Put aside, for a moment, the unconfirmed rumor that Mikhail Prokhorov wants CSKA Moscow president Andrey Vatutin as his next GM or assistant GM or president of basketball operations. Consider instead the larger issue of how European and other international players could provide a pool of free agents worth plumbing.
We're not talking super stars here, but solid rotation players. When you have no draft picks and NBA free agency could prove disappointing, you might have some luck in Europe
And this summer is going to different in a log of ways. With the infusion of TV rights money, the gap between what NBA teams can pay and what their European counterparts can pay will widen dramatically. The highest paid player in Europe is Alexey Shved, who makes $3.4 million. The highest paid player in China is Andray Blatche at less than $3 million. In an NBA where the salary cap could be closing in on $100 million, that's a virtual pittance. By paying International players (relatively) big bucks, it would also make it easier for them to buy their way out of European deals. Not to mention the limited risk.
Wait, you say, how good are these players? The Nets found Mirza Teletovic three years ago and he eventually became a rotation player and fan favorite. Boban Marjanovic is playing well for the Spurs. There are a number of good to very good point guards like Milos Teodosic of CSKA (pictured), whose salary is $2.5 million; Rudy Fernandez of Real Madrid who's at $2.6 million; and Nando De Colo, who played for the Spurs, is at $1.2 million. Mantas Kalnietis of Žalgiris Kaunas, who the Nets worked two years ago makes less than a million. At least one big man, 6'11" Jan Vesely of Fenerbahce, had scouts taking notes last summer at FIBA Europe. He's at $2.2 million. There are others. Yi Jianlian? (Have I gone too far?)
Jonathan Givony of Draft Express once estimated there were as many as 40 Europeans who could play in the NBA. A lot of them are presumably in the Nets scouting database. Their international scout, Danko Cvjeticanin, has a very good reputation.
Okay, now let's return to the Vatutin rumor. It doesn't make much sense for him to jump across the Atlantic and join the club as GM when the Nets immediate future depends on free agency and he's a virtual unknown to players and their agents. But as assistant GM? Maybe. As president of basketball operations with a GM under him and reporting to Prokhorov? Maybe. He IS a good judge of talent and knows who's good and who isn't on the continent ... and how much they are paid. He would be helpful if the team decided to scour Europe for talent.
The Nets have a long history of international firsts. They were the first team to draft an international player, Oscar Schmidt of Brazil, in 1984; the first to give a European player a real shot, trading for Drazen Petrovic in 1991 and first to be bought by a European, Mikhail Prokhorov, in 2010. There's even some talk they could play in Russia or India next season. Those would be firsts as well.
So, it might make a lot of sense to give it another shot this summer.