I’ve gone back and forth on what I believe the Nets should do this off-season; because there’s a substantial component drastically affecting the situation -- Dwight Howard. If the Nets are looking to acquire Howard (I’m not sure why they wouldn’t be), it would behoove them to preserve as much cap-space as possible. In the very likely event that the new CBA implements an amnesty clause -- which will allow teams to choose one player (or contract) to remove from cap-considerations -- the Nets would probably become the Magic’s best trading-partner. We’ve gone over the Dwight Howard situation ad nauseum, but I’ll just point out one more time that if there are no teams with the cap-space necessary to add Howard in free-agency then it’s unlikely that the Magic will trade him. Taking all of that into consideration, I’ve formulated a final (hopefully) plan for what I believe Billy King should do this summer.
Obviously the priority is to attempt to obtain Howard, so I’m of the belief that King should inquire about his availability. Otis Smith has been very adamant about his unwillingness to trade Howard in the public spectrum, but he may exhibit a different attitude when he’s on the phone with another general manager. Whatever the case, it’s likely that Smith will decline any offers King throws at him. As a last resort, King should say something along the lines of: “Right now, we can offer you cap-space, a great young center, a good young player and three future first-round picks (two of which will be in a stacked draft). I understand your unwillingness to trade Howard, but at a certain point you have to grasp reality -- it’s very likely that Dwight will look to join a more competitive team. I believe that we can provide you guys with the young pieces and cap-space necessary to significantly accelerate the rebuilding process. If you choose to decline this offer -- fine. I understand that it’s very hard to trade your superstar, but be forewarned that this is the last time I’ll be able to offer you a package similar to this one. We’ll be looking to add a number of free-agents this off-season and will no longer be able to provide you guys with cap-space.”
If Smith still declines then it may mean that he knows something we, the collective public, don’t. At that point, the Nets have to move on and realize that signing free-agents doesn’t close the door on possibly acquiring Howard it just makes it a little harder. The Nets can’t be left waiting in the dark only for Howard to surprisingly resign with the Magic or demand to be traded to a different destination. This is the last season of Brook Lopez’s rookie contract; once he is resigned (to a significantly larger contract) the Nets will be have substantially less flexibility. If the Nets want to make drastic changes to the roster then this offseason is the time to do it.
At that point, King should look to set his plan into motion. Going into this off-season the Nets have approximately $17 million in cap-space -- the current salary-cap is $58 million and the Nets are committed to $41 million, next season -- and they’re going to need a lot more in order for my plan to come to fruition. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s assume that the salary cap will once again be $58 million (the plan will also work if the figure is lower, but it’s easier to establish a set number to work off of). First things first, use the amnesty clause on Travis Outlaw. This would serve to remove Outlaw’s seven million dollar cap-hold. Then, trade Jordan Farmar to a team looking for a backup point-guard (some teams that come to mind are the Pacers, Bobcats, Warriors and Trail Blazers) for a 2012 second-round pick. This would remove his $4 million cap-hold. In my plan the Nets would have already (if we’re going in chronological order) traded Johan Petro along with the Lakers’ 2011 first-rounder (the 27th overall pick) for a 2012 second-round pick.
At this point, the Nets would have gone from approximately $17 million in cap-space to roughly $31 million. The first player that King should look to pursue is Nene. It’s very likely that he’ll opt-out of the final year of his contract with the Nuggets that would pay him $12 million. He’ll be looking for a moderately lengthy deal with an annually salary close to the one he’s walking away from. King would subsequently offer him a four-year, $50 million contract. Obviously, there will be other suitors for Nene’s services, but I don’t see a team offering him much more than the contract I outlined. So, the Nets would have added one the league’s best big-man to play alongside Brook Lopez.
Next on the list is a NetsDaily favorite -- J.R. Smith. Despite an erratic personality and concerning events of inconsistency on the court, Smith would provide the Nets with the perimeter scoring and athleticism that they so surely lack. King should look to offer Smith an incentivized contract for approximately $28 million over five years.
Then the Nets would look to add Andre Kirilenko. Kirilenko makes sense for a multitude of reasons that I’ve outlined in the past -- his relationship with Deron Williams and Mikhail Prokhorov, his defense, his versatility, etc. -- and would come at a relatively cheap price. King would offer Kirilenko a three-year, $16 million deal that would allow him to end his NBA career playing under one of his Russian comrades.
At this point, the Nets would have approximately $7.5 million in cap-space. The rest of that money would be alloted to Kris Humphries as King would resign him to a five-year, $38 million deal. History has shown us that teams need at least three quality bigs in order to compete for a championship, adding Humphries to a frontline of Nene and Lopez would provide the Nets with one of the most formidable front-courts in the NBA.
After all of this was done, the Nets wouldn’t have any cap-space left and would essentially be locked into this team for the foreseeable future -- unless they swung a trade for Howard (Nene and Lopez) -- but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Let’s take a look at what the rotation would be:
Deron Williams/Sundiata Gaines
J.R. Smith/Anthony Morrow
Andre Kirilenko/Damion James
Nene Hilario/Kris Humphries
That team would likely net (pun intended) 50-60 wins and could certainly compete with the likes of Chicago and Miami. It would definitely be a very good offensive team and it would be up to Avery Johnson to mold the team into one of the better defensive teams in the league.
Assuming that the new CBA doesn’t implement a hard-cap, the Nets would then extend Lopez at the conclusion of the season. They would also go into the 2012 NBA draft -- which projects to be the best draft since 2003 -- with two first-rounders (Nets and Rockets) and four second-rounders (Nets, Heat, Farmar trade and Petro trade). The future would be very bright.
So, what do we think? What would you tweak? What do you love? What do you hate? What would you like King to do?