Every Sunday, we’ll be updating the Nets' off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off missing the second round of the playoffs, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who have slipped interesting stuff into larger stories, blogs and tweets...plus our own reporting.
The off-season is already eventful. When you hire Jason Kidd out of the blue, that's a good start on the eventful scale! It's now up to Billy King, first with the Draft, then free agency, to keep things going. Within the next three weeks, the Nets will draft one, two or more players, assemble a summer league team (starting late Thursday night), learn about C.J. Watson and Bojan Bogdanovic, maybe make a trade or two, sign a player or two, and see how their young players perform under Coach Kidd in Orlando.
Whatever hopes the Nets have for 50-win seasons in Brooklyn could very well depend on what happens between now and July 15 or so. Good Luck to all.
Reading the Kidd tea leaves
In our interview last Wednesday, Jason Kidd didn't break much new ground ... at least directly, but afterwards, a few things he said made us think we missed some subtleties. So here's our special tea leaves reading.
Gerald Wallace - As he has every time he's asked --and even when he's not-- Kidd has said a lot of good things about Crash. The most enthusiastic he got during our interview was when we asked about Wallace still having something left after an awful season in which he admitted to losing confidence and now "having a clue" about his role. Here's what Kidd told us.
"Oh yeah! I think there's a lot more that Gerald brings to the table. As an ex-player, seeing him on the floor with the things that he causes on the defense, what he gives the opponents. So I think he has has a lot more to give and my job is to get him to that level that I think he should be."
Kidd hasn't criticized his predecessors but in this and in other interviews, he has hinted Wallace was misused. With Kidd also talking uptempo, Wallace becomes a big part of the plan, with his athleticism. Kidd has noted more than once that he sees Wallace as a "point forward" who can initiate an offense.
Team needs - Kidd embraced what Billy King has said about off-season needs: more shooting, a back-up point guard if, as expected, C.J. Watson leaves and in Kidd's words, "maybe a little bit more athletic." Only "a little big more?" "Maybe?" It would seem that Kidd thinks the team is athletic enough now to carry out his plan for an uptemp offense and an aggressive defense.
His roster - The comments about team needs are in line with another subtle message he's been delivering, that the Nets core has enough components to be a lot more competitive. On more than one occasion in our interview and in others, Kidd has noted, "You know, this is a team that won 49 ball games." He sounds very positive about the roster he's been dealt. As he noted, "We want to get better than we were last year so yeah, the goal is to win a championship."
Tony Mitchell - The Knicks may be enamored of Tony Mitchell, but Kidd wasn't. When asked if he had been impressed by anyone so far in the draft workouts, Kidd was quite direct. "The ones that I've seen, no, not yet, no." He had seen Mitchell the day before. Unimpressed is the reaction a lot of the front office has had about Mitchell.
Player development - There was a promise of some additional playing time for the younger guys on the roster. No specifics other than "You're going to see the young guys play a little bit more than they have in the past." He also added the reason why: "You also have to see who can handle what." He was echoing a mantra ownership (in particular) and management kept bringing up last season, that no one knew what players like Mirza Teletovic or MarShon Brooks or Toko Shengelia could do in the clutch because they weren't being tested. For the team's long-term goals, those tests were needed went management and ownership's thinking.
Leadership - Kidd wants more leadership and not just from Deron Williams. Talking about player development, he said, "Joe (Johnson) and Deron (Williams) and Gerald (Wallace), these guys they all understand what it takes to win and what it means to work on your game. I'm going to have a head start in the sense that those guys can talk about what they do, how they can help these young players to develop to become better ball players." Expect Kidd to demand leadership, not encourage it.
The mini-MLE and Bojan Bogdanovic
The Nets will be making a lot of decisions over the next two weeks, on the draft, on trades on free agency. One that hasn't gotten a lot of attention is how they will use the mini-MLE. There has been speculation that Bojan Bogdanovic will get the full $3.18 million, but is that set in stone?
Certainly a lot depends on the buyout. According to what Bogdanovic told us back in February, the buyout is $2 million (1.5 million euros). Recently, there were reports out of Spain that Fenerbahce, Bogdanovic's club, was willing to reduce it, all the way down to $570,000, the maximum an NBA team can contribute to an overseas buyout. His agent quickly denied it, saying the buyout stands. What the agent did not say was that the buyout amount was non-negotiable. And Tim Bontemps has quoted sources that the buyout is "reasonable."
