June 1 is Thursday, opening a month of big moves. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the draft, but in the days after the June 22 event at Barclays, the Nets will have to start making decisions on free agents, their own as well as others. That’s where we begin. And as we’ve been saying...
Change and continuity
June isn’t just about the draft. It is the start of free agency as well, a hectic time for trades and decision time for team and player options. So let’s take a look at the current state of play, starting with the biggest uncertainty, the team options.
Six Nets players, 40 percent of the roster, have team options totaling $10 million for next year: K.J. McDaniels, Quincy Acy, Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick, Spencer Dinwiddie and Archie Goodwin. To recap: All but McDaniels, who would make $3.5 million, are on rookie minimum contracts and as we’ve pointed out in our Deadlines and Commitments series, their option dates start on June 24 (McDaniels) and end on July 16 (Acy). Will they all be back? It would be a huge surprise if they were.
The uncertainty, of course, doesn’t end there. Last year, Sean Marks retained only five players from 2015-16. By the trade deadline, that number was down to three: Brook Lopez, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kilpatrick. Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough had been shipped off to the Wizards.
Marks has said he’d like to avoid such a massive turnover this year, that continuity is important but he has a lot of flexibility. Other than the six players with team options, only one of their veteran players has a guarantee for 2018-19 and that’s Andrew Nicholson, who’s owed $6.6 million in 2018-19 and has a player option at $6.9 million in 2019-20.
Jeremy Lin has a player option for 2018-19 and Randy Foye is already a free agent. The three players on rookie deals, Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead will no doubt be extended through 2018-19 before October 31.
The rest of the cast —Lopez, Trevor Booker and Justin Hamilton— will be on expiring deals in 2017-18. That could make them ideal trade pieces, as a decreasing risk to a trade partner. In addition, Booker, at $9.1 million, and Hamilton, at $3 million, have very reasonable deals. Will Lopez be traded? We doubt it, but as Marks has said, the Nets will always be “strategic,” meaning they’re looking at things long-term.
As we look deeper at the cap picture, there are other elements to consider. The Nets still owe Deron Williams three more years of stretched payments at $5.74 million, another legacy of the last regime. He still gets paid the 1st and 30th of each month.
If they pick at Nos. 22, 27 and 57, then sign all of them, which we seriously doubt, they will pay out nearly $4 million to rookies next year: $1.7 million for the 22nd pick, $1.3 million for the 27th pick and $815,615 for the 57th. They might want to sign a couple of Long Island Nets to training camp deals, players like Cliff Alexander, Prince Ibeh or Trahson Burrell. That will cost them a few hundred thousand in partially guaranteed deals. They might want to add an undrafted player or two or three, like they did last season, handing $245,000 in training camp deals.
Finally, there are the two-way players the Nets can sign to Long Island deals. it’s a complicated procedure, but it offers more roster flexibility.
So what’s the bottom line here? That $33 million cap space number that gets tossed around is not set in stone. It’s a guide. It doesn’t include any of the players with team options. If Booker and/or Hamilton get dealt for picks, like Thaddeus Young was, the number will jump. If they’re willing to take on salary dumps for picks, as Woj reported, it will drop.
There’s been mixed signals on free agents. Marks has said that at this point in the rebuild, he doesn’t want to throw big money at top free agents, but the names that have been floated as Nets targets — restricted free agents Otto Porter, Jonathon Simmons and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and unrestricted free agents George Hill and J.J. Redick (see below)-- will all require the Nets to back up an armored car loaded with max or near-max money. Maybe they focus on Milos Teodosic and Europeans. We don’t know.
So, expect to be surprised. June and early July will be very busy. As much as last year? Doubt it. The Nets had $43 million in cap space to start with. But as we’ve noted before, when you’re this deep in a rebuild, anything is possible.
How good of a draft and other bits of wisdom
Gregg Polinsky, the Nets long-time director of player personnel and chief scout, isn’t talking about the Nets picks (no one inside does), but he does speak in general terms. Although he has an office at HSS Training Center, Birmingham is Polinsky’s base of operations. Always has been.
Last few weeks, he’s spoken with Scott Griffin of 99.1 Sports Radio in Alabama and offered his take on the draft and playoffs. It apparently was off-mike, but Griffin recorded Polinsky’s thoughts for posterity on Twitter. Some interesting takes on two upcoming events, the Draft and playoffs.
"The lottery is as rich as it's been in a long time. After that it’s as good as it's been normally.”
“I sit with refs after the game because they see players react to them up close.”
"My job is to be the voice of reason on scouting players on the stage of the NCAA Tournament. You want to see guys who perform in the moment."
“If you have ever been to a Kansas practice with Bill Self, the game is the easy part. Great guards.”
"Warriors rank very high in analytics in hustle plays (when shooting doesn't happen).”
“Cavaliers have that guy that wears #23 out there, when you have a leader like King James, it's on.”
“No team in NBA plays with more physicality than the Celtics. They take guys with an edge and compete at high level.”
“Put Brad Stevens in that group of great coaching in the NBA. One of the three toughest teams in league.”
Kansas has great guards. Hmm. (We will take what we can get!)
Draft Sleeper of the Week
It’s taken us a while to get to him, but if you asked us, “who do you think is the most likely Nets pick at either 22 or 27?” we would have answer, “We have no inside information, but we’d bet on Isaiah Hartenstein.”
