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NetsDaily Off-Season Report No. 13

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Brooklyn Nets

Not a lot going on. Billy King and Lionel Hollins were in South Africa and are headed out on much-delayed vacations. It would appear from that and from Mikhail Prokhorov's video that the Nets are done other than some training camp invites. They have 17 players under contract, including Earl Clark who reportedly would like the Nets to waive him so he can move on, perhaps overseas.

There are no guarantee dates approaching. Ryan Boatright already has his $75,000 guarantee and Markel Brown will get another $200,000 on September 1. He will be fully guaranteed on September 29. Other than Clark, who will get $200,000 if he's still on the roster on roster cutdown day, October 26, everyone else's guarantees kick in during early November.

How many players might the Nets bring in for camp? Maybe another two, probably another point guard and another big. No idea who. In 2013, they brought in 19. Last year, the number was 17. The max is 20. In fact, NBA teams can carry up to 20 players from July through October 26.

So what's done is done. What's our assessment?  As of now, before seeing how things work out in camp, we think that everything has to work out -- and we do mean everything -- for the Nets to make the playoffs.

What's "everything?"  Here's a list...

--Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young have to produce at the same level they did in the playoff run. They played very well at the end of the season when the Nets went 13-6 to close out the season. They also have to lead. They know that. Another positive: this is the first year in the last three where Lopez is training, not rehabbing.  They also know they have job security. Moreover, they are only 27.

--Joe Johnson has to perform at least as well as last season and probably better, this season. He has to be durable as well. He's 34 and happier, as we noted, but it's increasingly more difficult to think that the NBA's second most durable player over the last dozen years (as measured by minutes played), can keep going at the same level. He is on the last year of his mega-deal. So there's that as an incentive, but unlike a former teammate, we don't think he needs a lot.

--Bojan Bogdanovic has to make the big leap the Nets think he can make... tall order. The best indicator that that's a reasonable hope is how he played in April of last season when he was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, averaging 14.4 points on 52.6 percent shooting overall and 48.8 percent from deep. He, Lopez and Young wanted the playoffs more than their teammates, one Nets insider told us.

--Jarrett Jack and Shane Larkin have to replace the best of Deron Williams last season and provide what D-Will couldn't ... leadership.  Jack started one-third of the season, averaging 15.9, 6.6. and 3.8.  Despite those numbers, the team won only 11 of the 27.  Larkin has repeatedly said that last year was not a good indicator of what he can do. He was a round peg (pick-and-roll) in a square hole (actually a triangle). To a lot of people, this combination is the big issue. We think it may be front court depth. See below.

--Andrea Bargnani has to give the team what they hoped to get -- but didn't -- from Mirza Teletovic. Although Bargnani played only 29 games for the Knicks (his fourth straight year of injury-plagued play), that was only 11 fewer games than Teletovic played and Bargnani did shoot (marginally) better from deep. "Il Mago" recruited himself.  He took less money.  He has said he wants to be an "important player" for the Nets and not just for this year. Now, he has to walk the walk. something he hasn't done while being paid eight figures in each of the past four years.

--The kids have have to be alright. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Markel Brown and to a lesser degree, Chris McCullough have to step up. The Nets are very high on RHJ. Chad Ford called him the "most underrated player in the draft" after the Nets took him. Brown looked good in Las Vegas after looking awful much of the Orlando Summer League. Can the two of them replace Alan Anderson's steadiness ...while improving on his athleticism? BIG question mark.  McCullough's status is in question, but if he can play, it could be a big help.

--Thomas Robinson and Willie Reed have to show they are legitimate NBA players. This is their last chance and with the exception of T-Rob's 22-game stint with woesome (and loathsome) 76ers, neither has shown they should be relied on. Mason Plumlee may have had his issues, but it might be a stretch to assume Robinson and Reed will be as reliable as Plums.

