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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #4

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 stories, blogs and tweets.

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

We take off from where the Billy King and Brett Yormark left off in their letter to season ticket holders. We will look at the strategy to make up for lost picks, wonder if it will work, propose a draft sleeper who could be part of that strategy and wonder too where Mason Plumlee fit in after conflicting messages this week. We also note that Barclays Center is now giving tours of the arena.

It's a long one, but we break it up into sections.  If there's too much for you to digest --and you get ill-- you can always return for more, you glutton for punishment, you.

The Strategy

Draft workouts begin Monday at the Nets practice facility in East Rutherford, with six players vying for the attention of the front office.  It will be the story for the rest of the month, or at least up until June 25, when the Draft takes place at Barclays Center, the fifth straight year the Nets will host the event.

First some background. It may seem redundant, but we wanted to put it all in one place.

The Nets will have two picks, one in each round, at No. 29 and 41. The first is the result of a swap between the Nets and Hawks, the next-to-last payment in the Joe Johnson deal --the Nets still owe the Hawks a second rounder in 2017.  The second rounder is the Nets, but it's not a "virgin" pick, let's say.

The Nets traded the second rounder to Utah in 2011 for Mehmet Okur when Brook Lopez went down the first time. The Jazz traded it to the Hawks in 2013. Then, last year, on Draft Night, it was traded again to the Bucks who conveniently had it just sitting there, ready to be traded back to the Nets in the Jason Kidd compensation package.

The Nets also have $2.3 million available to buy picks, which could get them one or maybe even two picks. In their letter to season ticket holders Friday, Billy King and Brett Yormark suggested the Nets could buy picks (plural) on Draft Night, writing, "we are even open to purchasing additional draft picks if the right opportunity presents itself."

As of now, this year's Nets draft could be the most exciting for a while, like until 2019.  The Nets first rounder in 2016 goes, unprotected, to Boston and the Clippers can swap second rounders. It's compensation for Reggie Evans.  In 2017, the Nets may have to swap first rounders with the Celtics and, as noted, the second rounder goes to Atlanta. (If the Nets do have to swap, they get the Celtics' second rounder, top 45 protected. Yippee!)

And of course, the first rounder in 2018 goes to Boston as well. The second rounder that year may have to swapped with Philly, part of the Andrei Kirilenko trade. In 2019, the Nets have both picks. In 2020, however, they owe a second rounder to the 76ers. It's the only pick in that entire draft that been traded so far.  King told reporters in his post-season talk that he's not trading first rounders. Been there, done that.

So it's important the Nets pick well ... and probably often.  Last year, their first rounder went to Boston, who picked James Young, one of the youngest players in the Draft. Brooklyn didn't have a second rounder, having traded it to Minnesota in 2011, along with $1.3 million for Bojan Bogdanovic. But the Timberwolves were willing to sell it back to the Nets who paid them another $1.1 million so they could take Markel Brown. They followed up by picking Xavier Thames at No. 59 and Cory Jefferson at No. 60, costing them $800,000 total.

Last season, in fact, showed the Nets' strategy for making up for lost picks.  They bought three picks, two of whom made the team and one of whom, Brown, made the rotation, starting 29 games. They finally were able to rescue Bojan Bogdanovic who they got as a bargain in 2011.  He had first round talent, everyone know, but he also had a new, three-year contract with Fenerbahce.  That's what they would like to do over the next few years: find European gems to stash overseas while buying second rounders with Mikhail Prokhorov's cash, hoping one of them turns into a rotation player. (And if they can, even in small deals, they'll ask for bright young things, as they did with Cleveland last year, getting then 20-year-old Sergey Karasev, as an add-on in the Cavs cap-clearing prior to signing LeBron James.)

