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ESPN looks at Nets future, finds little to like

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN Front Office is a new feature for ESPN Insider members.  A group of those in the worldwide leader's employ take a look at a team and come up with ways to get it back to health.  It includes writers like draft guru Chad Ford, writer Amin Elhassan, a former assistant director of basketball operations for the Suns and two out-of-work practitioners George Karl, late of the Nuggets, and Tom Penn, former assistant GM of the Trail Blazers.

The group notes that the Nets future is deeply affected by two issues: their lack of draft picks and their owner's willingness to sell.

One way out is getting value for Brook Lopez, whose latest run of good games has presumably increased his value.

Ford thinks there's hope there. "I think it gives more minutes to Plumlee, and I think he's the guy of the future. As for Lopez, I agree with Tom -- he's 26 and has a 19 PER this season [it's been 21.9 in January]. He's gotten better. But Coach hit on all his flaws. If nothing else you can get a young player back. maybe not an elite player."

Everyone agrees that Lopez and Mason Plumlee can't work together, that neither is a power forward. Penn and Karl even entertain the notion of moving Plumlee to dump either Deron Williams or Joe Johnson's contract. That's unlikely.

Penn thinks the Nets simply can't "tank for the draft" because of the lack of picks, and thinks that more likely strategy is "the 'create a blank slate' scenario, where you get closer to a blank slate that will attract new owners, because new owners typically are dreamers in their own right "  As Elhassan notes of Williams, "I think he can be a productive player, but again it goes back to the same thing: Who's willing to take on that contract for that many years for simply a productive player? It's an incredible hamstring; it's the reason we're trying to get rid of him, right? "

So what's the way out?  Ford and Karl think you start by finding undervalued pieces in undervalued places.

"I think in a lot of ways this forces us to be more strategic and, like Coach Karl said, forces the scouting staff to have to go find those guys in Europe or in the D-League. Find the next Hassan Whiteside, and start to be very strategic in how we build this team."

There's a LOT more to chew on but most of it will leave you with indigestion.

Meanwhile, Bill Simmons ranks "Billy King’s Top Five Worst Nets Trades Ever." as part of his 2015 NBA Trade Value project.