--Wayne Ellington, Sergey Karasev and (maybe) Ryan Boatright and Quincy Miller need to be on when called on. They were awful last year in this category.  Ellington is a pro and has shot 40 percent or better four times in his career. The Nets thought it might take three years for Karasev, drafted at age 18, to become an NBA player. He didn't play badly before he was injured and seems to have gotten serious in his injury rehab. (Fun fact: he is featured in two the Nets top 10 plays last season.)  Boatright shot well in the summer league and Miller shot well in the D-League. Of course, one or both could be cut.

--Lionel Hollins has to make the most of the team's continuity. He won more games each season he was in Memphis. And Billy King, Dmitry Razumov and Mikhail Prokhorov will have to bite the bullet if in February the team is in contention for a playoff spot. We're told that if the team is a million or two over the luxury tax threshold, it won't be an issue.

It's a long list and we haven't even talked about health. We've heard reasonable people suggest, privately, that this is a 25-win team ... or a 40-win team. It IS a hungry group with a lot to prove and a number of them took less money -- Robinson, Ellington, Bargnani -- than they could have gotten elsewhere.

Bottom line for us is that we like them as individuals, like the strategy behind what happened this summer.  We like that the Nets will have the same coach two years straight for the first time in their Brooklyn history. Can they work as a team?  Hope so. That's what we're fans. (And no, this isn't a season preview. That will come after preseason. It's an off-season review, if you like.)

Knees R Us

Waiting to hear how the three Nets with knee issues are progressing.  Thomas Robinson (slightly torn meniscus), Chris McCullough (torn ACL) and Sergey Karasev (dislocated patella) are all recovering from knee surgery.  T-Rob's seems the least concerning.  Even he called it a "small setback." He was, as of a week ago, still immobilized though.

Doctors expect him back before training camp which starts October 1.

A video posted by Thomas Robinson (@trobinson_foe) on

Karasev seems to be making progress as a look at his Instagram, Twitter and VK Connect pages indicate. He's said he should be ready for full contact scrimmaging in August.

Workout everyday #WeAreBrooklyn #gonets #netsnation #rehab #workhard

A video posted by Сергей Карасев (@skgetbuckets) on

But we really don't know much about McCullough, who if healthy could help out with front court depth. The Nets gave a hint last week with the photo gallery,  "11 Things to Watch," this season.

Nets fans are eager to see Chris McCullough get through his ACL rehabilitation and make his way onto the court at Barclays Center. How will he fit into the offense and what kind of impact will he make once he is cleared to play?

On Draft Night, McCullough told media and fans he hoped to be ready by early November, that is the beginning of the season.  But there's been little discussion since.  His agent has said he's ahead of schedule, but as some trainers (including Tim Walsh) say, a torn ACL can be a two-year injury.  Expect the Nets to bring him along slowly, but it appears Chad Ford's assertion that McCullough is "likely" out the full season is no longer valid.

Ankles, too

Juan Pablo Vaulet, the Nets' Argentine draft pick underwent surgery earlier this month for a stress fracture in his tibia (near his previously injured ankle). His recovery should take less time than originally expected. He should be ready for the LNB, Argentina's national basketball league.

Also, re Vaulet, here's the best compilation of highlights we've found for the Argentine teenager. Previously, the only video we've posted is the dunk Manu Ginobili tweeted out earlier this year.  The Nets are expected to take a look at him next summer to see if he'll be ready for the NBA, the D-League or perhaps an assignment to perhaps a Spanish League team. He could also spend another year in Argentina, under the tutelage of Sebastian Ginobili, Manu's brother.  If the Nets, as expected have a D-League team next year, Brooklyn could assign him to it without signing him to an NBA contract. They would retain his rights but wouldn't have to carry him on the roster.

D-League ... Hellllo?

Back in May, a month before the Draft, the Nets leadership -- Brett Yormark and Billy King -- sent a letter to season ticket holders, in which they talked about the team's commitment to returning to the D-League.  It read, "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."

"Coming weeks?" So far, that's eight and counting, with no word on what's happening ... or when.  We expect that when the Nets do announce, they will reveal plans for a D-League team in Brooklyn, as Billy King hinted a week later in talking with beat writers. The rumor is that for at least a year, the 2016-17 season, they'll play at LIU's new Steinberg Wellness Center, which can seat only 2,500 fans. After that, who knows, but a certain arena on Long Island might be available following renovation.