Fener is in a rebuild mode after a disappointing season where they didn't even made the Euroleague playoffs. If they don't relent on the buyout, it would be difficult for Bogdanovic to come over without the full $3.18 million. But let;s say the buyout is reduced. The Nets could then break the mini-MLE into pieces. A vets minimum deal might prove too small to entice a veteran like Mike Dunleavy Jr. to join the club, but supposed he or another target was offered $2 million or so and a three-year deal guaranteeing nearly $7 million? Would that help? Dunleavy made $3.75 million last season. That would mean Bogdanovic would get around $1.2 million, or what the 20th pick in this year's draft will make. Reasonable? We have no idea. That's something Bogdanovic and his agent, Marc Cornstein, have to figure out.
It doesn't appear the Nets have a done deal yet with Fener. Billy King in his Q. and A. with Ian Eagle Tuesday noted that Bojan Bogdanovic "wants to come over so I got to see where he fits in." The deal has to be done soon, like now. The Nets need to know what they have in their free agent toolkit. Although teams can't officially talk to free agents until July 1, there's always some maneuvering around the edges in the days before the Draft.
Do we think Bogdanovic is a Net next season? Yes, but the devil will be in the details.
We don't know much about what the Nets want to do with Kris Humphries. (No doubt, they'd like to trade him into somebody's cap space and get a big trade exception in return, but that's unlikely. So, here's some possibilities out there, either in return for him or the proverbial Hump, Brooks and a pick (HBAP).
--Anderson Varejao is 30 years old and coming off a knee injury and a pulmonary embolism, the latest in a series of recurring and nagging injuries. He has missed 149 games over the past three years, playing 25 games each in the past two. His averages are gaudy --14.1 points, 14.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists last year -- but if he never plays, what good is he to a young club? Varejao is owed $9,036,364 next year and has a $4 million buyout in 2014-15. He has a five percent trade kicker that the Nets would have to pay. It would amount to about $1 million.
--Andrea Bargnani is 27 years old and coming off an elbow injury., the latest in a series of ... blah, blah, blah. You get the picture. He's missed 100 games over the past three seasons, having played 31 and 35 games in the last two. He is owed $10.75 million next year and has an early termination option of $11.5 million in 2014-15. In his last two healthy years, at ages 24 and 25, the Italian seven-footer averaged 17.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in 146 games. He shot better than 36 percent from deep, making 198 three's. But even on his best day, his defense is virtually non-existent. This would be a salary dump for Toronto. No need to add anything other than Hump's expiring deal. The Raptors would save $10 million. Hell, maybe even ask for something else. Masai Ujiri owes us! Before he joined the Nets, Hump had his best season with the Raptors (and fewer people have heard of Kim Kardashian in the Great White North). Bargnani also has a five percent trade kicker, also about $1 million.
--Ben Gordon is 30 years old and is healthy (at least physically.) He and Mike Dunlop did not get along and he would love to leave Charlotte behind. He has a player option for next season, which he says he will not exercise, meaning he is an expiring contract at $13.2 million. His defense makes MarShon Brooks look like John Havilcek but he can shoot. He has a career 55 percent shooting percentage from the corners. Overall, he has a career average of 40.4 percent. Last year, despite his troubles with Dunlop, he averaged 10.1 points per game and had games of 34, 29, 27 twice (once against the Nets), and 26. In the 29-point explosion against Portland, he had eight three-pointers You want to run an uptempo game? Think Lucious Harris, only much stronger. The Bobcats offered him straight up for Hump before the deadline, but the Nets declined. He has a great reputation for conditioning.
--Andrei Kirilenko is 32 years old and missed his typical 18 games last season, but who on the Timberwolves didn't? This would be a dream scenario for the guys at 13/1 Tverskoy Blvd., Moscow. The greatest Russian player of his generation and a national hero, Kirilenko is friendly with Mikhail Prokhorov. This one would not be easy. AK-47 would have to opt in to his player option, at $10,219,420 next year, while demanding a trade to Brooklyn. The Nets made a half-hearted attempt to sign Kirilenko last July but failed. How would he play with Gerald Wallace? If you're running an uptempo game, it could work ... and it would help build a defense. How much does Kirilenko have left? He played well enough on a bad team last year, averaging 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Chances of this one happening? Slim. He has said he will let the T-Wolves know of his plans after the Draft. But hey, Hump is from Minnesota!! Gotta believe, or whatever the Russian version of that is.
--David Lee is 30 years old and is coming off a torn right hip flexor, for which he underwent surgery last month. It was his second off-season surgery in two years. He played 79 regular season games before going down and gamely tried to contribute in the playoffs. He had a great year offensively, averaging 18.5 and 11.2 points a game. Problem for Golden State is that he is owed $44.3 million over the next three years -- $13,878,000, $15,012,000 and $15,493,680. That's a big impediment if you want to sign your young stars, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the short term and Harrison Barnes longer term. This might have been a more likely scenario if Festus Ezeli hadn't undergone knee surgery, taking him out of the mix for much of next season. Still, it might be worth a shot IF you're willing to pay a luxury tax bill that reaches astronomical levels.
