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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #8

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.

Manica Architects

No more Draft Sleepers.  We signed them all it seems!  We will move into free agency shortly, but until then, we will discuss the end of the Draft, which was a good draft, maybe even a very good draft for the good guys, as well as progress on the training center --whose outdoor lounge is pictured above, a touch of free agency and a prediction.

Details, details, details.

We know you, Nets nerds. You want all the details, all the machinations of Draft Night. We don't have them all, but we have a few.

The Nets are very high on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, RHJ from this point on. His defensive genius and his VERY underappreciated ball-handling and passing outweigh his lousy shooting mechanics. That's why they were willing to give up Mason Plumlee and their second round pick for him ... and take on Steve Blake who may or may not have a lot left in the tank.

The Nets used the trade exception from the Kevin Garnett-Thaddeus Young trade, about $2.3 million, to make the deal work. The Nets broke the deal down into component parts and inserted the TE where it needed to go which brought Blake to Brooklyn. It appears as well that Plumlee was traded into a trade exception that Portland had hanging around.

The trade put an end to the second largest TE the Nets had but again, with some CBA slight-of-hand, they wound up with a smaller, $1.35 million TE, we are told  They now have three TE's of more than $1 million, the $3.4 million from the Andrei Kirilenko deal, the $1.3 million from the RHJ-Blake deal and $1.2 million from the Marquis Teague deal. All will be available through the summer.

Neil Oshley, Portland's GM, said that Blake needed to be included in the trade for it to work under the CBA, telling the Trail Blazers website...

"Steve is just an incredible person. We love him, he’s a really good player. He’s been here multiple times, he’s a fabric of the community. My kids are going to his basketball camp on Monday because they want to be like him, and they should. He’s a great guy. We just were in a situation where we needed to be able to execute that deal this evening. That’s how the math got done and we needed to include Steve in the deal. So while we respect him as a player, we’ll miss him even more as a person."

Olshey also said he and Billy King had spoken earlier in the week about a possible deal.

"This opportunity was something (Nets general manager) Billy King and I had discussed earlier in the week just relative to who was there for him, whether it was something or not he wanted to do. We filled both needs, it’s a fair trade for both of us and we’re both happy with the guys we got."

Does that sound like the Nets had the Blazers pick RHJ for them at No. 23? Hmm.

Also, the Portland deal was the first time in a year that the Nets added money in a trade. Blake will make $2.1 million next year, $700,000 more than Plumlee. All their other deals, from Kirilenko to Garnett, the Nets wound up with less financial commitments. (And you could note that Plumlee is owed more over the course of his contract than Blake, who is, at 35, an expiring.)

As for Chris McCullough, the Nets may have made him a promise months ago. That's what Chad Ford reported after the Draft was over. No wonder every draftnik at one time or another penciled his name next to the Nets on their mock.

Moving on, want to know how much the Nets value Juan Pablo Vaulet?  Not only did they send Charlotte two second round picks, the right to swap picks with Philly in 2018 and the Nets own pick in 2019. They also sent the Hornets $880,000 of the $2.3 million they had available.  The Nets now have no picks in the second round from 2016 through 2020, unless they have to give up their first rounder in the 2017 swap. In that case, the Nets get the Celtics second rounder in that Draft! Yippee. Next year's second round pick can be swapped to the Clippers under certain circumstances. It's the return for Reggie Evans. But as one member of management said, "We will ALWAYS buy picks on Draft Night."

The Nets, it would appear, still have around $1.4 million available through next Tuesday.  That's the $2.3 million they had available Thursday minus the $880,000 sent to Charlotte for Vaulet's rights. Maybe they could send it to Cleveland for the rights to Sasha Kaun. The Nets would like to add the 30-year-old Russian center.  The Tuesday deadline is kind of false. As of Wednesday, the Nets will have $3.5 million to spend over the next 12 months.

Manu II?

Every draft needs an international man of mystery.  For the Nets, it is Juan Pablo Vaulet of Cordoba, Argentina. Just turned 18, no one seemed to know who he was, well other than the Spurs who are always on the look out for Argentines, having hired a number of them when Argentina basketball was all the rage. In addition to Manu Ginobili, the Spurs have had Fabricio Oberto and they originally drafted Luis Scola.

