Okay, we're back. This feature started nearly a decade ago after the Nets didn't make the playoffs for the first time in a long time. We continued it in Brooklyn. It's a way to help people forget and look forward. It has run on the weekends since then, lottery or playoffs. And no post-season since 2012 has needed hope more than this one. So here goes. For the obvious reasons, we are focused on the NBA Draft and development issues.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
If there was a player who has the Nets imprint, it's Delon Wright. First of all, he's a 6'5" point guard which is what the Nets need, right now. He's 23 years old, a four-year player who's been a late bloomer at Utah. He plays excellent defense and is a good, if not great distributor/ Moreover, he ran a pro offense at Utah under Larry Krystkowiak who was one of Avery Johnson's assistants before he returned to the college game. As we know, Billy King loves four year seniors, good defenders and late bloomers. His picks at Philadelphia, New Jersey and Brooklyn will tell you that.
Here's the Draft Express video of his pluses and minuses....
Will he last till No. 29? Draft Express has him at No. 30 (going to the Warriors) right now. Chad Ford has him at No. 22 (going to the Bulls) as does NBADraft.net. Ford says of him, "If he was 19, he'd be a top-10 pick in this draft."
Players like R.J. Hunter and Tyus Jones are rising in mocks. So they're unlikely to be there at No. 29.
Other Draft Notes
The Nets currently have No. 29 and No. 41, and $2.3 million available to buy a pick or picks. In the King Era (or Error, as some of you prefer), the Nets have only once come away with the same picks as they had entering the draft.
In 2011, they had the No. 27 pick and the No. 36 pick. They went home with the No. 25, having traded up to get MarShon Brooks and bought the No. 31, at $1.25 million to take Bojan Bogdanovic. They kept No. 36 and took Jordan Williams.
In 2012, they had no first round picks, having traded away the No. 6 pick for Gerald Wallace and only had the No. 58 pick in the second. They bought the No. 41 pick (for $2 million) and took Tyshawn Taylor and the No. 54 pick (for $750,000) and took Toko Shengelia. With No. 58, they took Ilkan Karaman. No matter, within two years, all were gone.
In 2013, they had one pick, at No. 22 and took Mason Plumlee. They didn't buy any picks in the second round, but they had other things on their mind that night, like the Pierce - Garnett deal.
In 2014, they went in to the draft with no picks and wound up with three second rounders: Markel Brown at No. 44 (bought for $1.1 million), Xavier Thames ($500,000) and Cory Jefferson ($300,000).
So since 2011, the Nets have spent a little more than $5 million on six players and are always willing to spend more, if they like someone.
The market for draft picks has changed and is not, by any means, predictable. The Nets, for example, laid out $1.9 million for three picks at Nos. 44, 59 and 60, getting two players who made the roster. The Knicks paid $1.5 million for the No. 57 pick, Louis Labeyrie, a French big man who's not likely to play this year or next. It used to be that a team could buy a late first rounder for $3 million. That doesn't happen anymore. Picks are too valuable.
So will the Nets spend again? That $2.3 million could get them a mid-round pick in the second. King told a gathering of season ticket holders in March that because they have their own pick in the second round, they may not need to buy another, but admitted that there's always someone who will pique their interest late. Most likely, it will be a Euro-Stash, a European player who they will be happy to let stay overseas and watch his development.
Could they use that money and the pick to move up? Sure, as King said last week, they go into every draft looking to move up and this year is no exception. How high up could they go packaging the No. 29 and 41 picks and the $2.3 million? Maybe No. 24 or 23. It all depends on the Draft's dynamics on June 25.
Xavier Thames update
And what of Xavier Thames, who split his time between Sevilla in the Spanish League and Fort Wayne in the D-League. King has said he will play for the Nets two summer league entries in Orlando and Las Vegas in July and Thames has said he's been told he'll get a chance in training camp.
Thames time in Fort Wayne was productive. He was back-up to Jordan Crawford, the former NBA player, and did defensive duties. Last week, the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel took a look at who might be returning from this year's team that went to the D-League Finals before losing to the Santa Cruz Warriors. Here's their take...
Thames could end up being a major scorer for the Mad Ants next season if he comes back. His offensive moves are numerous and more playing time and ensuing confidence could elevate his game. He'd be wise to try another season in Fort Wayne.
That, of course, will be up to the Nets and Thames, who's now 24.
