In the debate, mainly among pundits about what the Nets should do in their next iteration, there are those who advocate "blowing it up" --trade the Nets assets for picks and young(er) players and those who believe in the "small reset" (the owner's phrase) or "quick turnaround" (the CEO's phrase), building around a "young core."
Right now, it would seem that Mikhail Prokhorov is going with the latter. As he's said, he thinks with "a lot of luck" and "one or two players," the Nets could return to playoff contention next year! So who is this young core? Depends on who you ask.
Three players are givens --the 27-year-old frontcourt duo of Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, both playing among the best basketball of their careers, and the (barely) 21-year-old draft steal Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who showed a lot of promise before breaking his ankle in practice in December. Also, on most everyone's list is Chris McCullough, still 20, a 6'11" stretch four. Of course, no one other than team employees has seen him play. He's practicing (when there is practice) and could return around the same time as RHJ.
Then, it starts to change.
CEO Brett Yormark has listed Bojan Bogdanovic, 26, as part of the "core," but his inconsistency has hurt him. Still, for the first time, Bogdanovic will be playing for someone other than Lionel Hollins. On Monday, he looked like a weight had been lifted from from his shoulders as he scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from deep. If he can shoot anywhere near that, he could be a very nice piece next year, the third year of his reasonable $10 million deal.
In a surprise, Prokhorov listed Markel Brown (twice!) Monday as one of the team's "young, talented guys", a surprising description. (He did not mention Bogdanovic) Of course, Tony Brown seems to disagree. On Wednesday, vs. the Knicks, Brown got a DNP-CD from the interim coach. He'll be a free agent in the summer, but the Nets have his Early Bird Rights.
Assuming those six players --between the ages of 20 and 27-- are the Nets young core, what about some of the other younger or young-ish players on the roster? Shane Larkin, still only 23, may not be starting point guard caliber, but as showed Wednesday, he can be a rotation player. He has a $1.5 million player option.
Same goes for Willie Reed, who's 25 and shown he can play well enough to warrant some time. With him and his buddy, McCullough, the Nets could have two bargains off the bench next season. He, too, is a free agent in July but the Nets also have his Early Bird Rights.
What about Sergey Karasev, who started 16 games for a playoff team last year, then didn't get extended in the fall? It doesn't seem like he fits. Thomas Robinson, who has a player option for the vets minimum, is getting minutes again, but despite his often-staggering athleticism, he has yet to click in the rotation. Expect to see him get more minutes, but will it help? The Nets are his sixth team in five years.
Juan Pablo Vaulet, the 6'7" Argentine guard the Nets drafted last June, is intriguing but questions abound. He's once again hurt and Argentine reporters have a hard time figuring out whether his team is being cautious or he's injury-prone. He had surgery on both ankles by the time he turned 19 and now has a supposedly unrelated ankle inflammation. He's not getting time on court. Billy King and Frank Zanin were reportedly ready to sign him to an NBA contract this summer, but who knows what a new regime would want to do. The Nets could sign him to a deal with the Long Island Nets (something they can do with any second rounder) and not have him count against the Nets cap ... while retaining his rights. But that wouldn't pay him much. Still, he won't turn 20 until March. Plenty of time.
The rest of the roster is comprised of three 30+ players. Jarrett Jack will be 33 the next time he steps on the court. He has a $500,000 guarantee the Nets must exercise by the end of June ... or pay him a full $6.3 million. That's not happening. Joe Johnson, who'll be 35 next year, isn't likely in the Nets plans next season either. As for Andrea Bargnani, he's owed $1.5 million next season, but it's hard to imagine he and the Nets won't part amicably.
That leaves role players Wayne Ellington, 28 and Donald Sloan, 27. They would seem to be afterthoughts, although Ellington has a player option. The Nets will likely wind up with two or three second rounders, their own second rounder at No 33 (as long as the Clippers keep winning) and a couple of purchased picks, who could be sent to Long Island. They might find an interesting free agent overseas.
Of course, things change. A new GM might be able to convince Prokhorov to blow it up. That's unlikely. The Nets could get offers for a player like Bogdanovic. There are always things we don't know about. And of course, the owner's comment about Brown could have been off-handed and meaningless (but he did mention him twice) and really shouldn't be considered part of the core.
We shall see