No player has shown up on more mocks over the last month than the (barely) 19-year-old German-American seven-footer who plays for Zalgiris in Lithuanian. He is identified as an international player, but he’s more American than German. He was born in Eugene, Oregon, home of the University of Oregon where his father, Florian, a German citizen, played college ball. His mother is American and Isaiah, aka “Zay,” lived in the United States until he was eight when moved with the family to Germany. His father is a professional coach in the German league.
Here’s a video from last year, produced by VICE Sports, on his roots and his game.
His biggest Nets connection is Chris Fleming, the Nets assistant who is also the head coach of the German national team. They have worked together in Germany. Back in March, Fleming was asked about Hartenstein and another German prospect, Kostja Mushidi. He didn’t mention names, but was very positive.
“There are some kids who have very high potential to be really good players. That would be the challenge; a positive challenge for the coming years as those kids are going to want to play for the national team at every level and Germany has the potential to make great things in competitions at every level. We're all looking forward to the future.”
Seems like he was talking about Hartenstein, if not by name.
Here’s the Draft Express breakdown of his game from Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz, following last month’s Nike Hoops Summit.
Hartenstein has developed the reputation as a 7-footer who can space the floor and attack from the perimeter but after a week in Portland he showed his initial value may be more as a hard-playing, 250-pound big who can make his presence felt on the glass and play with activity defensively as his offensive skill set continues to develop. Hartenstein may very well turn into a threat from NBA three down the road, but he showed that he has quite a bit of room to improve in that regard. His overall skill set offensively could use some polishing.
With that said, Hartenstein has NBA tools to fall back on at 7' 1 with a great frame and impressive mobility. He competed all week long, playing only a couple hours from his hometown of Eugene, and proved that his time with Zalgiris has certainly helped him from a toughness standpoint. Hartenstein may not be the ultra-skilled stretch four man he showed flashes of in the past, but there's certainly room in the NBA for centers with his size, strength, aggressiveness, rebounding ability and potential skill set.
DX took a look at one of his games last month. Here’s their video analysis...
If the Nets take him, he’s likely to either stay overseas or spend a lot of time on Long Island. The former would cost them nothing, the latter more than a million dollars. The more likely option is he stays overseas. But Nets fans would get a look at him this summer in Eurobasket 2017, the FIBA European championships.
Which pick would they take him at? They’d almost have to take him at No. 22. He might not last much longer.
Sean Marks likes his lawyers, in particular Ivy League-educated lawyers. He’s quietly hired a few of them for basketball operations. It’s part of his often unorthodox management style, bringing in a staff with diverse backgrounds.
From what we can tell, he’s hired at least three lawyers, all with impressive resumes for basketball operations, one right out of Yale Law School. A fourth staffer, Matt Tellem, received his J.D. in May of last year from Fordham.
Ming-Jie Wang was hired as a basketball operations associate this month, having received his J.D. a few weeks ago from Yale, where he also received his B.A. in economics and international studies. He speaks fluent Mandarin. In between undergraduate and law school, he did a turn at Goldman Sachs, the big investment firm.
He joins two other lawyers on staff, both hired last summer and Tellem. Here’s their curriculum vitae.
Natalie Jay is the Nets capologist, officially the “contract and cap specialist.” She got a J.D. for Harvard Law in 2015 after a B.A. in medieval history from Princeton. In between, she was a sports writer in Ventura, California. Just before she joined the Nets, she was a clerk for Judge Raymond W. Gruender of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. She speaks Spanish and Portuguese.
Andrew Baker is the Nets strategic planning director. He received his J.D. from Tulane in sports law, also in 2015. Baker’s former job was as a “quality assurance analyst” with the Spurs. He attended NYU undergraduate, got a degree in sports management. He speaks Spanish.
Matt Tellem is the Nets basketball information coordinator. He’s been with the Nets since 2011. The son of Pistons executive and former super agent, Arn Tellem, joined the Nets after graduating from Penn, where he studied economics. He took classes at Fordham Law while working for the Nets, first in East Rutherford, then in Brooklyn.
What’s the value of a lawyer for basketball operations? Lawyers are trained to be disciplined thinkers, not that other professionals aren’t, and in Marks open management culture, that’s a valuable trait.
We have to think that one reason Marks liked coming to Brooklyn is that New York would help him attract the best talent. The Spurs may have a great basketball history, a great basketball culture, but the biggest talent pool in the world, dare we say it, is here. As Frank sang, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
J.J. on the subway
We don’t know where free agent J.J. Redick will wind up this fall, but this summer he is in Brooklyn, where he’s training, according to Jeremy Lin, with the Nets. He bought and renovated a condo a year ago in DUMBO, near the Manhattan Bridge. Adrian Wojnarowski says the Nets, Knicks and 76ers all have interest in him, but the price will have to be right. He can get a LOT more from the Clippers.
But here’s one thing we like already about the Tennessee native. He’s adjusted well to life in New York. On Saturday, a poster named “Loose Change” tweeted out a picture of the 6’4” Redick on a subway platform seemingly checking his texts.
Suffice it to say, he’s already a New Yorker.
This is Irina Pavlova’s last week as president of ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment. As we have reported, after seven years, she’s moving on. So we decided to say one last farewell and couldn’t think of a better way to do it than publish this great photo of her. Taken at HSS Training Center, her lasting ($52 million) legacy, by her friend, Andrew Torrey, it captures the personality fans grew to love.
Best wishes, Irina. You will be missed.