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Whenever The NBA Lockout Is Over, Nets Should Have Big Advantages

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Whenever the lockout ends, the Nets should have some built-in and not insignificant advantages, as we reported a few months back. They're a small market team about to move into a new arena in a big market; the third smallest payroll going into next season (only two teams, both small market—the Pacers and Kings, have smaller payrolls with Nuggets close by); two first round picks in a great draft (one of three teams with two picks—and in each case, one is protected); some reasonably priced and thus attractive assets; a mega-rich owner and one of the league's ten best players. No other team has that combination.

Billy King and Bobby Marks will have to very aggressive when the time comes...Mikhail Prokhorov will demand it...but the foundation is built, both literally and figuratively. And so in light of recent events involving a certain center in Orlando (at least for now), we've updated and revised our analysis

Billion Dollar Arena

The year-long countdown to completion of the Barclays Center is underway. You can watch it on the Barclays Center website if you want. The arena is expected to be completed and ready for occupancy on August 23. The Nets plan a week long grand opening of concerts and family shows starting September 28, 2012, with the first preseason game likely around October 17 and the first regular season game at the end of the month. The Barclays Center is no longer be years away but rather months away. No more lawsuits to slow it. No more jokes about it being a train station.

When that happens, the Nets will officially go from a small market team in a big market to a big market team, period. The Barclays Center will be the world's most expensive arena with amenities that have enthralled everyone who's visited, from Deron Williams ("a baller's paradise") to Stephen A. Smith ("that arena looks fantastic"). Moreover, beyond basketball, It will be an iconic piece of architecture, a New York landmark.

On his tour with beat writers this summer, Billy King said he saw the Barclays Center as a big positive for the franchise and Brooklyn, comparing it to Chicago's United Center and Staples Center in L.A. "We have the best owner, and we’re going to have the best building. We’ll have all the tools. If a guy doesn’t want to play here, he doesn’t want to play in the city".

Prokhorov has said he expects the Nets to go from a team losing $30 million to one making $30 million almost immediately. It's that big of a deal.

Small Payroll

No one knows what the salary cap will look like until after a new CBA gets done, but one thing is certain: it's better to have less salary on your books than more. In that regard, the Nets rank third, behind the Kings and Pacers, in lowest payroll commitment. Two other teams, the Nuggets and Wizards are there as well.

Based on an analysis of the three most popular (and most accurate) salary lists, on ShamSports, Storytellers and Hoopshype, The Nets have about $39.8 million committed next season, which is behind only the Kings, at $28.1 million, and the Pacers, at $36.1 million. (The Wizards, Nuggets and Nets are all around $40 million and the Grizzlies were in the same neighborhood until they signed Zach Randolph)

Four of the teams clustered around $40 million--the Pacers, Kings, Nets and Nuggets--have 10 players under contract, with options or qualifying offers. The Wizards have 12. Of course, if there's an amnesty, the numbers will change and the Wizards, who would no doubt dump Rashard Lewis

Draft Picks

So far, the Nets are one of only three teams that have two first round picks in the 2012 draft. The Bulls and Celtics also have two. In each case, the teams have their own pick and a protected pick from another team. The Nets have their own pick and the Rockets pick (protected 1-14) from the Terrence Williams trade; the Bulls have their own pick and the Bobcats' pick (protected 1-14) from the Tyrus Thomas trade; while the Celtics have their own pick and either the Thunder's or the Clippers' pick (protected 1-10) from the Kendrick Perkins trade. The Jazz acquired the Warriors pick (protected 1-7) from the Nets, but sent their own pick to the Timberwolves in the Al Jefferson deal.

The Nets also have all their own first round picks going forward. Over the next three drafts, only half the NBA's 30 teams can say that. They have traded their second round picks in each of the next three drafts to acquire young players. They sent their 2012 pick to the Warriors for Brandan Wright, who's still only 23; their 2013 pick to the Timberwolves for Bojan Bogdanovic; and their 2014 pick to the Celtics for MarShon Brooks. They do have the Heat second round pick in 2012, which could be the last pick in the draft. It was acquired along with Chris Quinn during the 2009-10 season.

