Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
It's all subjective ... and subject to change, too, but for us, it's fun. Twice a year, at the trade deadline and again as the season starts, we give grades to Billy King and Bobby Marks, aka the Killer B's, as assisted by Gregg Polinsky, chief scout, and Frank Zanin, the director of player procurement ... and approved in Moscow by Mikhail Prokhorov and Dmitry Razumov.
We've been doing it for five years, going back to the days of Rod Thorn and Ed Stefanski. As we've noted, grades change over the years, with some A's becoming F's (memories of draft picks gone bad) and the reverse (getting draft picks for the perennially injured Kenyon Martin that turned into trade pieces for Vince Carter.)
A lot of our grades are C's, mainly for things like D-League call-ups or where the move had little effect on the team. In effect, the grade is neutral. We avoid "incomplete" as a grade since you can argue all of them are incomplete at one point or another.
For the most part, we're avoiding deals that might have been, but do grade the efforts to get Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. They were just too significant to ignore. We've also adjusted a lot of our grades to take into account the move to Brooklyn. The Nets may have overpaid here and there, made unpopular deals but they knew they had to go into Brooklyn with stars, with a team that was going to be ready to compete.
Where we have changed a grade, we note it with an UP or DOWN at the end of the entry. At the end, we give an overall grade, which hasn't really changed much since Opening Night. They are on a path, with a little luck, to win 50 games. Only one Nets team (in the NBA) has ever won 50 games.
So what's the grade? We give the effort a B+. Things are going well, but questions about the future of big contracts like those given Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace make us nervous.
So, in reverse order, here's our latest offerings...
January 13, 2013 - Signed forward Damion James to a 10-day contract. (D) He again showed nothing and there were other players in Springfield who a call-up might have helped. He got $50,258, Nets got nothing.
December 30, 2012 - Waived forward Josh Childress. (C) He knew he wasn't going to get a guaranteed deal so he asked to be let go. The move opened a roster spot that gave the Nets some flexibility. The Nets paid him a total of $440,386. No big deal. The other guy they liked in the summer, Dominic McGuire, was signed by the Raptors but he was cut after being signed to a fully guaranteed deal.
December 27, 2012 - Fired head coach Avery Johnson and named PJ Carlesimo head coach. (A) This was a message from Moscow. Those who think Deron Williams was the hidden hand behind the firing haven't done their homework. Ownership had grown increasingly disappointed with him, particularly as a manager and developer of young talent. King wielded the axe but the phone call came from a desk in the Russian capital.
November 26, 2012 - Nets send Toko Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor down to Springfield for one game, where they dominate, the first of three assignments for Shengelia, the first of two for Taylor (C-). It's good they get some playing time in the D-League, but overall, they should have made more use of the affiliate relationship. Other teams with successful D-League affiliation will send a player down a lot more often. Springfield is 150 miles from East Rutherford. Hidalgo, TX., home of the Rockets affiliate, is 356 miles from Houston.
October 27, 2012 - Waived James Mays and Carleton Scott, who agree to play for the Springfield Armor (B-). The Nets are interested in stocking the Armor with players who they think could be useful to them later this season. It doesn't hurt that the moves improve the Armor. Neither are likely to return to the Nets. Scott was an Avery Johnson favorite. (DOWN from a B.)
October 23, 2012 - Waived Stephen Dennis (C). The Nets wanted to send Dennis, the NCAA Division II Player of the Year, to Springfield but his rights are held by the Bakersfield Jam. A neutral grade.
October 1, 2012 - Promoted Doug Overton from player development coach to assistant coach and Patrick Spurgin from video coordinator to player development coach (A). Overton is popular with Nets players and at 27, Spurgin becomes the youngest assistant coach of any kind in the NBA. He is seen as a rising star in the organization.
September 17, 2012 - Signed Stephen Dennis, James Mays and Carleton Scott (C). The three were signed as training camp invites with the idea they would join the Armor. None really had a chance of making a team that already had a set roster. Practice players.
