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Where Do We Go From Here? Revised, Updated and Post-'Melo

Dmitry Beliakov
Dmitry Beliakov

As the debate over Mikhail Prokhorov's move continues to resound throughout the basketball world, there is one truth that remains unchallenged: in spite of the Melo-Drama, in spite of the losing record and the club's vagabond journey across two states and three arenas, the Nets have a load of assets that can either be used in development, in trades...or both.

The Nets wanted extra first rounders for Terrence Williams and wound up with two along with Sasha Vujacic, who's putting up Sixth Man of the Year numbers since arriving in New Jersey.  No team has as many draft picks, no team has as many first rounders; few if any teams have as much in expiring contracts (at least until Troy Murphy is traded); and no matter what you think about Prokhorov's Move on 'Melo, no team has as much cash available as the Nets.

We summarize.

Cap Space:

The Nets are $45,067 over the cap after trading Terrence Williams and Joe Smith for Sasha Vujacic.  The team now has 14 players on the roster, one less than the maximum. With Ben Uzoh getting his guarantee on January 5, all the Nets contracts are guaranteed for the year.  Before the season, they Nets gave out a reported $635,000 in partial guarantees, $450,000 for  Stephen Graham, $35,000 for Uzoh, $100,000 for Sean May and $50,000 for Zoubek, the last two long  departed.  All still count on the cap.  The Nets have renounced Jarvis Hayes' rights.

Being over the cap (and $12 million under the luxury tax) has a not well understood advantage: Teams over the cap can acquire up to 25 percent (with a $100,000 fudge factor) more than the salaries they send away in a trade.

Expiring contracts:

The Nets have five players on expiring contracts totaling $23 million. The expiring contracts, in descending order of size, are: Troy Murphy, $11.97 million;  Vujacic, $5.475 million; Kris Humphries, $3.2 million; Quinton Ross, $1.14 million; Graham, $992,680 and Uzoh, $473,604. Graham also has a $100,000 guarantee on a second year.

The remainder of the team is either on rookie contracts--Brook Lopez ($2.41 million);  Derrick Favors ($4.13 million) ; Damion James ($1.16 million); or multi-year deals--Devin Harris ($8.98 million); Travis Outlaw, ($7 million); Anthony Morrow ($4 million); Jordan Farmar ($3.75 million) and Johan Petro ($3.25 million) . 

The Nets hope to retain more than $20 million in cap space next summer unless they make a deal for a star  between now and the trade deadline.  However, no one knows what the new collective bargaining agreement will look like...and there could be a lockout.

Draft picks:

The Nets have 12 picks over the next three years, six of their own and six acquired in trades, including the two in the Williams/Vujacic deal. That’s more than any NBA team. Three of the picks have protection, the Lakers' 2011 first rounder, protected 1-18; the Rockets' 2012 lottery-protected pick; and the Warriors’ 2012 first rounder protection which moderately light protection: 1 through 7 in 2012 and 2013 and 1 through 6 in 2014.

Here are the details:

In 2011, the Nets have their own first round pick; the Lakers' first round pick (protected 1-18), acquired in the Terrence Williams trade; plus their own second round pick.

In 2012, the Nets have their own first round pick; the Rockets' first round pick (lottery-protected), acquired in the Terrence Williams trade; the Warriors’ first round pick (protected 1 through 7), acquired in the Marcus Williams trade; plus their own second round pick and the Heat's second round pick (unprotected), acquired along with Chris Quinn.  Considering the improvements made by the Heat in the off-season, that pick is likely to be among the least valuable.

In 2013 (and beyond), the Nets have their own first round pick and their own second round pick.

Regarding protections:

--The Warriors' 2012 first rounder. Should the Warriors get a top 7 pick in 2012, the Nets would have to wait until 2013 to exercise the pick, again with protections 1 through 7. Should the Warriors again get a top seven pick in 2013, the Nets would have to wait again, until 2014, when the pick would be protected 1 through 6. In the highly unlikely event that the Warriors pick is still in the top six in 2014, the Nets would be given two unprotected second round picks in 2014 and 2016. (Why highly unlikely? In the past 15 years, since the draft was last reconfigured, only one team has had three consecutive years picking in the top seven: the Nets in 1999-2001, when their picks were #6, #1, and #7. It is entirely possible and ironic that the Nets could wind up with a better pick from the Marcus Williams deal than either they received from the Kidd trade.)

--The Lakers' 2011 first rounder. The pick is protected 1-18 through 2016. Currently, the Lakers would pick at #27 so barring a monumental collapse--or a trade, the Nets are likely to use it this June.  In the unlikely event the Lakers pick between #1 and #18, the pick rolls over each year through 2016. In 2017, it would be unprotected.

--The Rockets' 2012 first rounder. The pick is lottery protected (1-14) through 2016. If the Rockets pick falls in the lottery in 2012, the pick rolls over each year, again through 2016.  In 2017, it would become a second round pick.

The Nets have not traded one of their own first round picks since 1999, preferring to keep their picks and trade those acquired from other teams. (The last two first round picks the Nets traded turned into Matt Harpring and Wally Szczerbiak.)

Trade exception:

Trade exceptions only come into play when a team goes over the cap. It appears they have a TE worth $2.91 million from the Yi Jianlian for Ross trade.  It expires June 30.  There are restrictions on their use...they can't be traded with a player for example...but they can be valuable. If the Nets wanted to trade a draft pick to, or swap picks with, a team in return for a player, they can use a trade exception to do so.  Trade exceptions can also be used to grab a player off the waiver wire. Why appears? Because the Nets acquired the TE just before free agency last July and it's uncertain if they renounced it.

Mid-level and Low-level exceptions:

With the Nets go over the cap, they would normally be able to use their mid-level (MLE) and low-level (LLE) exceptions, worth $5.85 million and $2.0 million, to sign and trade players in a more complicated deal. However, the team renounced both last summer to get room for free agent signings. So they can't sign a player to an excepton and then deal him, as they did with Keith Van Horn in the Jason Kidd trade.

Cash considerations:

No owner in sports has as much money as Mikhail Prokhorov. Depending on who you believe, he is worth $13.4 billion (Forbes); $17.85 billion (Finans, the Russian finance magazine) or $25 billion (Marc Stein, based on what he heard from NBA types who saw his financial disclosure).  No team can receive more than $3 million in any transaction, whether buying a draft pick or sweetening a deal. However, teams can give out up to $3 million in each of multiple transactions.