Pounding the Rock, the SB Nation affiliate that covers the Spurs, wrote on Tuesday about the mystery surrounding Vaulet. Authors suggested that Vaulet might just want to go undrafted so he could ultimately join the Spurs. There are no restrictions on players who go undrafted.They also noted his connection with Ginobili, in a story entitled, "Are the Spurs trying to unearth the next Manu Ginobili?"

Vaulet is coached by a certain Sebastian Ginobili.  Yes, that would be the brother of Manu Ginobili, and yes, Bahia Basket would be the team in which Manu Ginobili played for in Argentina before making his jump to Europe. The team is owned by Manu's friend and former teammate Pepe Sanchez. Ginobili himself knows Vaulet or at least his game, since he tweeted a Vine of one of his dunks.

That would be this tweet, from April...

Pretty cool dunk.

In an interview with Clarin, the big Buenos Aires newspaper, on Friday, Vaulet admitted he didn't expect to be drafted.  He is in Greece for the FIBA U19 world championships and didn't stay up late to hear his name called. Or more likely, get up early. He was, he said, pleasantly surprised by the turn of events, calling the Nets a "beautiful organization."   He will wait until the end of the U19 tournament on July 5 before flying from Greece to Orlando. We hear he may play in Orlando, but will definitely play in Las Vegas.

He has some good fundamentals, a high motor, defensive potential because of his long arms, and world-class athleticism. What he doesn't have (yet) is an outside shot, and his foul-shooting is Mason Plumlee-atrocious. That's going to take some time to develop.  So after watching him in the NBA summer league, don't expect to see him again in a Nets uniform for another year or more. And because of what the Nets did, don't expect him in a Spurs uniform either. You can see him Sunday morning, starting at 6:15 a.m. by going to the FIBA YouTube site. Or you can watch Saturday's game here.

By the way, IF Vaulet wants to be the Nets' Manu, he will have to get in line. Ask Sergey Karasev about Ginobili. Be prepared for a few minutes of him telling you how much he models his game after Manu's. "My favorite player."

Uncle Cliffy II

Cliff Alexander didn't get drafted after being at the top of some mocks a year ago. Here's a graphic representation of his fall from grace among draftniks. And this doesn't include his falling off the radar completely on Draft Night.

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It was a rough year for the 6'9" power forward. There were questions about maturity, questions about consistency, nagging injuries and then to top it off a scandal.  In February, the NCAA suspended his eligibility because of reports that his mother had received loans from a company that specializes in in lending to professional athletes and agents.

Once a player has declared for the draft, there's nothing wrong with doing that, either through an agent or independently. But before that, it's a violation and there were records, unearthed by Yahoo! Sports, that indicated Alexander's mother had received money from the firm ... last August.

There were a lot of delays in the investigation and Alexander never played again for the Jayhawks. He finally announced he was headed to the NBA, ending the investigation. But he missed the showcase of the NCAA tournament. Then, in his interviews with NBA teams, he reportedly didn't do well.  Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star wrote Friday, "In multiple interviews, Alexander referred to getting dealt 'a bad deck of cards' while at Kansas. In the moments after the draft on Thursday, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas wondered aloud on air if the comments may have scared off NBA teams."

Self, his coach, said the comments didn't bother him and in fact, he thought they were accurate.

"He did get dealt a bad hand," Self told the Star. "That’s exactly what I told Cliff all along. Cliff always said what I told him: He got dealt a bad hand with the NCAA. He got dealt a bad hand.

"That’s what I told him, when it all went down with the NCAA, I said, ‘Cliff, you haven’t done anything wrong, you’ve been dealt a bad hand. You just got to hang in there and deal with whatever.’"

But his reputation got hurt and now has to rebuild his career. And to be plain about it, we are told Alexander is a good kid. His issues were not using or selling drugs, not a DUI, not stolen laptops nor a fight with teammates.  It was about his mother needing money to survive on the streets of Chicago.