September 13, 2012 - Signed forward Josh Childress (D). Like Andray Blatche, Childress got amnestied and was offered a non-guaranteed vets minimum deal, which he accepted. The Nets had hoped to work out Dominic McGuire and Childress, but McGuire signed with the Raptors on a guaranteed deal. His contract and Blatche's didn't become guaranteed until January. He looked like he had nothing left. He's getting $23 million from the Suns over the next three years. (Down from a B)
September 12, 2012 - Signed forward Andray Blatche (A-). A controversial signing at the time, it now looks like one of the smarter off-season moves based simply on the risk-reward scale. Blatche was amnestied, and almost universally reviled, mainly for his off-court shenanigans. The Nets took a chance, gave him a non-guaranteed vets minimum deal. So far, so good. He's been a solid back-up to Brook Lopez and although he was questioned in an alleged sexual assault, it wasn't enough to make Nets re-think their decision. He's getting $21 million from the Wizards over the next three years.
August 10, 2012 - Dwightmare ends. The Magic traded Dwight Howard to the Lakers in a three team deal that also brings Andrew Bynum to the 76ers, FINALLY ending the Dwightmare (B). They didn't get him, so why the B? Because they recruited him, got him to make the Nets his top choice and did all they could to acquire him. When a top NBA player wants to play for the Brooklyn Nets, that's a big step up from the New Jersey Nets.
July 24, 2012 - Signed Toko Shengelia (A-). The Nets didn't intend to sign Toko. They thought he could use another year in Europe after being picked #54 in the draft. He and his agent pushed for him to get a spot on the Nets' summer league team where he averaged 10 points a game while playing good D. He got a two-year, guaranteed rookie minimum deal. King later explained that by doing so, the Nets don't have to dip into the mini-MLE next season to sign him. The Nets also paid a reported $300,000 buyout to Charleroi in the Belgian League. Another reason for a high grade: more evidence of ownership's commitment. (UP from a B+).
July 23, 2012 - Signed C.J. Watson to a veterans minimum deal (A). This signing made the Nets very happy. The Bulls decided not to exercise their $3.2 million option on Watson on July 22, making him a free agent. By the next day, the Nets had signed him after calls from Deron Williams and Avery Johnson. The vets minimum was all they had to sign him and he could have gone into the market and gotten more. Instead, he agreed to sign after a recruiting call from D-Will who had played with him in the FIBA Under-19 championships a decade ago. This would have never happened if the team was still in New Jersey, said one league source.
July 19, 2012 - Signed guard Keith Bogans to a veterans minimum deal (B). This, like the Stackhouse signing was a bit of a surprise. Bogans had been forgotten by many fans after his injury, but beat writers noted his presence at the PNY Center throughout the off-season. The Nets made him a promise and followed through. Another good guy in the locker room and a solid defender. An Avery favorite.
July 17, 2012 - Re-signed forward Kris Humphries to a two-year, $24 million contract (D). More than a bit high, but word was the original deal was $24 million over three years. By reducing the length of the contract to two years, with the same money, Hump's contract became more palpable in trade scenarios, particularly in Dwightmare scenarios, which were still on-going. Also, he was being pursued by the Bobcats as well as the Nets. Charlotte was offering $27 million over three, according to reports. His big calling card in negotiations: He averaged a double-double two straight years, one of only five NBA players to do that. Dumped his agent, who is also Howard's agent, not long after the deal. Now, he's out of the rotation, but hopefully a trade chip as an expiring next season. (DOWN from a B.)
July 16, 2012 - Signed guard Jerry Stackhouse to a veterans minimum (B). Stackhouse was signed for his veterans influence. It didn't hurt that he's another client of Jeff Schwartz, a big Nets ally in their drive to re-sign Deron Williams. We watched younger players gravitate toward Stackhouse at a reception just before the Jay-Z concert. We get it ... . Says he will retire when he can no longer dunk, then become an assistant coach, presumably in Brooklyn. Although he is now a bench fixture and hasn't played since January 26, multiple sources say he plays an under-appreciated role in the locker. (DOWN from a B+)
July 12, 2012 - Pacers signed Gerald Green to a three-year, $10.3 million contract (B). The Nets wanted to keep Green, but once they did the Joe Johnson deal, their options were limited, and the Pacers gave him more than the Nets were prepared to. Indeed, they could have given him some of the mini-MLE but instead chose to give that to Mirza Teletovic. They could have given him the $2 million bi-annual exception, but that option went away when the Nets traded for Johnson and went over the hard cap. He had said he would take less to the stay with the Nets, but the difference between what the Nets could offer ($1.2 million) and the Pacers ($10.3 million) was too much. He's out of the rotation in Indiana. (UP from a C-).
