A lot of this week’s report is ICYMI, in case you missed it. It was a busy week and there were intriguing possibilities laid out along the way that may have gotten missed ... or not given the attention they deserve.
The Worst Day of the Rebuild (We Hope)
Well, the worst is over (we hope). The Celtics as expected won the Draft Lottery and will pick first on Jun 22.
It may have been, (we hope it is) the worst day of the Nets rebuild. If the team does well with their two picks in the 20’s, scores a couple of successes in free agency and keeps the fan base relatively happy, next season would be, could be, should be better than this past one one, limiting the Celtics chances of scoring another top 3 pick next June.
Conversely, it may have been the high point of the Celtics month as well. After the Lottery win, Boston has been blown out twice in the Eastern Conference Finals and lost Isaiah Thomas for the rest of the playoff to a hip injury. He’s likely to need surgery and will be out for three months.
But enough schadenfreude ... for now.
Should Jonathon Simmons be a top priority?
We wrote a week ago about how the Nets missed out on Jonathon Simmons, the 6’6” swingman for the Spurs. He’s been filling in for Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio’s series vs. Golden State. While some other players, like LaMarcus Aldridge, haven’t stepped up, Simmons has shown that he’s got real potential as a starter in this league.
In the Western Conference Finals, Simmons is averaging 16 points on 44.1 percent shooting, including 40 percent from three. He’s also averaging 2.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 27 minutes a game. And oh yeah, he can play defense. Ask James Harden who he held to 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting in San Antonio’s blowout of the Rockets in the clinching Game 6 of the Western Conference semi-finals. Simmons scored 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting in that 114-75 blowout.
Should he be a top Nets priority in free agency? Sean Marks has identified the 3 as the Nets top priority in this year’s free agency and Simmons can play the 3 or the 2 on offense and can guard either positions and sometimes the 4 as well.
Some like Sam Vecenie of The Sporting News thinks he should be on Sean Marks’ radar.
Man, if Jonathon Simmons wasn’t going to be 28, I’d advocate Brooklyn giving him just obscene amounts of money.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) May 21, 2017
As a restricted free agent, the Nets might still have to give him “obscene” amounts of money. A lot of teams will be interested and the Spurs can match. Simmons has proven himself. There are reasons not to go hogwild. He is 27 and will turn 28 in September, as Vecenie notes. A four-year deal might be a bit of a risk. His three-point shooting, while decent, would need to get better if he is to thrive in the Nets motion offense. He hit 38.3 percent in 2015-16, but dropped to 29.3 percent in 2016-17. In the playoffs, he’s hit 35.3 percent, which is probably the best that can be expected.
Would the Spurs match a big offer? And at what number? No one is saying. But he’s primarily been Leonard’s back-up and Leonard is only 25. Finding a replacement for his production on their own roster doesn’t seem likely and in this hyperventilated market, a free agent would be quite costly. So they might match.
There’s been little speculation about the Nets and Simmons until now. Otto Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have long been seen as their top targets in free agency. Both are younger than Simmons and can shoot better. But read Twitter Friday night and you’ll find fans starting to wonder if Marks and company will add him to their list, or maybe put him at the top of it.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
So far, this off-season we have profiled Rodions Kurucs of Latvia, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky, Mathias Lessort of France, Omir Yurtseven of North Carolina State (and Uzbekistan) and Donovan Mitchell of Louisville. They’ve all been linked to the Nets in this mock draft or that. But the player who has been most linked to the Nets is Harry Giles, the 6’11” center/power forward from Duke.
In our most recent survey of 15 mock drafts, he was matched with the Nets on five of them, either at No. 22 or No. 27. Isaiah Hartenstein, the German-American teenager, was next with four.
Giles is indeed intriguing. He was the consensus No. 1 high school player in 2015-16 before joining Duke. BUT and it’s a big one, he has had serious knee issues. He tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in his left knee in the summer of 2013 while playing in a FIBA tournament. In November 2015, he tore the ACL in his right knee. Then in early October, he underwent his third knee surgery, this one an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, the one he tore up in 2013 to clean up some non-structural issues, removing loose cartilage.
At the time of the surgery, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski said “Really, structurally his knees are really good. There's just a cleanup.” He missed 11 games in six weeks, but when he came back, he didn’t look the same. He played only 300 minutes and didn’t impress. Was it something permanent or just the normal rehab. There were moments to suggest it was the latter, but stats to suggest the former. He averaged only 3.9 points and 3.7 rebounds
As our Reed Wallach wrote in an April profile of Giles...
Giles fits the mold as a big power forward and even a small ball five in the NBA today. He’s listed at 6’11” with a wingspan of 7’3”. He can block shots and is (or was) an incredibly athletic player that can (or could) jump through the roof.
