37-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge, but also have 22-year-old Nic Claxton.

With that in mind, one SI.com analyst has worked up an option for the Nets who is mostly an unknown around the NBA but has established himself as a favorite of scouts and coaches: Kenrich Williams, nicknamed Kenny Hustle, of the Thunder.


Williams Has Made Huge Defensive Impact

Williams is a 27-year-old (young by Brooklyn’s standards) swingman who is averaging 7.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists this season for OKC, a team deep in the throes of a rebuild. His numbers, though, don’t show his full contribution, as he has put up the top on/off numbers for the Thunder this season.

Offensively, OKC scored 103.5 points per 100 possessions when Williams is on the floor and 100.6 when he is off, a modest improvement. But his impact is seen dramatically in the defensive numbers: the Thunder give up a whopping 115.2 points when he is not on the floor but only 101.8 when he is on the floor.

That net rating of plus-16.3 is easily the best on the Thunder. As writer Derek Parker put it:

Brooklyn is respectfully ranked sixth overall in defensive rating, but have another issue that could plague them come late season. Outside of rookie Day’Ron Sharpe, the Nets’ power forwards average an age of nearly 34. And for the most part aren’t defensively-minded.

While MVP candidate Kevin Durant being on-court certainly isn’t a bad thing, changing the pace and allowing a maximum effort guy like Williams in his stead couldn’t hurt.


Nets Have Limited Trade Assets on Hand

Of course, the issue with a trade for Williams will be the same the Nets will face no matter what they decide to do in a month when the trade deadline arrives: What assets can they give up?

Certainly, a first-round pick would be off the table—it is unlikely that, as good as Williams’ on-off numbers are, he will warrant a first-round pick in return. That’s good because the Nets’ cant trade a first-round pick until 2028.

But the Nets don’t have much second-round capital, either. They have a swapped pick in 2023 and 2025 and their own second-rounder in 2026. The Nets cobble together some deal from that, but the Thunder likely would be able to get a better return on second-rounders.

The Nets’ only other options would be to trade away youngsters like Cam Thomas, Sharpe or Claxton, a move the team would consider making, but only for a higher-upside producer than Williams in return.

Williams would be a good fit for the Nets. But getting him to Brooklyn would not be easy.


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