In comparison, the Knicks have no pick in 2012 unless they completely collapse next season and wind up with a top five pick. They sent it to the Rockets in one of their cap-clearing moves. They don't have a first round pick in 2014. It was sent to the Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony and agreed to swap picks with the Nuggets in 2016 as well.

Tradeable Assets

Only Deron Williams and Travis Outlaw have contracts that pay more than $4 million next season. The other players on the roster have smaller and thus more easy-to-trade contracts...and no one currently on the Nets roster next season is older than 27. Anthony Morrow's contract pays him $4 million in each of the next two years. He is 26. Jordan Farmar, 24, has a contract that pays him $4 million in 2011-12, with a player option for $4.25 million the next year. Johan Petro 's contract pays out $3.25 million and $3.5 million over the next two seasons. He's 25. MarShon Brooks, 22, and Jordan Williams, 20, will be on rookie contracts, whose details won't be known until the new CBA is worked out. However, Brooks is unlikely to make $1 million and Williams half that. The Nets also control the draft rights to Bogdanovic, 22. As a second round pick, his salary can be negotiated without the restrictions of a rookie salary scale.

Mega-Rich Owner

Mikhail Prokhorov is the wealthiest owner in all of sports (unless you want to count the Indian owner of a Mumbai cricket team...we don't). His net worth has been estimated at $18 billion by Forbes, $22 billion by Russia's Finans Magazine and more than $25 billion by ESPN's Marc Stein who spoke with NBA types who reviewed his ownership application.

He has already invested around a half billion dollars in the Nets and Barclays Center, acquiring 80% of the team, 45% of the arena (with the distinct possibility of raising that percentage fo 80% in September 2013) and an option to purchase up to 20% of the overall Atlantic Yards. The investment has gone beyond the initial purchase price to include improving basketball operations by doubling the number of assistant coaches and scouts; hiring staff as diverse as a team chef, team psychiatrist and stats guru; upgrading team amenities from hotels and meals to the use of digital tools like the iPad (which reportedly impresses Deron Williams); establishing a hybrid affiliation with the Springfield Armor which will cost a minimum of $250,000 and probably more; spending $4 million to break the lease at the horrid IZOD Center and doling out nearly $8 million to facilitate trades, most recently $1.5 million to acquire the second round pick used to take Bogdanovic in the draft.

The latest indication that he's still spending money is the news that the team will likely build a new training facility to go with the new practice facility at Barclays. He has also promised to make the Nets the NBA's "first global brand" and make Deron Williams a global superstar, twice agreeing to forsake home court dates to play in London and taking the team on the NBA's first round-the-world tour in 2010.

Deron Williams

He may be in Turkey, but as this week's player rankings note once again, the 27-year-old is one of the top ten players in the NBA and his acquisition could mirror that of Jason Kidd in 2001, that is a franchise changer. Yes, he has a player's option at the end of this season (assuming the new CBA doesn't alter that) but a new, more stringent CBA could work in the Nets favor.

As Fred Kerber pointed out after his press conference back in February.

The Nets may find an enormous ally in a new collective bargaining agreement. After next season, when he will make $16.35 million, Williams can opt out of his final year, (2012-13) when he is due for $17.77 million. It can be Carmelo Anthony all over again...But a new CBA, with owners and the league seeking greater fiscal restraints and lesser contract lengths, could make $17 million irresistible.

Moreover, D-Will has done nothing, said nothing to make the front office types believe they aren't in his good graces as we have chronicled in our recurring feature, "Deron Williams In His Own Words". As Chris Broussard wrote this summer, his interest in the team in genuine...as long as they get him some players.

Deron spent five-and-a-half seasons in Utah in near anonymity, so being the face of the Nets' move to Brooklyn has excited him. He truly feels good about staying in New Jersey, although it's not a done deal yet. If the Nets can lure (Dwight) Howard there, however, it will be; there would be no reason whatsoever for D-Will to leave in that case.

Did someone say Dwight Howard? We'll stop there.