As a result, Giles has dropped into the Nets vicinity as teams await his medical report. Not everyone thinks he will last that long. Chad Ford of ESPN has him going to the Heat at No. 14. His skillset is just too enticing.
It might be a few weeks before we know what NBA doctors think of Giles' knee. If he's red-flagged medically, he could drop up to 10 spots on our board, depending on the diagnosis. However, if doctors are satisfied that his knees are in good shape, the Heat will get a steal at No. 14.
Others have suggested Giles could benefit from being one of those two-way D-League players, doing a year-long rehab tour without pressure in front of small crowds. Giles talked to our Anthony Puccio at the Lottery. Pooch’s report...
He was “intrigued” by the remodel of the Nets after Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson took over. He also mentioned how it’s important to have a reputable doctor such as Brooklyn’s medical director Riley J. Williams.
Dr. Williams is one of the world’s leading knee surgeons in addition to the Nets’ long time medical director. He has pioneered a number of knee procedures and his opinions are sought worldwide. His opinion is also going to be critical closer to home. If you’re going to take a risk on a player with multiple surgeries, it’s good to have one of the best in the field taking a look. (We also thought it was fascinating that Giles volunteered that he knew all about Dr. Williams.)
Of course, the Nets were in somewhat the same position last summer with Caris LeVert. They relied on Dr. Martin O’Malley, their foot/ankle specialist who is also a top surgeon in the field. Unlike Dr. Williams, Dr. O’Malley had the added benefit of being LeVert’s surgeon.
This year’s Draft is seen as one of the best in a decade, but there are elements that make it risky as well. It is, as Jay Bilas of ESPN notes, the youngest draft perhaps in NBA history. His colleague Fran Fraschilla has hinted NBA GM’s are starting to see some flaws in individual players’ games and they’re getting skeptical about its overall strength. So expect a lot of surprises.
NBA teams get medical records from the Pre-Draft Combine a few days before the June 22 draft. Players can limit who gets them. Kris Dunn didn’t want anyone seeing his last year. Joel Embiid limited the number of teams who looked at his records.
Bottom line: Giles is a risk and a big one, but draftniks believe the Nets are just the sort of team who should take that risk.
Buying picks and who might be selling
As we’ve noted before, the Nets have bought seven picks in the seven years Mikhail Prokhorov has owned the team, spending nearly $10 million. No surprise, but the best two of the seven were the players taken with the highest picks: Bojan Bogdanovic, with the 31st pick in the 2011 pick and Isaiah Whitehead, with the 42nd pick last year. Bogdanovic cost the Nets $1.3 million. In this year’s draft, that $1.3 million might get you a pick in the 50’s. Inflation, ya know. In fact, Whitehead cost the Nets $3 million and the 55th pick.
Who might be willing to sell this year? A number of teams. Here’s a breakdown...
Philadelphia has four - Nos. 36, 39, 46 and 50. Boston has three -- Nos. 37, 53 and 56 and Utah also has three -- Nos. 30, 42 and 55.
Six other teams have two, Orlando, Phoenix, New York, Denver, Atlanta and Houston. The Rockets have no firsts but two seconds.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders thinks Philly, among others, will be looking to sell.
I would say there are a ton of picks obtainable in the second round - Philly may move all of theirs. https://t.co/YEu6UFNaxu— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) May 20, 2017
“Moving” of course doesn’t necessarily mean “selling.” The Nets could package a player, a future pick, cash or some combination to acquire a second rounder like they did last year, with Isaiah Whitehead. As we noted, the Nets have $3.43 million to spend. If they want a pick in the middle of the second round, it may take all of that ... and then some.
Their best, non-monetary asset, assuming they don’t trade a player, is the Indiana pick obtained in the Thaddeus Young deal last June. It’s likely to be a high second rounder next June if as expected the Pacers start rebuilding. One thing that’s not likely to have any value is the draft rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet, the Argentine draft-and-stash. We reported last week he was likely to play in the Liga Nacional playoffs, but since then, he’s been ruled out. The issue, as it has been since even before he was drafted, is one of his ankles.
Who among the players might be moved for a pick? There are of course the six players with team options. We think one or two of them could wind up in deals, either for picks or as add-ons in bigger trades.
Why does a team sell its picks? Because 1) it has no roster spots to accommodate more players, particularly marginal second rounders and/or 2) the money gained from a sale can finance a team’s off-season operations, whether it’s summer league, training camp or even D-League expenses. If a team’s D-League club is losing a million dollars a year, selling a pick cures that issue. And what’s more valuable? A second round pick or a healthy D-League franchise?
