USA TODAY Sports
The Nets are unlikely to sign a veteran for their open roster spot. Instead, expect them to wait a month and then sign a young player, a prospect for next season. By waiting, they'll get a chance to watch the player, most likely a D-Leaguer, until the end of the season. Then, they'll be able to offer him a deal through the end of the year, rather than a 10-day, and a team option for next season. The Nets get their rights and the player gets some security. It's more attractive for both the team and player.
Bottom line, it's a development play, as are a number of the Nets moves lately ... even Avery Johnson's firing. Johnson's failure to develop MarShon Brooks and Mirza Teletovic --indeed his reported resistance to it-- was a big reason he was let go. It's also what's been driving ownership and management's desire to see Brooks and Teletovic get more minutes now ... and why they've been so frustrated.
No doubt, Nets ownership and management are in a "win-now" mode, but that doesn't mean they're not interested in development. They have to be. The new CBA demands it. A team that's paying paying its front line players eight figures needs to fill out its bench, challenge its starters. The Nets HAVE to find the diamond-in-the-rough, the "fallen angel," the overlooked Euro or D-Leaguer, using the limited tools they have at their disposal: the mini-MLE, vets minimum deals, rookie deals, trade exceptions. It's what the Spurs have done, what the Heat have done, what the Rockets are doing.
Indeed, the Nets have made a number of moves the past two years to stretch their resources, mostly for 20-something players. For the most part, it's still too early to tell if how many will work out.
--Trading second round picks to take players who have fallen in the draft for whatever reason: MarShon Brooks for a second rounder in 2014; Bojan Bogdanovic for a second rounder in 2013 and $1.25 million.
--Paying $2.75 million for the purchase of second round draft picks to take Taylor and Shengelia, who they then signed to guaranteed two-year deals worth $1.2 million each. No second round pick got a better deal. They also took Ilkan Karaman, knowing he'd have time to develop in Turkey.
--Signing Teletovic to a three-year mini-MLE deal valued at $9.8 million.
--Paying nearly a million dollars to help Shengelia ($300,000) and Teletovic ($550,000) buy out their European contracts
--Signing two amnestied players, Andray Blatche and Josh Childress to vets minimum deals. Although Childress asked to be waived, Blatche has more than worked out. He may be their best dollar-for-dollar investment. And he is only 26.
They've quietly used the same strategy in Springfield where they pay $300,000 annually on basketball operations. They've gathered good young players who could fill the end of the Nets bench, then "scouted" them on a daily basis while they learn the Nets system.
Milton Lee, the Nets director of minor league operations, drafted Willie Reed in the fifth round of the D-League Draft despite some baggage left over from his time at St. Louis University. More recently, he traded a D-League All-Star in James Mays for a younger player with NBA experience, Kris Joseph. Both have been gems and have to be among the candidates to get a call in April. There's also two former Nets, Dennis Horner and Ben Uzoh, as well as training camp invite Carleton Scott, on the roster.
Should they have sent Taylor and Shengelia down to Springfield earlier and more often? Joseph, for example, was up and down five times while he was with the Celtics earlier this year. There's a general agreement now that they should have. It was something, we're told, that Johnson resisted, particularly with Taylor.
Not all the deals have worked out (Shawne Williams last year comes to mind) and most of this year's projects, truth be told, are still a long way from a yay or nay. But as more than one Nets insider has said talking about the strategy: "We've invested in them. Now, we have to know if they can play."