So the strategy worked last year, up to a point. Here's where it didn't. Thames was last year's Euro-Stash. Although a Californian, he agreed to play in Sevilla in the ACB, Spain's league. It didn't work out (although he did get to play with Kristaps Porzingis, likely to be a top 8 pick) and he returned to the U.S. He wound up in the D-League but because the Nets gave up their affiliate last summer, he was just another player in Fort Wayne, not a Nets project. Similarly, there was nowhere to send Brown or Jefferson when they were idling on the bench. Ultimately, they sent them to Maine, the Celtics affiliate, for a few games and brought them back. That didn't work either and Brown avoided serious injury in a fall.

King and Yormark wrote in their letter that the team will be announcing its D-League plan soon, stating, "You can also expect to hear about our D-League commitment in the coming weeks, which would provide our young players with continuity in our system."

Problem is that's highly unlikely to happen this year, stunting development once again for whoever they pick late.

Between now and October, they’d have to buy the rights to an expansion team --and pay the NBA $6 million; find venues for both games and practice; hire staff which would include the full range of people from business to basketball operations, including GM, coach, assistant coach and trainer; get endorsement deals to help defray the not inconsequential costs, more than a million dollars, of operating the team; find housing for the players, which is the parent team’s responsibility, in the nation's most expensive market; and get ready for the D-League Draft on November 1.

We suspect they want to play in Brooklyn -- Yormark’s dream, we are told, is to play at LIU. And remember, all of this would be happening at the same time team management is dealing with a crucial summer of free agency on the basketball side and getting Barclays Center ready for the Islanders on the business side. It's virtually impossible to do it RIGHT in such a short window, and doing it right is what needs to be done. Half-ass doesn't work anymore. The Nets' D-League entry will need a head coach with a proven history of development and executives who understand what the goal is, making the parent team better.

Also, there are teams now ahead of the Nets in the queue for expansion teams, like the Hornets, the Raptors and perhaps the Wizards.  The NBA reportedly isn't crazy about the idea of expanding the D-League too rapidly. They want to do it right, too.

Yes, they could have avoided all this. They had a D-League team, in Springfield that they operated with a businessman who had significant experience in managing minor league baseball franchises. He wanted to sell but the Nets passed. They discussed the idea of buying an expansion team. The NBA was not only willing to make it happen, but was enthused. The Nets however had issues with the way the D-League operated and dawdled, finally passing on it. They became one of 17 teams affiliated with the sole independent D-League team in Fort Wayne, with no opportunities to develop players in the Nets system.

Yes, the D-League is not a big deal and Thames may never play in an NBA game, but its emblematic of the team's issues.  Spend money on the picks, but don't have a clear-cut development strategy to set them up for success.  Chalk it all up to the summer of short-term thinking back in 2013: sign a rookie coach who wasn't crazy about the roster he had been given; trade every pick through eternity to get three players aged 35 through 37, don't emphasize development and in general pre-celebrate a future that didn't happen.

We know this all sounds like management, not basketball, but it's management, starting with young assets that's going to turn things around, if anything.  Can they turn it around?  Well, it might better to look at what ESPN's Marc Stein and Mike Mazzeo wrote this week as well as what King and Yormark wrote.  Stein, who's not prone to exaggeration, and Mazzeo, who has a good grasp of what's going on in Brooklyn, said the Nets are "in as deep a ditch as we have seen."  They did a nice job cataloging it all, too. De-pressing.

A smart draft this year would be a good start. Finding a player in the first round who can contribute immediately isn't impossible, but it's unlikely. Sure, Tony Parker and Toni Kukoc were taken at No. 29. So was Marquis Teague. Moving up will not be as easy as it was in the past.  Picks will be more valuable. Players on rookie deals will be bigger bargains as the salary cap jumps.  Buying a pick that could turn into the next Bogdanovic would be great, too, but Bogie was and is one of Europe's top players.  This is not a rich draft for overseas talent.

