We conclude our eighth season of Off-Season Reports this weekend. Next weekend, the Nets will be flying back from Duke, ready to duel with Fenerbahce Ulker at Barclays Center on Monday night.
So we'll try to sum up the off-season, move-by-move. Since last June, the Nets have completed nearly 20 transactions, nearly as many as the team completed in all of last season, June to June. Expect more.
Here's our take on the big moves ... and some of the little ones ...factoring in potential as well as cost.
Draft Night (A-)
We're told the Nets had Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as a lottery pick on their internal mock draft and as he fell and opportunity arose, they moved, dealing Mason Plumlee and the rights of Pat Connaughton to Portland, being forced to take Steve Blake. They used one TE going in, the one left over from the Thaddeus Young deal and coming away with another. RHJ is going to take a while to develop. His jumpshot will have to improve, but his offense --ball-handling, passing-- should be just fine. The other issue is that he's 20 years old and will be asked to defend the opponents best player, day in, day out. That's a big adjustment.
We're intrigued by Chris McCullough. We can only remember one other first round pick who had as little college experience, Kyrie Irving. McCullough played 16 games at Syracuse, Irving 11 games at Duke. A month younger than RHJ, he will have to recover from a torn ACL, then get back in game shape and try to play the NBA 4 weighing about 214 pounds.
We're were also intrigued by Juan Pablo Vaulet, the 6'6" Argentine shooting guard who the Nets traded for after he was picked at No. 38 by the Hornets. Cost them two second rounders and $880,000. Draft Express ranked him 97th on their board but supposedly if he hadn't been drafted, the Spurs were interested in as a long-term prospect. He IS a long-term prospect, at 19 years old. Right now, he cannot shoot with any consistency. He does have great athletic gifts. Problem is that for the second time in two years, he suffered a fractured ankle/tibia (different ankles) in July. Both required surgery. We're not counting on him joining the NBA for a few years.
July 1 (B+)
The Nets moved quickly to re-sign Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young and called Thomas Robinson and Shane Larkin at midnight to express interest. Broken down, we'd give the Nets front office high grades for bringing back two 27-year-olds who were critical to their late season playoff run ... and a B for the other two, not because they are likely to be B-grade talent, but because they cost a grand total of $2.4 million. Both have a lot to prove, as evidenced by their vagaond journeys through the NBA.
July 3 (C+)
The Nets signed undrafted rookie Ryan Boatright, who has a short stature but a big heart. They paid him $75,000 up front with a guarantee of another $125,000 if he makes the team. It's unlikely he will see that money. With three veteran PG's ahead of him in Jarrett Jack, Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan, Boatright has his work cut out for him although Billy King said Tuesday he could foresee the Nets carrying four PG's. Unlikely and Boatright isn't a natural point guard. Again, sure wish the Nets had a D-League team.
July 9 (B)
Wayne Ellington left the comfortable confines of L.A. and joined the Nets at a $1.5 million salary, less than he made with the Lakers last season. Ellington can shoot, having helped North Carolina win the NCAA tournament with a barrage of three's as a senior. He has shot 40 percent or better from deep in four of his six seasons. He's a player who can catch fire and coming off the bench, he could be a rich man's Anthony Morrow. Cheap, too.
Willie Reed finally gets his chance at the NBA. The Nets signed him to a $500,000 guarantee on a vets minimum worth less than $1 million. Hard work pays off, but no one really knows how good he will be. He's had multiple chances to make it and hasn't. Word out of the Orlando Summer League was that not only was he doing well playing for the Heat's entry in the SL, but in practices, he was holding his own against Hassan Whiteside, last season's Heat wunderkind who wasn't working out with the summer league.
July 10 (B)
You can look at Deron Williams buyout as a disaster because it showed just how much he declined, or as a success because it showed the Nets are willing to bite the bullet and not throw good money after bad. The $27.5 million buyout on his remaining $43.2 million deal was typical for buyouts. (In fact, the two biggest buyouts in NBA history belong to the Nets, the other being $30 million handed Dikembe Mutombo back in New Jersey.)