July 11, 2012 - Traded Jordan Farmar, DeShawn Stevenson,Anthony Morrow, Jordan Williams and Johan Petro plus the Rockets' lottery-protected first-round pick in 2013 and their own second-round pick in 2017 to the Atlanta Hawks for Joe Johnson (B+), The signature move of the summer on a number of levels. It meant the Nets were going to go way over the $74 million hard cap and take a chance on a guy who's 31 and has $89 million left on his deal. They did it for two intertwined reasons: 1) to make Deron Williams happy and 2) to use as the franchise "star" and magnet in case D-Will went home to Dallas. Despite all the money he's owed, he's been an all-Star six straight seasons and he cost the Nets nothing of real value. Farmar and Jordan Williams are out of the league. Morrow was traded to the Mavericks and Petro is an unhappy DNP in Atlanta. If the Rockets don't make the playoffs, the Hawks don't get the pick till 2014. The Hawks initially wanted MarShon Brooks in the deal and the Nets own pick in 2013. The Nets refused. However, it's been recently disclosed that the Nets agreed to swap picks with the Hawks in 2014 and 2015 as part of the deal. The Hawks don't look like they'll be able to use either since it's more likely the Nets will have the better record and lower pick. BUT if something happens to the Nets and they fall out of the playoffs, the swap is unprotected and the Nets would lose their pick(s). (DOWN from an A-).
July 11, 2012 - Signed Mirza Teletovic to a three-year, $9.8 million contract (C). A complicated deal. He wanted to join the NBA, preferably the Nets. He agreed to pay his Spanish League club, Caja Laboral, $2.1 million, $550,000 of which the Nets paid. He initially agreed to the full MLE, starting at $5 million. To ensure flexibility in the Dwight Howard talks while still taking on Joe Johnson's contract, the Nets asked that the deal be renegotiated. They wanted the 6'9" Bosnian to take the mini-MLE, a $2 million a year pay cut. He agreed. While he hasn't shown the deep shooting he's capable of, the Nets are willing to give him more time. (DOWN from B-).
July 11, 2012 - Re-signed Deron Williams to a five-year, $98.8 million contract (A+). How close was it? He says it was close and had a deal on a house in Dallas. Mark Cuban didn't offer him the max, giving the Nets a $30 million advantage, didn't attend the key meeting so he wasn't available to answer questions about the Mavs future. Maybe he really wasn't that interested for believed that the Nets were the odds-on favorite. If we were grading at the All-Star Break, we would have dropped this grade ... dramatically, but he's turned the season around. More importantly, the Nets got the guy they wanted, the star for Brooklyn.
July 11, 2012 - Re-signed Gerald Wallace to a four-year, $40 million contract (D+). This is the riskiest contract of the off-season (although the Nets could use the stretch exception down the road if they want.) Would anyone else have offered Crash, now 30, as big a deal? No. How important is he to the Nets? His defense and leadership, not to mention his versatility, are big parts of the Nets strategy. So much so that Brook Lopez calls Wallace their most indispensable player. DOWN from a C. It's not because we don't love his play or doubt what Lopez said but we worry what he will look like in three years.
July 11, 2012 - Re-signed Brook Lopez to a four-year, $60.8 million contract, with a player option in the fourth year. (A). The Bobcats were ready to offer Lopez a similar deal. The Trailblazers were thinking about it. As a result, the Nets paid Lopez more than they thought they would. He is a very good center, capable of big games and if his foot holds up, he has a history of durability. What was the alternative? Losing him to the Bobcats? No way the Nets could let that happen. He becomes an all-Star and misses only seven games through mid-March. (UP from B.)