Of course, it's likely that none of these are the final trade for HBAP. Something will probably come out of the blue, but if the Nets don't get someone like the players above: veterans and with the exception of Gordon, all solid if flawed bigs, let's hope they get someone young and promising and/or a big trade exception.
The draft workouts, which began June 11, will suddenly turn serious on Monday. That's when Tim Hardaway Jr. and Erick Green show up. On Wednesday, it will be Gorgui Dieng and Allen Crabbe. Expect other top prospects Wednesday and maybe even Thursday morning. Kidd wants to take a look at some of the players whose workouts he missed the week before he was hired. Does Reggie Bullock or Tony Snell come back? Archie Goodwin? It might not be easy to get them in for a workout on such short notice, but we have to think agents would do what they can. The Nets are intriguing.
Up until now, the workouts have been filled with players who at best will be candidates for the summer league and D-League, at best. Why even bring these guys in? There are a lot of reasons, the first being that schedules being what they are, it's difficult to arrange workouts with all stars. Also, agents may not want their guy going up against someone who could drop them in the draft. Also, there's a value in looking at players who could fill out the summer league roster or be a top pick in the D-League Draft ... the Armor have the third pick. Sometimes a player gets included as a favor to an agent, a chit that can be called in a later time. Big agents can actually initiate trade talks. It's always good to have agents on your side.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
It is now crunch time. Who do we project as the Nets pick on Thursday night? We think it will come down to a wing because in a draft this deep with decent bigs, and GM's propensity to take bigger risks on bigger players, most of the top center and power forwards will be gone. Maybe, Mason Plumlee falls. Maybe, Gorgui Deng falls. Jeff Withey could be available, but he also could be available in the second round, when money talks. Also, note that while fans are convinced there's a need for a back-up center, King and Kidd haven't included that as a priority in their off-season menu. It's shooting, athleticism, back-up PG.
So all that points to a swingman: Sergei Karasev, Tony Hardaway Jr., Allen Crabbe, Reggie Bullock Tony Snell, maybe even C.J. Leslie. We're going with Bullock, who is our final Draft Sleeper. We'd be happy with anyone in that mix since we think the sleeper of the draft is likely to be a swingman, even more likely a shooting guard. Some of the great draft sleepers have been. Manu Ginobili, Kyle Korver, Michael Redd, Monta Ellis, Gilbert Arenas. ALL second rounders, everyone but Korver a career 10,000-point scorer.
Here's what Draft Express wrote about Bullock...
Bullocks' main virtue as a NBA prospect is his ability to stretch the floor with the threat of his spot-up jump shot. The second best 3-point shooting small forward in our top-100, Bullock found his range as a junior, making 44% of his catch and shoot jump shots according to Synergy Sports Technology and 43% of his 3's overall. Considering set jump shots accounted for more than half of his shot attempts in the half court as a junior, Bullock's 5% improvement from beyond the arc relative to his sophomore season was a significant development.
He is also a solid defender and comes from a big program. UNC produces a lot of ready-made NBA players, particularly role players. He may not make it till #22, but as often is the case with this draft, there are conflicting analyses. DraftExpress and Chad Ford have Bullock going to the Cavaliers at #19; NBADraft.net also has him joining the Cavs, but at #33. He has weaknesses, like ball-handling and he is NOT a great athlete. If he's not there, we're going with Tony Snell of New Mexico. Others beyond the group mentioned above who might sneak in: Jeff Withey and Erick Green.
Will the Nets buy a pick? We expect they will, mainly because they did so in 2011 (Bojan Bogdanovic) and 2012 (Tyshawn Taylor and Toko Shengelia) and came close in 2010 (That's a story for our Draft Night Wonders and Blunders feature out Thursday morning.) More importantly, the GM said the Nets will look at "acquiring other picks." Is it possible the Nets could buy a first rounder or move up? Sure. They moved up two places in 2011 to take MarShon Brooks.
The traded picks
One other thing to look for on Thursday night: who gets taken with picks the Nets traded away to get Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. The Hawks will pick at #18, using the Rockets pick the Nets received for Terrence Williams and dealt to Atlanta in the JJ deal. The Jazz will pick just before the Nets at #21 using a Warrior pick the Nets received back in 2008 for Marcus Williams and dealt to the Jazz in the D-Will trade. It's finally come due.
We will be at the draft, hoping to update as quickly as David Stern or Adam SIlver (more likely Adrian Wojnarowski) calls out names or announces a trade. Barclays Center is expecting a big crowd, maybe as much as 4,500. The Nets have also moved their war room from East Rutherford to their arena, meaning Billy King can simply walk to the ESPN set ... and ignore Chad Ford face to face.