The Mad Ants are not what you want if you're looking at D-League possibilities. It is the ONLY one of the 18 D-League team that's independently owned and operated. The other 17 teams are either owned by NBA teams or have a so-called "hybrid" relationship where the NBA team handles basketball operations and local ownership the business side. That's the kind of deal the Nets had with the Springfield Armor's ownership for three years.
Armor ownership sold out to a group of Michigan businessman last summer, after first reportedly offering the Nets an opportunity to buy them out for $4 million. The Nets weren't interested and the team, with all its picks and D-League rights, went to Grand Rapids and became the Pistons' affiliate.
The Nets could have also bought an expansion team last summer and moved them to Brooklyn, possibly playing at LIU's new gym, but that would have cost them $6 million and the Nets had some concerns about whether a D-League team was worth that much money. The Knicks didn't dawdle and set up the Westchester Knicks, who were neither an artistic, management or basketball success, other than preparing Langston Galloway.
The latest we hear is that the NBA may not want to expand the D-League very much this summer. Toronto and Charlotte have already started the process of seeking an expansion club, which now may cost as much as $8 million. Would the NBA want a third new team? We're hearing they may not, which would suggest the Nets won't have a club this season again and would rely on Fort Wayne or some other arrangement.
If the Nets had a D-League team, they no doubt would have sent Jefferson and possibly Brown to play for it, as they did earlier in the season So, Jefferson could work on his three-point shooting and Brown try to improve his ball handling. They would have had their own personnel work with them directly. They would have installed the Nets system to expedite the development process and make it easier to bring up and send down younger players. Also under a new D-League rule, teams can draft a player in the second round, not sign him to an NBA contract and dispatch him, with his agreement, directly to their D-League affiliate. That would have helped big time with Thames, who the Nets arranged to send to Spain, then had to help extricate him after the team didn't play him ... and then went bankrupt.
As Rich Cho of the Hornets said, in a pithy explanation of the importance of the D-League...
"Having our own D-League team would provide us with the best opportunity to develop our young players, which is paramount in today's NBA. This move would allow us to dictate how the team is run, including using the same offensive and defensive sets, play calls and philosophies as the Hornets do. It would also provide for a seamless and easy transition when moving players between our team and the D-League affiliate."
Maybe our pessimism is misplaced. Hope so.
It's a new feature. We just throw things out there, just speculating.
The last three times the Nets used the mini-MLE, they chose to sign international players: Mirza Teletovic in 2012, Andrei Kirilenko in 2013 and Bojan Bogdanovic in 2014. Three different routes. Teletovic had never played in NBA, never been drafted. Kirilenko, one year off his Euroleague MVP, was an NBA free agent after opting out in Minnesota. Bogdanovic had been drafted in second round by Nets, meaning he could negotiate whatever he could with Brooklyn.
Would the Nets go with another international player again this summer? We're thinking about Mantas Kalnietis, the Lithuanian point guard who played well last summer in the Nets free agent camp. In fact, he was the only player in that camp who looked NBAish.
There was a flurry of interest back then when his agent said on Lithuanian TV that the Nets had invited him to summer league. The president of his Russian team said, fine, we paid too much for him, buy him out. The Nets made it known they had NOT offered him an invite and the agent had to admit that was true. Kalnietis tried out for Portland, then went off to prepare for the FIBA World Cup. In late August, in Lithuania's last "friendly" game, he fell and broke his collar bone. He was out for the World Cup and for most of the Russian League as well. Then in April, he had minor surgery on his left knee Two weeks ago, with him clearly not up to speed after all that time off, his Russian team, Lokomotiv waived him, weeks before his contract ran out. He's a free agent.
He will be back in action in FIBA Eurobasket in September, but before that, he'll have some NBA tryouts. Two teams have been identified, the Pacers and Rockets although the Knicks and Spurs have been mentioned as well. We don't know if there's any interest from the Nets after last year. A hyper athletic 6'5", Kalnietis is now 28, but can pass, dunk and shoot. He's also tough as nails. He's the kind of guy, if not the guy, the Nets could use: a tough, emotional firecracker, as this video created by a fan last month shows.
Love the stroke and the hat.
So much speculation on who might be the overall No. 1 pick, particularly if it's the "other team" taking it. In our eyes, the guy you don't want the Knicks to pick is D'Angelo Russell, the Ohio State point guard. We've enough clips to know this kid has the goods ... and extraordinary basketball IQ. Sure Towns is a great defensive player (with limited offense) and Okafor is a great offensive player (with limited defense). Russell will be underrated until he's not and then he will step on an NBA court and show he's ready. Let's just hope it's not Madison Square Garden.