We’re 11 days from the Draft, 20 from free agency. It’s going to get crazy very soon with all manner of rumors, reports, speculation as Sean Marks, Trajan Langdon and Kenny Atkinson sort through options. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the next three weeks are the most crucial since the new group took over in February 2016. By mid-July, we should know how the rebuild is progressing.
So we take a look at where the Nets were when Marks took over, make an odd choice for our Draft Sleeper of the Week,
“The hand we were dealt”
That’s Sean Marks oft-used phrase to describe the situation he inherited 16 months ago after Billy King was “reassigned,” Lionel Hollins was fired and the Nets were in the midst of it worst two years in franchise history. (Yes, that’s true. Despite some of the team’s woeful seasons in New Jersey, the Nets never had back-to-back seasons this bad, 41 wins, 123 losses.)
For a lot of people, that phrase translates into the Boston trade: three lost picks and a swapped pick, no picks of your own from 2013 until 2019. But it’s more than that.
Not only do the Nets not have a first rounder of their own for another two drafts, they don’t have a second rounder of their own for the next four. Yes, you can always buy a second round pick, maybe even two or even three as the Nets did in 2014 (none of players taken are still with the team.) But buying a second rounder this season isn’t a replacement for surrendering the top second rounder in a deep draft, the last payment on the 2012 Joe Johnson trade. The Nets will get the Pacers second rounder the first time they finish out of the playoffs, part of Marks’ Thaddeus Young deal.
Looking backward instead of forward, you can also include how the Nets missed out on Kelly Oubre in the swap of 2015 second round picks that they also inexplicitly included in the Joe Johnson trade (and didn’t reveal until six months later when we reported it). The swap ultimately turned into Oubre-for-Chris McCullough, who went to Washington in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade. The Nets and some fans (guilty) denigrated the importance of the swap when the Nets took McCullough with all his potential. They (we) were wrong.
The Nets also have only one stashed pick, Juan Pablo Vaulet. Teams like the Spurs and Rockets use stashed as a development tool. It’s part of their draft strategy: accumulate second round picks, take rising European stars, let them develop, bring them over. Spurs for example drafted Davis Bertans, a 6’10” Latvian, in 2011 at age 18 and waited five years —through two knee surgeries— for him to develop, then signed him last summer. This summer, they will do the same with Adam Hanga, a well-regarded Hungarian forward who they also took in 2011. Draft rights can also come in handy in trades. JPV? Latest is that he may stay in Argentina next year, IF his swollen ankle gets better. He played his last game in March.
Then, there is the D-Will dead money. Deron Williams’ horrid NBA Finals performance reminded us that he’ll be paid $5.474 million every year through June 30, 2020. That works out to around $228,000 every two-week pay period. Williams took his buyout as a continuing payment rather than a lump sum, we’re told. If the Nets had not stretched the buyout, Williams would have been off the books at the end of this month. Now, the remains on the cap, no matter what, until the end of the 2019-2020 season.
Dead money on the payroll doesn’t end there. There were payments related to other bad decisions this year. Andrea Bargnani got $323,599 as part of his buyout. Jarrett Jack got $500,000, the guarantee on his player option which wasn’t picked up. Lionel Hollins was owed $5 million when he was fired in January 2016 and he too still gets paid. That will presumably end June 30.
The Nets also missed out on D-League development in the two years prior to Marks arrival. When their hybrid affiliate, the Springfield Armor, decided to close up shop in 2014, the Nets couldn’t seem to make a decision on how to continue D-League operations and so sat by and watched the Armor owners sell out to a group of local investors in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Armor’s draft picks and D-League player rights went along with the basketballs to the Pistons affiliate. That cache included the overall No. 1 in the 2014 D-League Draft. The Drive took Robert Covington, who quickly was scooped up by Philadelphia. Then, when they finally decided to get back in the D-League game, it cost the Nets millions of dollars to start things up.
There were other less tangible issues, like the need to revamp, upgrade and increase the staff, including scouts, the performance team, etc., etc. In some cases, Billy King cronies weren’t renewed. In others, underutilized staff was given new opportunities.
Bottom line: the first year of the rebuild was about recovery. Now, it’s more about moving forward. We’re not making excuses for Marks. He’ll be fine. Yes, we’ve gone over well-trodden ground, may have even bummed you out, but we wanted to show just how deep the hole was back in February 2016. Time to climb out.
