More on the Nets' offseason
After a colleague pointed out a Nets blog item to me Wednesday -- one that questioned some of my logic in giving the Nets a C-minus grade in my Atlantic Division offseason report card -- I'd like to clarify. The blog slammed me for criticizing New Jersey for doling out $57 million in contracts to Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro and Jordan Farmar, citing the fact that the Nets have to sign someone to meet the NBA's minimum salary threshold, which is $43.5 million this season.
Of course they do. My problem isn't the money; it is the number of years over which the money is being paid. You want to give Petro $3.5 million per year? Fine. I mean, you have to wonder why the Nuggets, who were practically ready to hold open tryouts for a big man most of the summer, weren't interested in re-signing him, but whatever. You want to hand Outlaw $7 million annually? The Blazers traded him and the Clippers weren't in any rush to bring him back, but I'll buy that too. And $4 million on average for Farmar? Sure, go ahead.
It's the lengths of the contracts that are ridiculous. Five years for Outlaw. Three for Petro and Farmar. It's true, none of these contracts put the Nets over the cap, and with newly acquired Troy Murphy and Kris Humphries coming off the books next season, New Jersey will likely have $20-plus million to spend.
But when you are rebuilding a team from the ground up, maintaining as much financial flexibility as possible is the key. Multiple sources have told me that one of the key issues between Thorn and the staff of new owner Mikhail Prokhorov was the Nets' approach on how to reshape the franchise. Thorn, I'm told, like Prokhorov, was ready to go all out after LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Stoudemire. However, if the Nets whiffed on any of the marquee names, Thorn's preference was to roll over as much cap space as possible and use it down the road, either in a trade or for a future free agent.
Prokhorov didn't feel the same way. When Prokhorov met with a group of reporters shortly after he bought the team, he stressed the importance of a fast rebuilding effort, going so far as to say he thought the Nets could win a title in five years. That thinking was in direct conflict with Thorn, who certainly wanted to put together a winner as fast as possible but understood the process of getting there could take a little longer.
The acquisition of Murphy is an example of an ideal Nets trade. His skills will help the Nets in the short term -- he's a perfect stretch power forward who will complement Lopez and take the pressure off Derrick Favors -- and his large ($12 million) contract expires after this season.
Deals like the one for Murphy are the ones the Nets should be pursuing. Outlaw, Petro and Farmar aren't breaking the bank, but they will take up about $14 million in cap space over each of the next three seasons. The Nets have a solid core of Lopez, Favors, Devin Harris and Terrence Williams. Over the next few years, that money could be put to better use on someone else.