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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #5

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 playoffs, relying on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who have slipped interesting stuff into larger stories and blogs.

Up, Down or Neither?

Some time early Tuesday evening, as fans of the Pistons and either the Celtics or Cavs are thinking of only one thing—the Eastern Conference Finals—fans of 14 other teams will be glued to their screens to see who gets those three top picks in the 2008 NBA Draft.

We’ve already discussed how it all works The Nets chances of getting one of those top three are indeed limited—1.1% to get the overall #1; 2.4% to get either #1 or #2; and 3.97% to get one of the top three. There's a small chance that the Nets could move down to #11, 12 or 13, if one or more of the teams behind them move up to the top three.

On Sunday, we heard that Kiki Vandeweghe would represent the Nets in Secaucus. Now we're hearing it's the luckiest man in the world, Beyonce' Knowles' husband!

The Nets, of course, have had the best luck of any NBA team since the new lottery rules were initiated in 1994, going from #7 to #1 in 2000 and picking Kenyon Martin. That night, owners Finn Wentworth and Lewis Katz were in the conference room and on stage. Hard to forget Katz’s boyish enthusiasm.

No matter how the ping pong balls fall, the lottery means the true beginning of the off-season. At that point, teams will begin serious jockeying. Every team will know its assets and by then, its on-court strengths and weaknesses. GM’s will try to move up in the draft, offering picks and/or players.

Last year, there were no trades at all in May (teams can start dealing once they stop playing) and the first trade didn’t take place til June 14, two weeks before the draft. In that fairly insignificant deal, Minnesota acquired Juwan Howard from Houston for Mike James and Justin Reed. Between then and the end of the month, 26 players changed hands, most of them draft picks and most on Draft Night. The biggest deal on Draft Night was Boston acquiring Ray Allen and draft rights to Glen Davis from Seattle in exchange for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and draft rights to Jeff Green. That deal was followed by the Kevin Garnett blockbuster a week later.

Should the Nets get one of those top three picks to go along with Dallas’ pick at #21 (which won’t change) and their own second round pick at #40 (which also won’t change), they’ll be even more likely to make a deal involving a pick.

‘Melo or Marcus?

We have to agree with Peter Vecsey’s analysis of the ‘Melo trade rumors. Why would the Nuggets give up on Carmelo Anthony who turns 24 this week? Denver obviously has problems, with an inflated payroll (thanks to Kiki Vandeweghe’s giving more than $150 million in guaranteed contracts to Kenyon Martin and Nene), the need to re-sign key players like J.R. Smith to contracts that don’t make the situation worse, and questions about how to handle Allen Iverson’s player option, up next month. Iverson has hinted he would be willing to sign the kind of contract Vince Carter signed with the Nets: take a multi-million dollar cut in the first year of a new deal in return for long-term security.

The most likely scenario in Denver is a Marcus Camby trade. Camby, although 34 years old, is still one of the top defensive centers in the league. His contract (also a product of the Kiki era) is ideally suited for a trade. Unlike almost all other NBA contracts, Camby’s salary drops over the next two years. After making $11,250,000 this season, he will make the same next, then $10,900,000 in 2009-10. Contracts that expire in 2010 will also be at a premium. The question is will Camby still be playing at a premium two years from now. Camby did have career highs this season in games played, minutes, rebounds, blocks and assists. Would the Nets be interested? They have been in the past.

Salary cap, Luxury tax threshold rise could help the Nets net free agents

The official numbers for the salary cap, luxury tax theshold and MLE won't be out for another few weeks. Nor with the amount of the check the Nets will receive for staying below the tax. The National Basketball Players' Association, the players' union has done some projections, reports Draft Express. Next year’s salary cap is currently being estimated at $58.5 million, up from $55.63 million. The luxury tax threshold is projected to rise to $71 million, up from $67.865 million this year, and the Mid-Level Exception is expected to rise to $5.55 million, up from $5.36 million.

The Nets are currently at $50.5 million for 11 players, but that number includes $3.75 million for Keith Van Horn (who reportedly has a small buyout) and $2.62 million for Nenad Krstic. The Nets also have two free agents they want to keep--at a reasonable price--in Boki Nachbar and DeSagana Diop, so staying below the cap is unlikely. But the increase in the luxury tax threshold should give the Nets more flexibility, as we've noted before.

The check for not going past the luxury tax threshold should be between $2.5 million and $3 million. A lot of that will be money paid into the NBA kitty by the two teams with the most bloated salaries: the Knicks and the Mavericks who had to take on added salary in the Jason Kidd another, small benefit, from the February 19 deal.

Where are those European sponsors?

Brett Yormark made a big deal about flying off to Europe to bring home sponsorships for the Nets’ new arena in Brooklyn. After all, the Nets got Barclays Bank to sign up for $400 million ($20 million a year over 20 years) last year and as Yormark said, Europeans "love" the architecture of Frank Gehry.

Yet, when the Nets announced their sponsorship deals, none were European. None in fact were new to the team. All have some history with the Nets. Maybe the team will wait til the Nets make their European tour in October to unveil them.

Speaking of Europe, the Nets will be represented at the pre-draft camp for European players, the Reebok Eurocamp 2008, which runs June 6-10 in Treviso, Italy, not far from Venice. Most of the top young European players will be on hand, depending on their teams’ playoff schedules.

NetsDaily Sleeper Draft Pick of the Week

Courtney Lee of Western Kentucky. A 6’5" swingman with a lot of skills and a mature personality, Lee is someone the Nets have scouted, sending chief scout Gregg Polinsky to Mobile, Alabama, in March to watch him play in the Sunbelt Tournament. Some draftniks are starting to take notice as well. Draft Express called him "the most natural player of the bunch" at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, run by David Thorpe, who is both a trainer and ESPN columnist.

Another player at the academy is likely to get a Nets workout as well. Lester Hudson of U. of Tennessee-Martin, a 6'3" shooting guard and a likely second round pick, says the Nets have approached him about coming to East Rutherford to show off his basketball wares.

Meanwhile, as we noted this week, draftniks in increasing numbers like LSU's 6'11" (and growing?) forward Anthony Randolph as the Nets' pick (if they're still at #10 by 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night, that is). Video of Randolph hasn't been that easy to find, but we did locate a link to a page featuring high school workout two years ago. He is more of a small forward, maybe even a point forward, than he is a post threat.

And we played the ESPN Draft Lottery 25 more times this weekend (after a trip to Atlantic City, so we were feeling lucky). This time, it worked. Once, the Nets got the overall #1 and took Michael Beasley of Kansas State; once, they got the #2 and took Derrick Rose (the Clippers picked at #1). The remaining 23 times, the Nets took Randolph at #10 21 times and at #11 twice.

Final Note

Lawrence Frank was highly visible last Thursday, having lunch with season ticket holders at the Nets training facility in East Rutherford, then heading over to New York to serve as one of the headliners at the opening of their Barclays Center showroom. A quick look at the Getty Images file on the opening didn’t reveal any Nets players, which struck us as a bit odd. Carter is still on crutches, Nenad Krstic and Boki Nachbar are at home in Europe, but that still leaves more than 10 others. What’s Keith Van Horn doing?