Why the Nets?  We suspect the Nets' big wallet played a role. There's no word on whether the Nets gave him a guarantee, but with multiple teams in pursuit of him, and a very smart (and ethical) agent, Mark Bartlestein, working the phone, it makes sense.  It is not uncommon for the best undrafted players to get guarantees. Christian Wood, a 6'11" forward who also didn't get drafted, reportedly got a six-figure guarantee.  If Alexander got any guarantee, it means he has a valid NBA contract, a better contract in fact than several guys at the end of the bench last year.  And it means the Nets will have to announce it.

"Fallen angels"

We've written about the "fallen angel" strategy more than once in these pages, how the Nets hope to get around their lost and swapped draft picks by taking risks on international players, lottery level talent with physical or emotional baggage, second chancers or just plain steals.

What's happened since Thursday shows the strategy in action. They went against form, broke the Billy King mold of going for the older, more mature player. They did not take a single player over the age of 20 in their draft picks or the signing of Cliff Alexander. Alexander and Juan Pablo Vaulet are both 19; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough are a year older. It's the first time since 2008 that the Nets have had two first round picks and so young. Like RHJ and McCollough, Brook Lopez and Ryan Anderson were 20 years old. How'd that work out?

All four are hyper-athletic, skilled and best of all, cheap.  RHJ did cost them Mason Plumlee, but he's five years younger ... and Steve Blake could help as well.  At No. 23, RHJ will cost  a guaranteed $2.275 million over two years. At No. 29, McCullough will cost $1.943 million. Anderson will cost them whatever guarantee they and he agreed to, MAYBE $200,000 on the rookie salary minimum of $525,000. When he comes over, or, we should say, comes up, Vaulet is probably going to go for the $525,000. He has already cost them $880,000, the price tag on his rights.  Still, the total guaranteed on these guys shouldn't be more than $5 million.

Why'd they drop? We've explained what happened with Alexander. McCullough is easy too. He tore his ACL earlier this year and may not be able to play next season.  RHJ is a little more complicated. It seems that his inability to shoot overwhelmed GM's appreciation of his defense ... even if Chad Ford suggested he could be the steal of the draft.  All three at one point or another were all seen as "lottery level" talent.  Vaulet is the odd man out. He didn't fall. He just isn't known, other than to the Ginobili clan and no one has classified him as "lottery level" yet.

Can these four --and last year's pick replacements Karasev, Brown and Bojan Bogdanovic-- make the strategy work?  Hard to tell.  But you can see how it could work. As one long term league executive told us, "Even if McCullough doesn't play at all this year, he's your 2016 first round pick, replacing what was lost in the Boston trade."  And the Nets got much higher grades from the draftniks than the Celtics did.

Things are not all so positive. The Nets are still a year away from having a D-League team again and their best player development assistant, John Welch, left to re-join his old boss, George Karl in Sacramento.  Development is still a work in progress, still developing, shall we say.  It remains a big hole that hopes can fall through.

Still, at the end of the night Thursday, we're told the front office was elated, that they felt they did well, very well. Most fans thought that way, too. Of course, most front offices feel that way on draft night, but for the Nets, draft nights are reminders of what's been lost.  Maybe Thursday night can help rectify that.

Training the Nets

During the media visit to the site of the HSS Training Center on Tuesday, Tony Brasile, the Nets director of operations, led the group of beat writers, bloggers and camera crews up to the roof, where the Nets will install the upper floor of the two-floor players lounge. In the summer and fall, after players work out and train, they'll be able to walk up the stairs from their first floor lounge with its wrap-around windows to the  upper level and take in the view.

It is spectacular.  As Sarah Kustok walked out on the roof Tuesday, her reaction was simply, "Wow." So was ours. And this was on an overcast day, not at night with the city glistening across the bay. Photographs don't do it justice

Compared to other new training centers, its location makes it unique. The 76ers new headquarters, which includes a training center, is in Camden, will have a view of Philadelphia across the Delaware. It's going to cost $82 million, twice what the Nets are spending but it includes all team operations, not just basketball, and their current facilities are probably the worst in the NBA. Lionel Hollins trained there as a player. The start of construction also been delayed.