We'll go with it as a success because it frees up flexibility on the cap and because they make so much money not paying him the first two years of the stretch it makes up for the $17 million they will have to pay him over three years byeond that. D-WIll WAS a divisive figure in both Utah and New Jersey/Brooklyn. The Nets psyche all depended on which Deron showed up. Also, there is now some freedom with the cap that goes to big things, like all the extra money the Nets will have next year ... and because they more easily make gambles, knowing if things don't work out, they won't get stuck with a big bill. The Nets, for example, decided to keep Quincy Miller for the price of a $50,000 guarantee. If it was last season, that guarantee would have cost them $200,000 with luxury taxes. It's likely they would have dumped him. Farewell to all that.
July 12 (B+)
The D-Will buyout was followed by another surprise, the Nets signing of Andrea Bargnani, the 29-year-old former No. 1 pick in the 2006 Draft and bane of Knick fans' existence last year. A free agent after two injury-plagued years in New York, Bargnani wasn't even on the Nets radar until he shockingly turned his attention from Sacramento, who thought they had a deal with him, to Brooklyn.
Everyone knows the downside, the missed games, the missed opportunity, the missed rebounds and missing defense. But he can shoot. Even in his limited minutes for the Knicks, he had four games of 25 points and shot 37 percent from deep. The replacement for Mirza Teletovic, who had left for Phoenix three days before.
July 13 (B-)
Steve Blake was never going to make it to Nets training camp. He wanted Billy King to waive him, but King believed he had value and ultimately so did Stan Van Gundy, who was concerned if not desperate about his point guard depth. It was a simple deal: Steve Blake for Quincy Miller. The deal saved the Nets $2 million in cap space -- and some nifty cap management also got them a $2.2 million trade exception. Initial reports had the Nets dumping Miller the next day because he had a $50,000 guarantee kicking in on July 15. Instead, they kept him on. It's a benefit of being under the luxury tax. In previous years, with an onerous tax situation, Miller would have cost $200,000.
The same day, the Nets dumped Cory Jefferson to avoid paying him $125,000. The Nets obviously felt Miller had a better shot making the team than Jefferson ... and the more cap flexibility the better.
August 10 (B+)
Another two transaction day. The Nets signed Donal Sloan, the journeyman PG, to back up Jarrett Jack and Shane Larkin, and waived Earl Clark, who was brought on last season after Mirza Teletovic went down.
Sloan, who had games of 31 and 29 filling in for the injured George Hill at Indiana, signed a partially guaranteed ($50,000 again) vets minimum deal. He's 27 and like so many of his teammates has played for almost as many teams as he's had years in the league.
Clark would have earned $1.185 million this year if he had made the team.
September 7 (?)
An odd grade for an odd signing. The Nets signed Dahntay Jones to a non-guaranteed vets minimum deal. Signing Jones, who became the team's oldest player at 34, was so out of context with everything else the team did before --and after. In the midst of a youth movement, the Nets brought in a veteran presence -- like contenders do. It's not as if they don't have veteran leadership. Jack is a given in that department and both the Nets and Lopez have said it's time for the 27-year-old to "put his stamp" on the team. Jones is tough customer but he's not likely to contribute in any other way.
September 10 (C)
"C" is a grade we give to transactions that have little importance and dumping the 59th pick in the 2014 Draft, Xavier Thames, qualifies. Teams with unsigned second round picks must offer the player a contract of some sort by September 10 of each year. Thames would have accepted the deal and the Nets had no room for him, so they decided to end their relationship with him. He didn't play particularly well in either the Spanish League or D-League last season.
September 18 (C)
The Nets had wanted to sign both Yanick Moreira, the Angolan national team star, and Justin Harper, who had played in Europe after failing to make the Magic, but Moreira's physical showed he had a small tear in a foot ligament, so that didn't happen. The Nets did sign the 6'10" Harper, who they liked when he played for Richmond in 2011.
September 23 (C)
And then there were 20. The Nets signed Chris Daniels, who played in China last season with Yi Jianlian, Emmanuel Mudiay and Will Bynum on the Guangdong Southern Tigers. He's listed at 6'9" by the Nets, 7'0" by Guangdong.
Of course, those grades have to be leavened by the free agency moves of players who left. The biggest loss was probably Alan Anderson, who had a very good year for the Nets last season but decided to head to Washington, where he will essentially replace Paul Pierce. The Nets reportedly wanted him back, but not as much as they want to develop Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. That's a fact. Mirza Teletovic went on to Phoenix and he said the Nets wanted him back, but he chose the Suns. Last year's Teletovic played only 40 games, 11 more than his replacement, Andrea Bargnani, and was not the same player he was the year before. Still, he was a fan favorite and when he was "on", he was a great shooter. Where he'll really be missed is on the boards, where Bargnani isn't in the same league.
