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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #2

Every weekend, we update the Nets' off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, analysis, etc. to help take the edge off not winning the NBA championship, or the first round. We rely on our own reporting as well as what the Nets’ beat reporters and others have slipped into larger stories, blogs and tweets.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Draft Lottery is Tuesday. Like the Nets, it's moved from New Jersey to New York City in the past couple of years. The Nets have no dog in this fight (so far) but a calamity in the lottery for one team or another has in the past led those teams to dump their pick for a veteran, which can lead to a domino effect throughout the NBA, ultimately producing other deals down the line.

We're thinking specifically about the 2007 lottery when the Celtics, with the second worst record, fell to fifth after hoping they would wind up with Greg Oden. On the night after the draft, the Sonics traded Ray Allen along with the draft rights of the 35th pick Glen Davis to the Celtics for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and the draft rights to that fifth pick, Jeff Green. Allen's arrival in Boston helped convince Kevin Garnett to ask for a trade from Minnesota and the Atlantic Division, which the Nets had dominated, was turned upside down.  Funny how things work out with the aerodynamics of ping pong balls.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

Teams are also digesting their data from the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago where the Nets brain trust, including Billy King and Lionel Hollins, looked over the 60 prospects on hand and interviewed 17 of them, one short of the max.

NetsDaily has been able to learn the identities of five of the 17: Delon Wright, our Draft Sleeper on the Week in our first Off-Season Report; Jerian Grant, George Lucas de Paula, J.P. Tokoto and Rondae Hollins-Jefferson. It's a small sample, but it shows a couple of things: Billy King continues to like veteran players, like players from big programs, like players who show they can defend, like players who have some family ties to the game. Wright's brother, Dorell, is an 11-year veteran. Jerian's brother Jerami plays for the 76ers and both his father, Harvey, and his uncle, Horace, played in the NBA. It helps with the adjustment to the game.

So that leaves Lucas de Paula, who is 1) 18 and likely the youngest player in the Draft; an international player who played in the Brazil equivalent of the D-League; and someone who admits his conversations at the Combine were only the second ones he's ever had in English, although he didn't do badly in his first media scrum, mentioning that he was interviewed by the Nets and comparing his game to Deron Williams.

For a few weeks, Draft Express had the Nets taking Lucas de Paula, aka Georghino, at No. 29, but that was way out of line with other draftniks, making one wonder if Jonathan Givony, DX's guru, had any inside information.  This week after the Combine, where he reportedly did well, Givony dropped him into the 40's. ESPN and still have him in the 50's and ESPN's international draft expert, said he's two years away.  He may very well be, but he is easily worth the risk in the second round.  If the Nets were to take him, they'd have several options: 1) keep him on the Nets as a very cheap 14th or 15th man; 2) let him return to Brazil and monitor him, not an easy job; 3) encourage him to play in Europe which has advantages and disadvantages; and 4) if they have a D-League team, take advantage of the new rule that permits teams to send second rounders, with their permission, directly to the D-League without signing him to an NBA contract. That would permit the Nets to monitor him on a full-time basis, give him an opportunity to develop within the Nets system also perfect his English; and not have to worry about another team calling him up.

Is he a good prospect?  Sure.  He has the physical skills and extraordinary size for a point. Since he's 18, it's possible he's still growing as well.  Here's Givony on his physical gifts and a comparison...

The young Brazilian guard largely matched his Nike Hoop Summit measurements. Standing 6’4.5 without shoes with a 7’ wingspan, Lucas has outstanding size for a player who spends time at the point guard position. De Paula is pretty much the same size as Marshon Brooks was coming out of Providence, except he plays exclusively at the point and not on the wing like Brooks. Brooks measured 6’4.25 without shoes with a 7’1 wingspan and a 195-pound frame. De Paula has an impressive frame in his own right tipping the scales at 197 pounds with a very low 6.7% body fat ratio, finished 7th in hand width and 2nd in hand length among all players here (largely surrounded by power forwards and centers on the list), and is still only 18. Needless to say, he’s one of the most unique physical specimens at the point guard position in this draft, or any draft for that matter. It’s safe to say that NBA teams will be watching him very very closely the next few days.

Here's Draft Express video of his strengths and weaknesses.

And yes, there are Brazillians in Brooklyn. Williamsburg in particular.  Good restaurants as well. And there's always 46th Street in Manhattan.

Free Agency?

No, we don't have any names yet, nothing about targets or trades  But we can tell you a few things.  As we've noted, the front office mantra is that next season is a "bridge year," but between what and what? This year was a clear disappointment, filled with frustration.  The 2016-17 season is seen as one of hope when the next big free agent class arrives.

The Nets say they have not given up on making the playoffs and have an added incentive beyond the normal ones of extending the season, making some money, etc.  The Nets must give up their 2016 pick, unprotected, to the Celtics, a division rival. So no tanking allowed.

The plan is to do well enough, making the playoffs or not, to attract good players, if not superstars, with the promise of a good core. Everyone, remember, will have cap space. A good core, some promising young players and the lure of New York with its money-making opportunities, a great new arena and a committed ownership ... hopefully ... will do the rest.