July 11, 2012 - Acquired Reggie Evans from the Clippers for the right to swap second-round picks in 2016, using one of the trade exceptions acquired in the Gerald Wallace trade (A-). For the cost of a three-year, $5 million contract and a trade exception, the Nets got one of the NBA's best rebounders and toughest players. Since the trade exception was acquired in the Gerald Wallace deal, does that make the Wallace trade more palpable?
July 6, 2012 - Signed guard Tyshawn Taylor (B). The Nets gave Taylor a two-year guarantee when they didn't have to give him anything but a non-guaranteed deal. It gave him confidence and stability and gave the Nets a more valuable trade asset. Teams are always looking for back-up point guards and the Nets have two good ones in him and Watson.
Draft 2012 - Selected forward Ilkan Karaman at #57, the pick acquired from the Heat in the 2010 Chris Quinn trade (B). Will he ever play in the NBA? Not certain but if he does, the Nets have done well. The majority of players taken in the 50's don't. His decision to join Fenerbahce, Bojan Bogdanovic's team, over the summer pleased the Nets. Their scouts can now watch both players develop in one of Europe's top clubs, with one of Europe's top coaches.
Draft 2012 - Purchased the rights to Toko Shengelia, the 54th pick, from the 76ers, for $750,000 (A). If you can get any value this deep in the draft, it's a bonus and Shengelia looks like he has potential to be better than a late second rounder. A high energy player, he has a lot of confidence. Remember, he called himself a "taller Manu Ginobili."
Draft 2012 - Purchased the rights to Tyshawn Taylor, the 41st pick, from the Trailblazers, for $2 million (B). The Nets spent a lot of money here. In recent years, a mid-second round pick went for no more than $1 million, often less. They liked Taylor and so did the deal. There was no flinching in Moscow, which is why this gets an A. It shows that ownership is willing to write the checks. (DOWN from A.)
April 20, 2012 - Signed guard Armon Johnson for the remainder of the season (C). At one point, the Nets thought they would retain Johnson, but after drafting Tyshawn Taylor and signing C.J. Watson, that idea went away.
April 9, 2012 - Signed guard Armon Johnson to a 10-day contract. (C). Another move necessitated by injuries. Johnson is a Jeff Schwartz client. Couldn't hurt.
March 30, 2012 - Signed forward Dennis Horner. (C). Horner gets another chance. A practice player. Nothing more.
March 18, 2012 - Signed guard Gerald Green for the remainder of the season (A+). They took a chance on Green. it worked out well. Decision takes place six days after the Green's "Dunk of the Year." More to come. Even if he left the Nets, this was still a great signing and the kind the Nets need to make to balance the big contracts. Can you say development.
March 16, 2012 - Signed guard Jerry Smith to a 10-day contract (C+). Good move for Armor. Nets use their D-League affiliation to fill roster.
March 15, 2012 - Hours after Dwight Howard decides to stay in Orlando, traded the injured Shawne Williams, the injured Mehmet Okur and a conditional first-round pick to the Trail Blazers for Gerald Wallace and two trade exceptions (D). The single most controversial move of the King era. ESPN's Chad Ford twice said the move was so bad King should be fired. The pick was protected top three, which effectively meant top six. King defended the move as part of the effort to keep Deron Williams, who wanted the Nets to acquire more veterans. The combination of the thin protection for the pick and Wallace's later decision to opt out of his contract made many fans apoplectic. When they saw Crash play, many understood it was worth the risk. A favorite of Mikhail Prokhorov. The pick turned into Damian Lillard who looks like a great pick-up. With Deron Williams at the point, the Nets were unlikely to have taken Lillard at #6. The guy they really wanted, Thomas Robinson, was gone at #5, which was some consolation. Who would they have taken? John Henson is one name. They were not interested in Harrison Barnes. The same day, the Celtics offered them Paul Pierce for the same basic deal, then pulled it off the table. Wallace is five years younger and Pierce would not have been a happy camper. DOWN from C+. See change in grade for his contract. Same reasons.
March 8 2012 - Signed guard Gerald Green to a second 10-day contract (A). Kind of a surprise that they didn't sign him after his first few games. Two days later, Green rewarded the Nets with the Dunk of the Year.