The Nets also didn't re-sign Darius Morris and Jerome Jordan, both third-stringers. Neither have found new jobs in the NBA.
Final grade: We'll go with a "B." They had a very good draft, it appears. They got a lot of value out of a little money. None of their signings, other than Lopez and Young, cost them more than $3 million over multiple years.They cut costs in other ways, replacing highly paid staff internally. They got under the luxury tax, giving them some flexibility, and avoided the repeater tax. Those moves may even result in the team making a profit, which will stabilize the business side ahead of the big national and local TV deals that could add more than $50 million a year to the coffers over the next two seasons.
What they didn't do was sign or trade for a big name player ... for the first time since they moved to Brooklyn. They were hamstrung by a lack of cap space and a lack of draft picks to use in big deals.
There's no indication Mikhail Prokhorov and Dmitry Razumov want to exit the NBA. They certainly would like to sell a stake and cash out on some of the (incredible) rise in their investment And then, there was the addition-by-subtraction. Billy King may have replied, "Next question" when asked by AP's Jim Hague if that was the case, but that phrase is used internally to describe dumping D-Will.
How's it look for the season? Brian Fleurantin is working on his season preview and Reed Wallach will host his annual roundtable and we will all have a shot at predictions. What does Net Income believe? Bottom line: everything will have to break right for the Nets to make the playoffs, but they should be more interesting, more fun.
One thing we found interesting in compiling this list is how many the off-season deals were one-year with a PLAYER option. It's no doubt a function of the new CBA. If Andrea Bargnani, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington or Thomas Robinson do well, they can opt out and negotiate a bigger deal with the Nets or someone else. And with the new TV rights money and the increase in salary cap and luxury tax thresholds, a bigger deal could be a much bigger deal.
Nets Practice Facility
We had a chance to visit the Nets East Rutherford practice facility twice in the last week and found it wanting. The Nets move to the HSS Training Center early in February can't happen soon enough. The Nets are living on borrowed time in New Jersey. The facility is threadbare and still suffering the effects of water damage from Hurricane Sandy (when a dead fish was reportedly found in the weight room).
The media room is dungeon-like. It does have all the requisite WiFi connections and plenty of outlets, but it's small and a bit dingy. Not much you can do with it. The main conference room has a couple of flat screens and 10 high-back leather chairs -- in four different styles. The whole place could use a paint job.
The Nets at one point, post-Sandy, looked at the possibility of rehabbing and upgrading it. It simply wasn't worth it. Too much was needed to upgrade it to current NBA standards. Better to pack up and move to Brooklyn. (New Jersey won't be without an NBA practice facility for long. The 76ers are building a team headquarters in Camden, with both offices for business and basketball operations as well as practice courts.)
Analytics a higher priority?
The Nets analytics department is basically Glenn DuPaul and an intern, with raw data provided from outside sources. Slowly, but surely, DuPaul appears to be getting more respect As has been reported, ownership is on board and Billy King made some positive comments on DuPaul's contributions this week. Others have said he was quite helpful in the Draft preps.
The Nets want the analytics team to handle everything from pre-game analysis of the Nets and their opponents to modelling free agency and trade possibilities, even in real time. In general, the front office want DuPaul to be a basketball operations sounding board as well as a guy who can break down the effectiveness of player combinations.
Word was that the Nets liked the 23-year-old Lehigh grad because, as one front office type put it, "He speaks English," that is he can simply the data, making it easily digestible for the skeptics, which are in great supply. Don't expect to hear much about successes or failures. The big job is managing the data warehouse the Nets already have.coursing through their computers.
We now move on to preseason. Hallelujah. The off-season produced a lot of surprises, one big and a number of small ones as well. A lot of the basis for a lot of the punditry at the beginning of the off-season was wrong. The team strategy changed dramatically in May without a lot of people taking notice.
Most pundits predicted the Nets would still be in cap hell this year ... instead of getting below the tax threshold in mid-July. They all believed the Nets were going to heavily market Joe Johnson, which was never the Nets intention. They thought Jarrett Jack would be a nice trade piece, but that wasn't on the table either. So, maybe it's better to wait and see rather than make a lot of unsubstantiated predictions. Predictions can be fun, but they're no substitutes for sitting at a real game and watching real players in real situations. We look forward to that.