The Timberwolves' new training center, which just opened, is in downtown Minneapolis and is the "gold standard," says Adam Silver, but it looks like a retail outlet from the street. The Lakers just bought a piece of land near LAX and have approval for an 82,000 square foot facility, slightly bigger than the Nets space but all at ground level and in the flight path of the airport. The Bulls' Advocate Center is a the edge of city of Chicago, pushing redevelopment, but its architecture is bland. All part of what one owner has called a new arms' race among franchises.

The Nets HSS Training Center is just so New York, by comparison. Its views can only be described as commanding and its amenities rich. Brasile gave the media a tour from the players' viewpoint, starting with their arrival at the private, covered parking space on the first floor, then through the training, weights and cardio areas to the players locker room and lounge, as well as what looks like Billy King's office. There are two hydro pools, which were dropped into place by crane on Wednesday, the day after the tour.. It was the first day the roof was open, permitting installation of large items and raising of the ceiling. The crane will also lower the black metal framing around the windows into place.

That's all on one side of the practice courts, with their 16 foot high windows that face onto New York Harbor and herringbone wooden floors to match those at Barclays.

On the other side are the offices and work spaces for the staff as well as the media, including an 18-seat multimedia theatre where the team can watch game tape on giant screens. There's even a room called "Draft Room," which will be used for events like the NBA Draft and the trade deadline.

Will it attract free agents? It's unlikely to be the main reason a player would sign with Brooklyn, but that's not the point. It is a symbol of the commitment of the owner to the players and staff.  Did the Nets need the 16-foot high windows with the view of the harbor?  No. Did it need to be on the top floor of a building at water's edge? No. Irina Pavlova, who ran the search and is pushing to get everything done by February, said she and consultant David Carlock looked at 50 sites before narrowing it to 11, then finally to Building 19 at 148 39th Street in Brooklyn.

In an email to the New York Times Saturday, Mikhail Prokhorov discussed why he's -- personally -- spending $45 million on the project.

"We have always approached the Brooklyn Nets as a team that should have everything first-rate," said in the email.

"At the end of the day, we want to do everything possible for the best chance to win," Prokhorov said. "I also believe that approach is attractive to free agents. They want to be part of a franchise that is committed."

You can blame ownership for a lot of things, but commitment to winning is not one of them.

Free agency

We'd be quite stunned if we don't read that Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young have agreed to re-sign with the Nets. We expect to leak by the end of week. Teams officially cannot do deals until Wednesday, but expect a lot of news to get out starting in the hours after midnight on Wednesday. Teams can sign players starting July 9 when the Nets first summer league entry will be wrapping up in Orlando. Maybe they'll do it by iPad like they did in 2012. As for money, we hear the same numbers that Woj wrote up: $60 million over three for Lopez with no options, but injury protections for him; $48 million over four for Young.

What about beyond the two big free agents? Alan Anderson, who turns 33 this season, and Mirza Teletovic, who's just turned 30, will be looking for their last big contract so money, more than anything else, is likely to determine their next stop.  The Nets hold Bird Rights on both and the Nets have made a $4.2 million qualifying offer to Teletovic. They can match any offer he gets from another team or Teletovic can simply accept the qualifying offer for one year. Under that arrangement, he cannot be traded at any point in the season without his approval.

As for other needs, depending on what the Nets can get in trades, the highest priority would appear to be a big man to replace Mason Plumlee and if Anderson and Teletovic leave, a shooter or two. As noted, we're told the interest in Sasha Kaun, the big CSKA Moscow center, is real, but the Nets will first have to acquire his draft rights from Cleveland, then negotiate a deal.

One thing we do know: even with the Nets limited flexibility, expect surprises.

Final Note

This is a particularly long note, maybe our longest Off-Season Report ever, but the Nets made some significant moves this week. They were more aggressive than in any Draft Night in recent years. They finally did what they've said they would do, get younger, more athletic.  No more safe bets on four-year seniors. Instead it was all about risks.  We like that and hope it continues ... once they get the two 27-year-olds signed.

By next Sunday, when we publish the ninth off-season report of the summer, we expect to see other roster changes.