In light of the recent free agent hullabaloo, a few truths about the state of the NBA today have become evident:
- Chris Bosh values the ability to have slumber parties with his BFF D. Wade more than actually having any other players on his team's roster.
- Lebron wants to be the star of The Real World: NBA.
- Any free agent who has ever been the "star" of his team can and will get overpaid this summer.
With incredibly mediocre stars like Joe Johnson signing max contracts, it's apparent that free agency is not only a financially unwise but also incredibly unrewarding way to try and improve your team. Here's an alternative: adopt the Thunder's model of mainly acquiring your stars through the draft and using cap space as an asset.
If we don't land Lebron, the worst possible thing the Nets can do is overpay for an aging player like Carlos Boozer and end up three or four years later with a contract more toxic than Chernobyl (R. Lewis, I'm looking at you). Here's my proposal instead:
David Kahn is either the dumbest GM in the NBA or the smartest. Either way, he's made some confounding moves lately, and the word on the street is that Big Al is on the trading block because of his incompatibility with Kevin Love. Time to swindle the man who turned the fourth and fifth picks in the draft into one disgruntled Spanish teenager and a point guard who is not Stephen Curry or Brandon Jennings.
Al Jefferson is a capable scorer and rebounder. Despite his history of injury, he's young (25) and most importantly, he can be had for an absolute bargain basement price. His contract is for $13 million next year, and rises by $1 million a season before expiring in 2013. That's a good $3-4 million a year we'd be saving over a max contract Boozer or David Lee.
Jefferson also takes the pressure off of Derrick Favors, who, with all his potential, is still raw and can slide more comfortably into a James Harden-like role for his first season. Plus, 2013 is probably around when Favors should be getting good.
Giving up Courtney Lee is not ideal, but T-Will will be better anyway. If this deal actually happens it'd be akin to highway robbery, but hey, with Kahn, anything is possible.
2. Sign Anthony Morrow (RFA)
Let's face it - Terrence Williams has much better uses on the court than shooting. The Nets need a great, young 3-point shooter to grow with the team and the best one available is Golden State's Anthony Morrow. He's a restricted free agent, but considering Golden State's salary cap situation (and their god-awful throwback logo) I think we can pry him away for a million or so less than the MLE equivalent.
3. Sign a backup PG
Devin Harris is not gonna go out and play 40 minutes a night. T-Will could conceivably play the 1 but that would leave us thin in the wings. We need a backup PG. The only problem: there aren't too many quality free agent PGs to go around. Luke Ridnour is a possibility, as is Kyle Lowry (but it's unlikely we'll be able to pry him from Houston at a good price).
4. Sign Ray Allen to a ridiculous one-year deal
Having a legendary shooter like Allen on the squad would do wonders for our young players' development. Plus, his playoff experience adds gravitas and he can provide leadership when necessary. I think if we offer a large-enough one-year deal to Allen ($10 million+) he would accept, but we should be wary of offering a longer-term deal, as this could handicap our cap flexibility for next year. Speaking of cap flexibility...
5. Sit on our remaining cap room and make a run at Carmelo Anthony next summer
If Anthony doesn't go far with Denver next year, he will probably be looking to leave for greener pastures. The expiring salaries of Kris Humphries and Quinton Ross, combined with a possibly lower salary cap next summer, would probably leave us with enough room to offer Anthony a max contract.
Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2010-2011 New Jersey Nets:
PG: Devin Harris
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Terrence Williams
PF: Al Jefferson
C: Brook Lopez
Bench: Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, [backup PG], Damion James, Kris Humprhies, Quinton Ross
This roster, considering the development of our young players and the addition of an actual NBA coach (and one with a really good record, no less), should be able to make the playoffs. Add Melo to that and you've got yourself a contender.