Well folks, its finally over. No need to sit glued to the TV this evening to watch Lebron pick another team. This Outlaw signing clearly signals that the Nets are officially out of the Lebron sweepstakes and are moving onto Plan C and D after missing out on all the big FAs not named David Lee.
First off this makes me wonder 2 things:
1) How much juice does Jay-Z really have with Lebron....the Nets clearly believed (or at least projected the image to sell tickets) that they had a very legitimate shot at Lebron. I would think his friend/mentor would have had a true knowledge of where Lebron was heading before the Nets sat on their hands. Seems like a real hoodwink to your best pal/mentor to not give him a heads up before this process started like "Look, Jay, I know you own the Nets and all, but I am not coming there. We can go thru the charade if it helps you guys sell tix but don't sacrifice your summer on me as I'm not coming." If I were Lebron - I would have had the decency to give my "best friend" a heads up on my plans knowing it would greatly affect his product aka basketball team roster.
2) Did the Nets really know all along that they had no shot at Lebron and simply used this spectacle to create interest, headlines and the hope of selling tickets and merchandise to an unknowing public? If this is the case - this signals that the Ratner era was not even close to as bad as we are going to see from this new era...already Kiki (the man at least partly responsible for our strong drafts and $30m in cap space for this summer) was uncermoniously fired to the national media before being informed himself, and Rod is suddenly retiring rather than wanting to be at the helms of the rebuilding of this franchise. This stinks of rotten ownership. And if the Nets did know they had no shot at Lebron, why did they sit on their hands throughout the past week churning out "We believe we are going to get Lebron" statements without actively targeting a Tier A1 free agent - namely David Lee. Had the Nets been smart - they could have gotten DLee on the cheap on the first minute of free agency before all of these silly contracts were signed. At least then we would have come away with a quality player, still in his youth who could fill a position of need (PF) along with a position of luxury (backup Center). Instead they clung to this Lebron hopes - and probably saw a big increase in season ticket sales in the past week.......
So now that the dust appears to be settling, our first move is to sign Travis Outlaw to a 5 year $35m contract. I am not sure how he is an improvement over Terrence Williams at the SF position, and I guess clearly shows that TWill is going to become the SG with Lee off the bench. Considering that Carmelo could be available in trade this year or in free agency over the summer seems like a rich deal to a guy who would be relegated to reserve duty once again. And it also makes little sense considering the SF heavy draft in 2012 - considering our cap space and abundance of picks. Not a fan of this move at all - as it reeks of desperation and shows little thought on managing future cap space. Oh and Damion James sure hasn't looked like a slouch thru summer league (or his 4 year collegiate career)....maybe he is not a starter - but is definitely the backup SF of the future.
However, what is done is done, and its time to move on. I understand the interest in signing Kyle Korver (which is ironic as we traded his rights away years ago for $125k) as we do need outside shooting help and Korver is one of the best in the business. But again, we will probably now be forced to overpay for a 29 year old shooter further clouding our future cap. And this also leads back to the conundrum of are you better off to let the youth develop and potentially end up with a top 5 pick or to win some games you shouldn't and fight all season for an 8th seed in the playoffs and a draft pick in the late teens.....I have always been (barring Lebron/Lee) in the let the youth develop and build thru the draft. If you are looking to build a dynasty, this is how it is done. Not thru free agency.
And now it looks like we will give a huge contract to Scola or Tyrus Thomas. Scola is on the downside of his career and I think his numbers were inflated by being the lone big on Houston last year. Why not develop Favors and use Hump for the final year of his contract as a starter until Favors develops? At least you are building for the future by developing young talent and conserving cap space. As for Thomas, its great he is only 23, but again you are going to have to make a huge front loaded contract offer (losing 7 days) for a guy who quite frankly is not worth the money. His value is being ascertained off his last 25 games of the season - is this not the precise mistake Isiah Thomas made in the Jerome James signing? And then factor in the apparent attitude issues and work ethic with Thomas and it seems like the potential for a locker room cancer to the young players. Oh and he plays the same position as our 3rd pick 2 weeks ago. Sorry not sold on this move either.
The Granger and Paul trade talk is also silly. We just signed Outlaw to an outlandish contract. Why trade away your PG and picks or Favors for Granger to put that outlandish contract on the bench and leave us a glaring hole at the point. Especially when you already have Outlaw, Williams and James at the SF position. And trade for an undersized PG operating on a bad wheel with nobody knowing what his recovery will be like? Um no thank you.
So knowing that we had missed out on the Lebron sweepstakes (most signs point him towards Miami with Bosh and Wade) what would I have done as GM:
1) Immediately contact Pat Riley and offer to take Michael Beasely for a future 2nd round pick (protected 31-52). You would be getting the former 2nd pick in the draft, with good athleticism and the ability to play the PF position while Favors develops and play some minutes at the SF position as well. Being that he is on a 1 year contract - it becomes a very low risk opportunity to try him out and if it doesn't work out it was a $4m gamble gone wrong. Can't fault me as GM for making that move. And if Beasley does pan out and just needed a change of scenery and a new coach - I got a top 7 player in my rotation for a future 2nd rounder and hold his Bird Rights for his next contract...Oh and he would be an expiring contract which could be potentially included in a deal for Carmelo at the deadline if necessary.
2) Work out a deal to bring back Josh Boone on a reasonable veteran contract as our backup center for the next 2-3 years. Josh is a good citizen, a good teammate, and is a more than capable backup center. Plus he would come cheap and will not sacrifice our future cap space.
3) Target a handful of well respected veteran free agents who could be looked upon as much for their off court leadership as for their oncourt contributions. With a young developing team, surrounding them with NBA professionals is essential to their continued development.
While this is not the sexy roster that people imagined - it at least demonstrates a clear plan and a committment to building a winning franchise thru the development of its own players. It is not predicated upon overpaying for non max caliber players (Boozer, Amare, etc) or overpaying in panic for glorified role players who really do not fit a true need for this team (Outlaw, Korver). The sell to the fans is that we are continuing to assemble our team and develop our young players for the future and that we are fully committed to competing not for 1 championship but for multiple. If the season ends up being another losing season (it most likely would) we would once again have a high draft pick to address the SF position (which I think is the easiest position for a draft pick to make a contribution immediately at the NBA level) while keeping our cap space for resigning our young talent and having the freedom to pursue quality free agents and/or make smart trades. At least this is following a well defined plan that has been laid out for the past few seasons rather than making panic acquistions which will compromise our franchise from both a development perspective and from a cap space perspective going forward. Unfortunately the Nets panicked and are making decisions that will have negative ramifications for the long term health of this franchise.