The lack of a D-League team took on some new urgency over the weekend. D-League Digest reports that the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the only unaffiliated D-League team, is about to be bought by the Pacers.  Great match for the Pacers. Fort Wayne is only two hours northwest of Indianapolis and still in the Hoosier State.  But it's an issue for the Nets and the other NBA teams who don't have their own affiliate.

The Mad Ants had been the only team that NBA teams without their own affiliate --13 last year, 11 next -- could send young players. Xavier Thames, the Nets' 59th pick in the 2014 Draft spent time there last season. Even without the Pacers purchase, that was problematic. If the Mad Ants already had either the maximum of four NBA players on assignment or two assigned players at the position of the NBA player who is being assigned, teams wanting to send players down had to revert to the Flexible Assignment system. It's even less ideal, as a press release from the D-League last year explained...

"The NBA D-League will identify to the assigning NBA team (like the Nets) any singly-affiliated NBA D-League team that is willing to accept the assigned player, and the independent NBA team assigning the player will choose a team from among those teams to assign the player.  If no singly-affiliated NBA D-League team is willing to accept the assigned player, he will be assigned to one of the non-NBA-owned single affiliate teams pursuant to a lottery."

That's how Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson wound up with the Celtics' D-League team, the Maine Red Claws, for a short time last season.  But with the Mad Ants unavailable, that means fewer places for players ... and the possibility of players being assigned by lottery. Others teams may get D-League teams before the Nets so there'll be more issues next year.

The Nets currently have six players under the age of 22 on their roster -- Chris McCullough, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (both 20), Sergey Karasev (21), Ryan Boatright, Quincy Miller and Shane Larkin (all 22). As players with three or less years in the league, all could be sent down to the D-League for either more minutes or, if needed injury, rehab.  It's just a shame there's no good place to send them.

And other teams are moving, not just the Pacers. The Raptors set up their own team, the Raptors 905, who will play in a Toronto suburb and the Hawks, Pelicans and Hornets are believed to be developing plans. After the Raptors joined this summer, there were 19 teams with a one-to-one arrangement. A Pacers deal with Fort Wayne would bring the total to 20. We are at critical mass.

How valuable that 2016 pick?

We always thought the 2016 pick the Nets traded the Celtics in the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce deal was the most valuable of the three (unprotected) first rounders. But Grantland's Zach Lowe reported this week that one of the Nets picks, owed Boston, presumably the 2016 pick, wasn't enough for the Hornets to consider an offer from the Celtics to move up on Draft Night.

The Celtics offered four first-round picks for the chance to move up from no. 16 to no. 9: that 16th pick, no. 15 (acquired in a prearranged contingency deal with the Hawks), one unprotected future Brooklyn pick, and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves, per sources familiar with the talks.

Some members of Charlotte's front office liked the Boston deal, but Michael Jordan, the team's owner and ultimate decision-maker, preferred Kaminsky to a pile of first-rounders outside the lottery, per several sources.

Grantland didn't say which Nets pick was offered, or whether the Celtics had offered a choice. Certainly if Jordan was sold on Kaminsky, no deal of picks alone was likely going to move him. And the general consensus around last year's draft was that after No. 15, there was a big dropoff in quality. Still, it seemed like the Nets pick was being undervalued, particularly if it was the 2016 pick.

Matt Moore of CBS Sports in his analysis of Lowe's piece thought the same thing...

That pick could be wildly valuable. Even if Brooklyn excels and it lands in the top 20, the Hornets could conceivably have two top-20 picks to try and package together to move up.

If indeed it was the 2016 pick that was offered, it seems that Boston doesn't value it as much as pundits do. Nor did Charlotte.  No explanation by either writer as to why.

Final Note

Get ready for the NBA schedule.  It should be out this week.  Same with the Nets preseason schedule. When do the Nets play the Knicks? When's D-Will's return to Barclays? Who we have on opening night? How tough will the early schedule be as the Nets get used to each other?  Any chance the Nets will play the Knicks in preseason?  Doubtful.

Always worth a few hundred comments.