Draft Sleeper of the week
We could do Thomas Bryant or Tony Bradley this week but instead will go in a different direction, following up on our Friday story about how the Nets are working out prospects for the Long Island Nets as well as the Brooklyn Nets. So we take a look at Amile Jefferson, a 6’9” senior forward out of Duke who’s unlikely to be drafted but who the Nets are working out this week.
Jefferson, who’s 24 years old, had a solid career at Duke, being part of the 2014-15 national champs. In his fourth season — that’s 150 games, the most ever in Durham — he averaged 10.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 30 minutes.
He was the Blue Devils defensive presence upfront but lacks shooting skills. He didn’t even take a three pointer during his college career. Still, those are not bad numbers on a very good team that’s likely to produce four first rounders in Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Luke Kennard and Frank Jackson.
Why work him out or bring him in for summer league or camp, considering his age and limits? He was Duke’s glue guy, their character guy, someone who maybe with some development time and effort becomes a defensive specialist. He’s proven he has the work ethic. He was All-ACC Academic Team four times, team captain three times. In those 150 games he played for Coach K, Duke was 124-26.
He played big in big games. In Duke’s NCAA tournament loss to South Carolina, he came away with 14 points and 15 rebounds and as the game neared an end, he let out a primal scream of frustration. His years at Duke had ended.
Here’s his senior speech from his last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“I think I can play power forward, but also guard multiple positions,” he told the Charlotte Observer this week after working out for the Hornets. “Switch defensively whenever they need me to. You have to guard stretch fours (power forwards with shooting range), threes (small forwards) and even twos (shooting guards).”
He’s already worked out for seven teams, and has plans for at least another six. That alone deserves applause.
Ian Begley of ESPN reports Sunday that UNC’s Kennedy Meeks at 6’10” and 260 pounds, a round mound of rebound, did well in his workout with the Nets last week.
In addition to working out for the Knicks, UNC’s Kennedy Meeks also worked out for the Brooklyn Nets last week and some people familiar with the workout said the big man excelled in the workout. Meeks is projected by some as a late second-round pick.
The Nets of course have the 57th pick if they keep it and don’t do what they did last season: move it with some cash considerations and get closer to the middle of the second.
But the Nets could very well have taken a big by then. There is a log jam of bigs this year in the bottom half of the first round. As Jonathan Givony of Draft Express wrote Saturday....
There is a large contingent of 15-20 big men, which includes the likes of Ike Anigbogu, Jarrett Allen, Justin Patton, Harry Giles, T.J. Leaf, Jonathan Jeanne, Bam Adebayo, Isaiah Hartenstein, Anzejs Pasecniks, D.J. Wilson, Tyler Lydon, Ivan Rabb, Tony Bradley, Mathias Lessort, Thomas Bryant, Johnathan Motley, Caleb Swanigan and Kyle Kuzma all vying for spots in the bottom half of the first round.
That suggests that the Nets could have a nice choice when Nos. 22 and 27 come up. A bad medical report here, a bad rumor there and a player could tumble, confusing the picture. And since some of those 18 players listed above will drop into the top of the second round, making the loss of the No. 31 pick to Atlanta particularly painful.
Givony in fact thinks teams could pass on a number of bigs who would normally go high.
It's unclear at the moment how many NBA teams will even decide to use a first round pick on a big man considering the direction the NBA game is heading, with positionless basketball being en vogue and the premium on size no longer being as pronounced as in the past. That should create compelling television on Draft night, but also quite a bit of confusion and drama among NBA teams, agents, players and their families.
Like Sean Marks has said, everything changes on Draft Night.
Draft Deadline Monday
International players have until Monday to drop out of the Draft. Their situation is different from their college counterparts. And one player long linked to the Nets, Rodions Kurucs, is considering removing his name from the 2017 Draft.
Scott Howard-Cooper tweeted Saturday...
(1/2) No decision yet from from Rodions Kurucs whether to stay in the draft or withdraw by Monday deadline. No. 23 / Raptors in NBAcom mock.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) June 10, 2017
(2/2) Kurucs camp signaling he will withdraw. But some NBA execs believe that is a ploy to squeeze a first-round promise.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) June 10, 2017
Like Hamidou Diallo, who returned to Kentucky, Kurucs may want to be sure he gets a guaranteed deal. Based on mock drafts, which show him rising to as high as 15, you’d think that he wouldn’t need a guarantee.
Howard-Cooper doesn’t mention it, but from what we can tell, most teams would stash the 6’9” small forward and that includes the Nets. He has played minimal minutes in the first division of the ACB, Spain’s league, and so development is one issue.