February 27, 2012 - Signed guard Gerald Green to a 10-day contract (A+). No other team would tone a chance on Green. The Nets did. After being cut by the Lakers, Green joined the LA D-Fenders, quickly becoming the D-League's best player. On his way to the D-League All-Star Game, Green stopped in Houston to work out in front of Avery Johnson. He got the job. No risk, high reward.
February 14, 2012 - Waived guard Keith Bogans and signed guard Andre Emmett (C). After Bogans suffered a devastating injury, the Nets had no choice but waiving Bogans, BUT Johnson and King told Bogans that they would consider him in free agency, a promise they kept.
February 1, 2012 - Signed guard Keith Bogans and waived forward Larry Owens (B+) After starting 108 games --preaseason, regular season and post-season-- the Bulls dumped Bogans and for two months, no one picked him up. He looks good until he's injured less than two weeks after the signing.
January 26, 2012 - Declined optons on Brook Lopez and Damion James (A). The decisions meant Lopez would be a restricted free agent July 1; James will be unrestricted. The Nets essentially postpone a contract decision on Lopez, who is injured, and give up on James, the last pick of the Thorn era and another bust. The Nets decline to sign him in the off-season and after a training camp with the Hawks, he is waived. The Nets give him a second chance. (UP from a B.)
January 18, 2012 - Signed forward Larry Owens and waived forward Dennis Horner (C). The Nets pursuit of a small forward is underway.
December 24, 2011 - By releasing Ime Udoka, the Nets made room for Dennis Horner (C). Horner went undrafted out of North Carolina State in 2010, then after a year overseas in Belgium and Cyrpus, he went to the D-League National Tryouts and caught the attention of Armor GM Milton Lee. He was drafted in the third round by the Armor and in three games showed he had the BBIQ, if not the athleticism or skills, of an NBA player.
December 23, 2011 - Signed DeShawn Stevenson to a one-year $2.5 million contract (D). The Okur trade is orchestrated so that the Nets reach the salary cap. That permits them to sign a player under the $2.5 million "mini-MLE," which they do with Stevenson. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but he showed up more than 30 pounds overweight. A good defender, he and Shawne Williams are so bad offensively that they become the worst rotation at any position in the entire NBA. He is reportedly a good guy in the locker room. Don't really care when the team was so bad.
December 22, 2011 - Traded their second rounder in 2015 to the Jazz for Mehmet Okur (D). Hours after it's announced that Brook Lopez had broken his foot, Billy King turns around and gets Okur, one of Deron Williams' top targets in Utah. He turns into a bust. Pricey at $10.8 million following two major injuries, he was reported to be back at 100% and had played well in Turkey this fall. He wasn't. His back acted up and he sat and sat until he was included in the Gerald Wallace deal. As an expiring contract, he had value in certain trade talks. That's it. Worse, the Nets were talking with Utah about Andrei Kirilenko.
December 22, 2011 - Waived Stephen Graham (B). Graham ranked near the bottom of every NBA deep stats ranking. Nets had to decide whether to release him or keep him at $1.1 million. They decided to release him, knowing at that point that Lopez's foot was broken and they might need as much cap space as they could find.
December 20, 2011 - Re-signed Kris Humphries to a one-year, $8 million contract (B) Part of the team's strategy to retain flexibility in hopes the Dwight Howard negotiations start up again. He may be the most hated NBA player because of his ill-fated, 72-day marriage to Kim Kardashian, but Nets fans liked him for his blue collar game. Averaged a double-double for the second straight year. Short rebounding help even before Brook Lopez went down, Humphries' signing helped the team breathe a sigh of relief. (DOWN from an A).
December 15, 2011 - Signed Ime Udoka to a training camp contract (C). He becomes the last player cut a week later. A defensive specialist, there was no room for him after the Nets signed DeShawn Stevenson.
December 15, 2011 - Signed Shawne Williams to a two-year, $6.1 million contract, $3 million guaranteed in 2011-12 with a $3.1 million player option in the second year (F). Ugh. Williams had displayed a number of positives, a 6'9" stretch forward with a 7'3" wingspan and a deadly three point stroke who's still only 25 years old. On the other hand if he picks up his dribble, don't expect much. He also had two drug arrests. He showed up out of shape, got hurt, was traded to Portland, saving the Nets $3.15 million in salary. He's out of the league. Later arrested for possession of prescription drugs and marijuana. Will never play again in the NBA.