Specifically, in the case of Philly, the overall strategy is shifting as the team moves from rebuild into possible playoff contention. Sam Hinkie stockpiled second rounders, many taken as the price for other team’s salary dumps. No need for all those picks now in the Bryan Colangelo era.
Speaking of Salary Dumps
In an interview with Chris Mannix on Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski says the Nets are willing to take on a salary dump ... if they can get a good young player or draft pick in return.
“Brooklyn will be out there on the market looking at teams who have a bad contract they want to get off, but only if you’re willing to attach a good young player or a draft pick,” said Woj.
Woj didn’t provide details, but he was speaking about the Lakers need to dump salaries if a rebuild. The Lakers’ luck in the Draft Lottery may accelerate LA’s desire to make moves. They now know they have picks in the 2017 and 2019 Drafts, something they weren’t sure of before Tuesday night.
The two most discussed salary dumps the Lakers might like to execute involve the contracts of Timofey Mozgov ($48 million left over three) and Luol Deng ($54 million also over three). There’s also Jordan Clarkson ($27 million over three). No team or player options on any of them. Those are BIG contracts that would eat into the Nets cap space for years and the one speculated return, the Lakers second pick in the 2017 Draft, the 28th pick, is a joke. The Lakers could trade their 2018 pick, which might be a lottery pick. Protections might be an issue. How about Julius Randle?
Also, as we’ve reported, Portland might want to deal some of their oversized contracts, which unlike LA’s, are attached to young players like Myers Leonard ($30 million over three), Mo Harkless ($30 million over three) and of course Allen Crabbe ($57 million) among others. Orlando with new leadership might want to clear some bad deals like Bismack Biyombo ($51 million over three) and D.J. Augustin ($21 million over three). Would the Nets be willing to take Kent Bazemore from Atlanta ($54 million)? They pursued him last season.
The Nets are running short video vignettes on what each of the team’s players thought were the best moments of their season. So far, it’s been Brook Lopez, Sean Kilpatrick and Spencer Dinwiddie.
Lopez reflects on getting the 10,000th point of his career. No surprise there, but he took a different tack. “While it’s a worthy individual achievement, Lopez passed the praise along to his teammates – because that’s just how team-oriented Brook is. Still, Lopez’s offensive accomplishments deserve recognition, take a bow Mr. 10,000.”
Kilpatrick, also no surprise, chose the fourth quarter of the Nets early season double overtime win over the Clippers. He went for 38 and 14 in a career game. As the Nets write-up notes. “Kilpatrick was unstoppable in the fourth quarter, dropping 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting, bringing the Nets out of a 13-point deficit to force overtime with the Clippers. But Kilpatrick’s work wasn’t done after four quarters and he tightened his grip on the game, scoring another 12 points over the two overtimes, leading the Nets to the win.”
Dinwiddie’s was a bit more interesting. His favorite play of the season was setting the table for an Isaiah Whitehead block. Dinwiddie and Whitehead both hustled back to chase down Michael Carter-Williams, with Dinwiddie slowing him down just long enough for Whitehead to rise and knock the ball into the first row. He didn’t get the glory, but helping out a teammate is good enough for Dinwiddie.
It’s the difference between a scorer and a point guard.
The other day we tweeted this out...
Recently I went through comments on our story re Celtics trade. 2300 comments. Number of comments concerned about loss of picks? One.— NetsDaily.com (@NetsDaily) May 19, 2017
So we went back and took a look at that story, written by GMJigga, now known as Richard Denton. Indeed we could find only one poster who unequivocally believed the Nets had traded away their future for players well past their prime. (In his fine article, Mr. Denton did point out that it was a “risky” trade.)
We can now reveal that one comment, from a poster known as Omrider who hasn’t posted since October 2013. Here’s what he wrote... at 1:33 a.m. on Draft Night.
This is good?
I’m surprised people are so happy about trading our future for a couple of AARP members.
I don’t think they still have what it takes. By playoff time, it will have been six years since they won a title. They’ll be running on fumes by the playoffs.
He followed up with this 13 minutes later after being criticized by other posters.
Hope you guys are right.
We know the identity of Omrider, but SBNation rules prohibit us from revealing it. Just suffice it to say, Robert, if you see this, we want you back. Such genius, particularly in the face of conventional wisdom, is appreciated.
By the way, two other points. There were actually 2,648 comments, not 2,300. Other than the end of the Dwightmare in 2012, no story in our history drew as many comments. One other poster, Proballxx, was skeptical of the lost picks, but was not as definitive as Omrider and he approved of the risk. He like others believed the picks would probably be low.
So when the Nets draft the next Kobe Bryant, sign the next Jason Kidd or trade for the next Vince Carter, remember this, remain calm.
Of course, sometimes even we get just a little carried away.