The other issue might be a buyout. F.C. Barcelona owns his rights and we assume an organization as smart as Barcelona would have included one in his contract. So it will cost an NBA team and possibly him a lot of money. NBA teams can only contribute a few hundred thousand dollars to a buyout. The player has to pay anything above that. Mirza Teletovic had to pay out more than $2 million to secure his rights. No discount.
So we can see why Kurucs might want a guarantee ... and why some teams might think twice. We’ll know Monday night.
Lin going mobile
The NBA Live cover art is out. Russell Westbrook will be Global Edition cover star while Jeremy Lin will be on the Asian edition. Thanks to @manu77728.
Late season money news
A look at Basketball Insiders salary data reveals how much the Nets paid out near the end of the season for Archie Goodwin and the two quickie 10-day deals given Cliff Alexander and Prince Ibeh. As we reported...
Here’s the condensed version from league sources...
After Sunday’s game, the Nets pulled their 10-day contract with Goodwin a day early, making him a free agent and opening up a roster spot. Under league rules regarding 10-day deals, the Nets didn't have to announce the move.
In quick order, Brooklyn signed Long Island Nets big man Cliff Alexander and waived him; signed his teammate Prince Ibeh and waived him; then finally signed Goodwin for the rest of the year. Six transactions, all in less than 72 hours.
The 10-days for Ibeh and Alexander were mainly done to fulfill a promise Sean Marks made the players, then aged 22 and 21, that he’d give them 10-day deals. Problem was the Nets had to respond to injuries in the backcourt and decided those moves were high priorities. The value of the deals to Ibeh and Alexander was mainly an added year of service which will help them if and when they get a vets minimum deal. Those contracts get bigger with each year in the NBA. And signing them to a one-day deal counts as much as a full year.
But they did get paid a little bit. So did Goodwin. According to the Basketball Insiders, Goodwin’s 1040 next April will include $190,000 from the Nets, two 10-days worth $57,672 each and $75,000 for that one-day contract. Good deal. He scored 20 points vs. the Bulls after signing the contract.
Ibeh and Alexander, although they didn’t play or suit up for the Nets, got $75,000 each as well, $75,000 being the minimum payment permitted for any NBA transaction. You could be picky and ask why aren’t Ibeh and Alexander’s money considered dead variety? First of all, it’s tiny, less than one-tenth of one percent of the team payroll and it’s one time. Moreover, at least Ibeh is working out with the Nets this summer, as we reported last month. It’s an investment.
Playboy Prokhorov returns?
Mikhail Prokhorov has been laying low for a while. Lets not forget that he ran for President against Vladimir Putin in 2012, with a liberal agenda. Some thought he was nothing more than a stalking horse to suggest to the world that Russia is democratic. But he was only candidate to openly protest in the streets of Moscow 2011 against practices in the country’s legislative elections that were at best flawed, at worst corrupt. He formed a political party, financed it, then abandoned it in the face of subtle Kremlin opposition.
Then, in 2015, his RBC business news channel investigated reports that Putin’s daughter had enriched herself with Dad’s help. Starting in April 2016, three of his companies’ Moscow offices were raided by Russian security services, ostensibly as part of a tax investigation. As the owner of the highest profile Russian company in the U.S., he regularly faces anti-Americanism.
In fact, as we’ve noted, he’s been selling his Russian assets in energy, minerals, real estate, investment banking, etc. over the last year, sometimes at a loss, while investing in the U.S. sports and entertainment business, so far primarily in New York. He also has a lot of cash available, just as he did in 2008 when the world economy collapsed and he was able to buy up depressed assets, like a certain basketball team then playing in New Jersey.
But this week, he apparently decided to get back into the public eye and reverting to type, the oligarch as playboy. Russian news agencies reported that Prokhorov will “star” in the comedy, "What Men talk About. The Sequel". The reports noted that Prokhorov will play himself.
A Prokhorov spokesperson confirmed the story, adding that his appearance will only be a “cameo,” rather than a starring role, and that he will play an “exaggerated version of himself.” We hope to get snippets.
We’ll be publishing some draft preview materials starting mid-week as we try to provide fans with as much detail as we can on this draft. It’s the first time since 2008 that the Nets will go into the Draft with three picks, two firsts and a second. That year, the Nets had the 10th (Brook Lopez), 21st (Ryan Anderson) and 40th (Chris Douglas-Roberts).