There is a certain logic to what the Nets have done in the past week --- and it's quite different from what they've done the past three summers. No big trades for big names past their prime. No need to use iPads and iPhones to time signings around the world. No more safe draft picks.
"No tempest, no buzz" as William C. Rhoden of the Times put it, comparing what they're doing to what the Knicks are up to.
Starting with the draft and up through the first day of free agency, the Nets have decided to move away from the quick fix and go with a long term plan. In the past week, they have:
--Drafted a 20-year-old, Chris McCullough, a 6'10" power forward out of Syracuse, and a 19-year-old, Juan Pablo Vaulet, a 6'6" small forward out of Argentina;
--Traded for 20-year-old Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a hightly regarded 6'7" small forward out of Arizona, and a veteran back-up point guard, 6'3" Steve Blake, giving up Mason Plumlee, who's five years older than RHJ;
--Signed two undrafted prospects who have a chance at making the roster: 6'9" power forward Cliff Alexander, who's all of 19, and Ryan Boatright,a 5'11" point guard who was a champion at UConn;
--Resigned two 27-year-olds, Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, for $110 million, securing their rights during what should be the best part of their careers;
--Signed 24-year-old Thomas Robinson, a 6'10" center-power forward who they've loved since his time at Kansas. The Nets signed him as a back-up for both Lopez and Young;
--Signed 22-year-old Shane Larkin, a 5'11" point guard who played for the Knicks last year and is between nine and 13 years younger than the three other point guards on the roster.
--Waived Darius Morris, their third string point guard who they would have owed $25,000 if not for their decision. In the past, they might have let it slide.
They're going younger, they're getting more athletic and they're trying to build a rep not just for the fans, but other free agent candidates next year. It's early but as Andy Vasquez writes in the Record this morning, "For the first time in a couple of years, it’s difficult to criticize the Nets and their off-season moves." There were subtle grace points as well, giving a tour of their new training center in Industry City two days before the Draft, then to further enhance its value, bringing McCullough and RHJ to the rooftop a week later, cameras in tow.
It is by no means perfect ...or over. McCullough may or may not play this year, following ACL surgery. Vaulet had to leave a FIBA U19 championship game two days ago after feeling soreness in the same ankle that kept him off the court for 17 months. Alexander went undrafted despite having lottery-level talent and even if he excels, the Nets will still have to sign him. Same with Sasha Kaun, the CSKA Moscow 7-footer whose rights are held by Cleveland and who the Nets like. How much will T-Rob want? Mutual interest goes only so far.
And if, as expected, they lose Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson, where's their three point shooting off the bench?
And of course, there's the elephant(s) in the room: 30-year-old Deron Williams who's been in decline since since signing his five year, $99 million contract --and who's still owed $43 million over two, and Joe Johnson, 34 this past week, who had his worse year since his third year in the league. As every schoolchild knows, he's owed nearly $25 million this year.
Do they have value? Because without moving one or the other, saving money and getting some flexibility is impossible. The situation with D-Will seems to the most critical. As Ian Eagle told Evan Roberts, the Nets are not sure they can ever truly be a winner with him as franchise player. Not everyone feels that way. Bobby Marks told Roberts that while not an elite player, Williams brings skills that would be hard to replace.
So as the dust settles from Wednesday's $1.4 billion free agency splurge and trades start to take center stage, the Nets are now gaming out their next moves. They know they need to make the playoffs next year if they want to avoid giving a division rival, Boston, a lottery pick. So far, so good, but there's a long way to go.
- Off-season moves have sound logic - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Nets may make another run at this big man to fill reserve role - Tim Bontemps - New York Post
- Wasting No Time, Nets Lock Up Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young - Alex Raskin - Wall Street Journal