There is, we've noticed, also some revised thinking.  Don't necessarily think superstar when thinking 2016's free agency.  They will bid for whoever's available but what's as likely, if not more likely, is that the Nets will target a number of very good players rather than superstars, guys who are winning pieces.  Maybe Mike Conley Jr., who still loves Lionel Hollins.  Maybe Kevin Love, if he decides against opting out this summer.  Of course, free agents will have to be convinced the Nets core, whoever it may be by then, will be enough.

Despite the talk of continuity, chances that the roster will be even close to what it was after Game 6 are nil. Continuity, as one executive noted not long ago, is going to be about the head coach more than the roster. Hollins of course is an acquired taste for a lot of players,but at least he will be back.

Rebuilding while winning is, in our opinion, the most difficult job in professional sports. Add to that the demands of doing it in New York and it gets even tougher.  We're going to hold off any real criticism of the team's direction until we see the roster on, say, July 15, after the draft, free agent signings and re-signings, trades big and small. There is NO doubt that ownership and management want to get under the luxury tax threshold of nearly $82 million.  Not just to save money but to have some flexibility this off-season.  It will not be easy.

John Welch's departure

John Welch this week became the first of Lionel Hollins staff to depart. He's rejoining his old boss, George Karl, in Sacramento. The two worked closely for a decade in Denver and apparently the lure of a new opportunity to work with Karl again was too much to pass up ... although we hear he did consider staying.  One issue: length of contract.

Welch's ostensible responsibility was the team's offense, but he really spent a lot of time, as he did in Denver, doing player development, working in particular with Cory Jefferson and Markel Brown. He had great rapport with the players and they with him. He took his job very seriously.  His pre-game warm-up routine with Joe Johnson was also fun to watch.

Losing him -- and not having a D-League team -- hurts the team's player development.  Let's hope the Nets find a smart (young?) coach to fill the void, which will be big.

After Karl was dumped in Denver, Welch joined the group of assistants hired to help buttress Jason Kidd two years ago. It was quite the group: Lawrence Frank was famously reassigned then quietly bought out, leaving seven figures on the table, we're told. He's with the Clippers. Joe Prunty, who was Kidd's fill-in during his DUI suspension, went with to Milwaukee. Eric Hughes, who's known Kidd since his playing days at Cal, is also with him in Milwaukee, as is Sean Sweeney, who Kidd elevated from a video job. Roy Rogers, the big man coach who worked with Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee, is in Washington, and Charles Klask, the in-game analytics assistant and Frank acolyte, is back in Detroit where he started.  With Welch gone, that leaves only Jim Sann from Kidd's coaching cabinet.

Lionel Hollins weight loss challenge

It seemed like a bit of marketing or a lark, having Lionel Hollins join Rachel Ray and Dr. Ian Smith in a weight loss challenge, monitored by Dr. Smith.  But Hollins has a medical issue that can be helped by weight loss: hypertension, aka high blood pressure.  He talked about it back in February on a Memphis television program that was promoting African American health awareness.

"I think I was 29 years old, still playing, still in great shape, and the doctor says, ‘You have high blood pressure.’ I actually went a couple years before I did something about it. I retired [from the NBA] and went back to Arizona. I’m working, and I get a doctor who says, ‘This is how you need to deal with [hypertension].’ From that point on, I’ve been active in dealing with it. I try to stay active physically [and] eat the right things. You have eating habits that you get away with when you’re real active, but when you’re not playing, [it’s different]. I haven’t had a soda in about eight years. And I love soda. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had McDonalds, Wendy’s or any [type of] fast food."

Wish the coach well in his efforts, both to lose weight and promote healthy eating habits.

Geopolitics and the Nets

It seems as if the crisis in US-Russian relations has peaked and may be headed for some resolution.  Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week and talked about various issues, including the ongoing dispute over Ukraine and Russian support for "rebels" in the eastern section of that country.  It's led to sanctions that were aimed at getting Russia to back off and the worst relations since the end of the Cold War 25 years ago. But as the New York Times reports, the U.S. now seems to realize that Russia is just too important and so Kerry was dispatched to meet with Putin in Sochi on issues like Syria and Iran.

What does that have to do with the Nets?  Well, it's yet another positive for the Nets ownership, who don't want to sell. The Nets are the highest profile Russian investment in the U.S. and there were persistent rumors that they could get caught in the middle of the dispute, forcing Mikhail Prokhorov to dump the team. With tensions easing, that concern seems to have dissipated. Will sanctions be lifted? Don't know, but things are better than they were.

Final Note

How great is Shekinah Young?  Pretty great.  She wanted to dump a lot of husband Thaddeus gear, from cards to sneakers, but didn't want them to go to waste.  So she put up a notice on Twitter that if you want autographed Thad gear, just send her your address.  A former online retailer, she knew what she was doing.  She got 110 requests and once Thaddeus put his signature on the gear, she started mailing them out.  Her Twitter timeline this week is filled with kids thanking her for her kindness.  Here's our favorite...

Yes, thank you, Mrs. Young.  Great stuff and we hope you and Thaddeus are around for a long time.