Yeah, it could happen .. and management might  have smirked at this week's news that the Boston front office is unhappy with the progress -- particularly the work ethic -- of James Young, who was taken with the the Nets pick. But as we noted, it's long way to 2019 and a lot of things have to break their way.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

So, with all that in mind, we take a look at Timothe Luwawu, our Draft Sleeper of the Week, a 6'7" small forward out of France. He's just turned 20 and has the look of a Euro-Stash.

Luwawu is in the Nets comfort zone, according to the draftniks.  Draft Express has him at No. 42; ESPN's Chad Ford and both have him at 44.  Sheridan Hoops has the Nets actually using their first rounder on him!

Joe Kotoch writes...

Due to a manageable contract buyout, Luwawu can come over right away or spend another season or two in France. Luwawu has the potential to be a very good defender because of his length, athleticism and quickness to guard multiple positions. On the offensive end, Luwawu is a solid shooter who will serve as a Danny Green-type of role player.

With an aging Joe Johnson and an older roster, adding a young, talented player like Luwawu would give the Nets an asset going forward.

Expect Brooklyn to buy up second-round picks as they did a year ago. Luwawu is a name to watch closely, as several championship contenders could be targeting him in the first with the idea of stashing him overseas for another year or two.

Nets don't have to take him or any other Euro-Stash with a purchased pick. They can use No. 41 or even 29 for the stashed player and use others they acquire for a player they think can contribute immediately. But one really thinks Luwawu is an NBA-ready prospect. He wasn't well known, if known at all, until last summer when he started showing some skills at an adidsas event tied to the FIBA Europe U20 competition. In two games, he scored 25 points in 46 minutes, including 5-of-7 on three-pointers. He played well enough in the French League for hometown Antibes and is improving. Although young and inexperienced, he declared for the Draft.

Draft Express' Jonathan Givony goes into detail on his game...

Standing 6-7, he has long arms, big hands, a good frame, and excellent athletic ability. He's a versatile player who shows a nice framework of skills in virtually all facets of the games, be it with his ability to create off the dribble, find the open man, make shots from the perimeter, or defend a few different positions.

Luwawu's strong first step and ability to attack his man off the dribble with either hand, allows him to operate smoothly in transition or make plays in the half-court in a straight line. He shows flashes of being able to play at different speeds, but still isn't a strong enough ball-handler to fully take advantage of his athleticism and emerge as a more proficient shot-creator

And Mike Schmitz, who does an excellent job producing DX's prospect videos, lays them out in this video.

His English now is better than Bojan Boganovic's was in 2011 and with the impetus of an NBA job in a year or two, he's likely to put more time into it, as Bogie did.

In fact, you can watch him LIVE Sunday afternoon, as French blogger Valentin Le Clézio tweets...

But here's the problem and it's not small: We're told reliably by a league source that unless Luwawu has a first round guarantee, he'll withdraw from the draft before the early entry deadline on June 15. We may know a bit more about that the week before the deadline.  Luwawu was expected to compete at this year's adidas EuroCamp outside Venice. It's the international equivalent of the Draft Combine. But his team is still in the playoffs. So a lot is up in the air.

How much would it cost the Nets to buy draft rights to a Euro-Stash if they want a pick in the 30's or another in the 40's?. It might take the full $2.3 million they have available. Three years ago, the Nets paid $2 million to buy the 41st pick and take Tyshawn Taylor, but last year, they got a bargain at 44, paying only $1.1 million to take Markel Brown. This year, things could get pricier. The general impression is that there aren't that many good Euros to stash. With only two guaranteed first round European picks, this is projected to be one of the weakest drafts for the overseas set.

Are the Nets interested in him? Yes, we are told. Would they guarantee him at No. 29 by June 15?  We find that hard to imagine.

Whither Mason Plumlee?

Mason Plumlee is in Vietnam this weekend, doing the NBA Cares thing. He was in the news earlier this week, however, when Marc Stein and Mike Mazzeo suggested he is an ideal trade piece if the Nets want to move big contracts or move up in the Draft.

Stein in fact tweeted there was interest...