December 15, 2011 - Waived Travis Outlaw under the amnesty clause in the new CBA (B). Can you give a better grade for dumping a bad signing even if it wasn't yours? What's done is done. Outlaw, signed by Rod Thorn, was a poster boy for bad contracts during the lockout, his $35 million deal never justified by his performance. Kings picked up Outlaw for $3 million over four years, meaning the Nets only have to pay Outlaw $16 million instead of $28 milion remaining on his deal.
December 13, 2011 - Signed Shelden Williams to one-year vets minimum deal (C-). After failing in their pursuits of Tyson Chandler and Nene Hilario, the Nets make their first free agent signing that of a draft bust turned journeyman. Whether Nets dawdled or weren't willing to overspend or waited vainly for Otis Smith to act, they wound up with a lesser prize. Williams wasn't a bad choice, but he wasn't what they had hoped for. Of course, if they get Dwight Howard, who cares.
December 9, 2011 - The Mavericks signed Brandan Wright of the Nets (D). We know little of what happened here, but the Nets traded a second round pick for Wright, then gave him time to develop and seemed interested in keeping him. Suddenly, he's signed by the Mavs for a vets' minimum deal and he plays well enough to make the the rotation by season's end.
December 8, 2011 - Called up Dennis Horner, JamesOn Curry, Jerry Smith from the Armor for training camp (A). Because the Armor uses the same playbook as the Nets, the three call-ups jumped right in during practices. Another advantage of the Nets' D-League strategy. More of a grade for the strategy than for the players called up.
December 6, 2011 - Announced the hiring of P.J. Carlesimo and Mario Elie as Avery Johnson's top assistants (B). Carlesimo took Seton Hall to the NCAA Finals, coached three NBA teams and assisted Gregg Popovich with the Spurs. Elie was lead assistant with the Kings. They replace Sam Mitchell, who was reassigned to scouting, then dumped; Larry Krystkowiak, who took a job with the University of Utah; and John Loyer, who rejoined Lawrence Frank with the Pistons. All in all, an upgrade but not that much. (DOWN from an A.)
Draft 2011 - Picked JaJuan Johnson of Purdue at #27, then traded his rights and their 2014 second rounder to the Celtics for the rights to MarShon Brooks of Providence, taken at the Nets' request two spots earlier (A). Brooks makes all-Rookie team, is the NBA's third leading scorer among rookies. Johnson is out of the league. Still a good deal even with Brooks' inconsistency.
Draft 2011 - Traded their 2013 second rounder and $1.5 million in cash to the Timberwolves for the draft rights to Bojan Bogdanovic, taken at #31 by the Heat and then traded to Minnesota (A). The Nets will have to wait for him but the Spurs followed this strategy with Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter and it worked. Bogdanovic may be the best shooter and score in Europe. Getting that for a second round pick? UP from a B+.
Draft 2011 - Drafted Jordan Williams at #36 (F). Jordan Williams arrived in camp out of shape, then fell victim to dehydration. Became part of the Joe Johnson deal and is later bought out by the Hawks. Out of the league. Made worse because Chandler Parsons was drafted at #38. (DOWN from a D+).
May 1, 2011 - Nets took over the Springfield Armor and started hiring key personnel (B). Milton Lee becomes Nets' director of minor league basketball operations; Bob MacKinnon, Jr., whose dad was GM and coach of the Nets, becomes head coach of the Armor and Chris Carrawell, a favorite of Coach K at Duke, is named his assistant. The proof is in the (Christmas) pudding. two Armor players become Nets after injuries hit the parent club. Nets don't use their affiliate as much as other NBA teams. Kris Joseph, the Armor SF acquired by Lee in February from the Maine Red Claws, had been up and down five times before the Celtics waived him in February. Shengelia and Taylor had been up and down twice. (DOWN from an A).