Then, on Friday, came the King-Yormark letter to season ticket-holders.  It may not have mentioned Deron Williams, Joe Johnson or Jarrett Jack, but it did mention Plumlee and prominently at that.

"We are committed to keeping our core leadership together by re-signing Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. At the same time, we will continue to build on our emerging young core of players, such as Mason Plumlee, Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown, and Sergey Karasev."

There's his name, front and center, leading off the "emerging young core" of the team.  Were the Nets trying to counteract speculation that Plumlee will be traded ... or suggesting he's critical and thus will take a big offer to pry him loose?  We're not into the tea-leaf reading game (okay, we are) but it would seem to suggest the Dukie is still in the team's good graces, despite his tough season, one in which Lionel Hollins tried, without much luck, to pair him and Brook Lopez in some sort of Twin Towers thing, then sat him.

Plumlee did regress in some areas, like, ahem, foul-shooting.  After hitting almost 63 percent of his free throws in his rookie year, he dropped below 50 percent in what looked, to the casual observer, like a case of mind under matter. But he improved his rebounding and for a third of the season --25 games-- averaged 15 and 9 till Lopez returned to form and won Hollins confidence.

As Hoops Habit notes in Plumlee's defense, it was not a disastrous year as much as it was an inconsistent one.

In 52 games before the break, Plumlee averaged 10.3 points and seven rebounds in 23.4 minutes a game, shooting .590/0-for-3/.498. After the break, Plumlee averaged six points and five boards in 17.5 minutes a night, shooting .526/—/.488.

By April, he was barely part of the rotation, averaging 13.6 minutes per game in Brooklyn’s final nine games.

In the first-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs, Plumlee was a non-factor, logging 49 minutes in six games.

Fans have a tendency to ask "what have you done for me lately?" and, truth be told, Plumlee has now lost the confidence of two very different coaches in the post-season. But he was first team all-rookie last spring, won a gold medal in the FIBA World Cup last summer (to go with his NCAA championship at Duke) and has two more years left on his rookie deal, at a combined cost of $3.8 million. That is a bargain. Of course, he's attracting offers. It's hard to imagine the Nets dealing him without a big return.

Barclays Center Tours

You can tour Madison Square Garden (if you want) and now you can tour Barclays Center too.  Quietly, almost covertly, the arena has resumed giving behind-the-scene tours of the architectural gem at Atlantic and Flatbush. As the note on the arena website will tell you...

[N]ow you can get a behind-the-scenes look at what has everyone buzzing through the Barclays Center VIP Access Tour Program.  Offered twice a day, on select days, at 10:00AM and 1:00PM, walk the concourses, get up close and personal with the herringbone-designed home court of the Brooklyn Nets, and check out the ultra-exclusive Vault suites while learning why Barclays Center is the can't-miss destination on the world's itinerary.

According to the site, there will be eight tours each in June and July. Prices are $15 for students, military, children, and seniors; $24 for adults (13 and over) and you can buy tickets here.

And be careful once you're inside. We hear the ghost of BrooklyKnight still haunts the rafters.  The Phantom of the Opera has nothing on the deposed Knight.

Final Note

We read a lot about cost-cutting, what with the departure of Bobby Marks --and a few others you may hear about.  It's not surprising that an organization that's losing as much as the Nets are has decided to review cost and reorganize. And with so little cap space and so few draft picks, it's not surprising the organization believed having two assistant GMs was a luxury. So don't expect Marks to be replaced.

But the cuts are hardly draconian.  And the organization will note they are building a $45 million training center in Industry City and, as the King - Yormark letter notes, there is a "commitment" to the D-League which will ultimately if not this year cost them millions.

The big issue is not so much getting out of a financial hole. The big issue, at least for us, is getting out of the roster "ditch" that Stein and Mazzeo described. It's a huge management issue and although no one should expect the team to solve those issues this summer, it's critical to get a good start. Like now.