March 31, 2011 - Waived Quinton Ross and sign Mario West to a 10-day (C-). It was surprising how long Ross lasted on the Nets' roster after coming over from Washington in the Yi Jianlian salary dump. Meaningless deal even after the Nets sign West for the rest of the year on April 10 following D-Will's decision to sit out the last week of the season. West wanted to come back for training camp, but lockout interfered and he signed a contract in Italy without an "NBA out".
February 28, 2011 - Signed Sundiata Gaines to his first 10-day contract (D). The Nets needed a back-up guard after Williams headed home for his son's birth. Gaines, home in Queens after a fling in Europe, was available and had a passport to travel to London. After two 10-day deals, the Nets signed him to a two year guaranteed contract on March 19 following a series of solid performances. Did little in 2011-12. (DOWN from a C).
February 23, 2011 - Traded forward Troy Murphy and a second-round pick to the Golden State Warriors for forward Brandan Wright and center Dan Gadzuric (F). This one was about recovery from a bad deal, the Murphy for Lee disaster. Wright looked good, but the Nets didn't re-sign him. (DOWN from a D).
February 23, 2011 - Traded Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first-round picks and $3 million in cash considerations to the Utah Jazz for guard Deron Williams (A+). Can we give someone more than one "+" sign? One western conference executive gave it 10 extra "+" signs and virtually every pundit called it the best trade of the deadline. He gave the Nets instant credibility.
February 21, 2011 - Melo Drama ends. The Nets six-month long pursuit of Carmelo Anthony ends as he is traded to the Knicks (C). Yes, we know they needed a superstar. Yes, it showed a very different, never-say-die mindset by Mikhail Prokhorov's but as of 10:59 a.m. Wednesday, this looked like an epic fail. The owner thought the team has lost three to five games because of the distraction, a key rookie's development was hindered, relationships were tattered, the owner's reputation, one of the team's key assets, was tarnished and the Knicks were salivating about using Brooklyn-born 'Melo to thwart the Nets' influence in Brooklyn. Then again...the Nets forced the Knicks to give up more assets for Melo.
February 1, 2011 - Signed guard Orien Greene to a 10-day contract (B). Again a high grade for a minor move because of what it says about the change in the team's operating principles. Greene was the Nets' first 10-day contract since Donnell Harvey in 2005. That's six years. They hadn't called up a D-Leaguer in years either.
December 15, 2010 - In a three-team deal, traded Terrence Williams, Joe Smith, the Warriors' second-round pick in 2011 and the Bulls' second-round pick 2012 for Sasha Vujacic , the Lakers' 2011 first-round pick, protected 1-18, and the Rockets' 2012 first round pick, protected 1-14 (A+). The Nets initial priority in this deal was dumping Williams. In the first version, Williams was going to the Lakers, then the deal expanded when L.A. balked. Williams spent the season at the end of the Rockets' bench with 25 DNP-CD's while Vujacic, freed from Phil Jackson's doghouse, averaged 11, 3 and 2 as the Nets sixth man. More importantly, the Lakers pick yielded MarShon Brooks and the Rockets pick was key to the Joe Johnson deal 18 months later.
November 26, 2010 - Nets dispatched Terrence Williams to the Springfield Armor (B). After being warned for two years that this could be his fate, Williams is finally shipped out to the D-League. You can blame him or Avery Johnson or King, but the bottom line is that it showed a level of seriousness about discipline and his performance--he averaged a triple double--dramatically helped improve his trade value.
November 11, 2010 - Nets agreed to a hybrid relationship with the Springfield Armor of the D-League (A+). When word first came that Prokhorov wanted to upgrade basketball operations, one of the early ideas floated by Marks was a takeover of the Nets' D-League affiliate, the Springfield Armor. The proposal languished for a time, but got done. For $250,000, the Nets get operational control of the Armor. They hire and pay coaches, a GM and select the players. At the time, the Nets were one of two teams in the NBA with such a relationship. That number has mushroomed since.
October 22, 2010 - Waived center Brian Zoubek (C). We had hoped another Jersey guy would make the team but back issues ended his career.
October 19, 2010 - Exercised the contract options on guard Terrence Williams and center Brook Lopez through 2011-12 (D and A). The Nets front office at this point were not enamored of T-Will but still held out hope they could make it work. With the added year, he had additional trade value.
October 6, 2010 - Waived guard Eddie Gill (C). Thus ended Gill's eighth tenure with the Nets, which has to be an NBA record...if anyone would keep such records.
September 29, 2010 - Waived forward Andre Brown (B). Published report noted that the Nets made an example of his lack of toughness in training camp and quickly dispatched him. Good for the rep.
September 15, 2010 - Signed Doug Overton as player development coach (A). More coaches, more development. We don't know the details about how he's doing things, but he is a tough guy, something a number of young players have shown to need.
September 15, 2010 - Signed Stephen Graham to a two-year, partially guaranteed deal (F). Graham got $450,000 upfront this season and $100,000 upfront for next season. A coach's favorite wherever he's played, he gave the Nets minutes and again showed the Nets are willing to work deals even with vets' minimum guys. He was awful. (DOWN from a D).
September 10, 2010 - Hired Milton Lee director of basketball operations (A). Lee had been brought on by his college chum and Prokhorov deputy CEO Christophe Charlier even before the Russians bought the team. Another example of how the team is spending money. Lee, former intern to the 1992 Dream Team and basketball junkie, is handling the interface between technology and basketball, working with Patrick Spurgin, the team's new video coordinator, statistical consultants and Barclays Center architects...then, the Armor move.
September 10, 2010 - Signed Joe Smith to a veterans' minimum contract (D). Smith was supposed to mentor Derrick Favors and give the Nets some minutes at PF. After starting the first two games of the season, it became obvious he had little to nothing left.
August 11, 2010 - Traded guard Courtney Lee to the Houston Rockets in a four-team deal that yielded forward Troy Murphy from the Indiana Pacers (F). Seemed like a good idea at the time. Lee wanted out and Murphy looked like just the kind of player the Nets could use: a stat-stuffing 6'11" power forward who, to make things all the better, was the 13th New Jersey native to play for the New Jersey Nets. It cost the Nets cap space and Murphy never fit it after a series of injuries. It did ultimately give Kris Humphries a shot.
August 7, 2010 - Signed forward Sean May to veteran's minimum deal, with $100,000 guaranteed (B). Why such a high grade for the signing of a guy who never suited up? Again, it's about spending money. This signing signaled that the Nets, who hadn't given out a partial guarantee in three years ($25,000 to Robert Hite), were willing to compete even for the smallest pieces. Waived September 7 after an injury.
July 26, 2010 - Named Bobby Marks assistant general manager (A). Marks is a Nets lifer, going from intern to assistant GM. Here's another theme: Rewarding loyalty. Marks played a lesser role under Thorn, but pulled off some neat tricks, like getting two draft picks for Marcus Williams as he headed out the door.
July 19, 2010 - Named Sam Mitchell, Larry Krystkowiak, John Loyer, Popeye Jones and Tom Barrise assistant coaches (A). More a grade for the strategy than for the personnel. By adding assistant coaches and scouts and a team chef, etc.,etc, King and Marks have shown a wilingness to get the most out of the boss's cash hoard.
July 14, 2010 - King hired by Mikhail Prokhorov (B+). Let's just call that the overall grade for King and Marks. King's getting a lot of credit, deservedly so, for the Deron Williams trade, and took a lot of heat for the Melo Drama, the Dwightmare, etc. . But they got what they wanted: a veteran team, one with four All-Stars and a lot of depth, going into a new arena in a new city. They also pushed for the Springfield Armor hybrid deal and major upgrade to the team's infrastructure, from building up basketball operations to pushing for a state of the art locker room facility. Also, they are not among the highest paid executives in the NBA. Far from it. King makes a little more than a third of what Rod Thorn made his last year in New Jersey.
But it's DOWN from an A- grade at the beginning of the year. The real question is about the future, more than the present. The Nets are 11 games over .500 and in fourth place in the East. Couldn't have expected much better with all the new players, the coaching change, etc., but there ARE questions about the Wallace and Humphries contracts and how they will affect the team going forward. That leads to another question: whether ownership will continue to spend money ... and they will need to, with the new CBA requiring the team to pay out enormous sums in luxury taxes. They have so far, but nothing is ever guaranteed in that regard, no matter who's the owner.