We decided to wait till late Sunday to post because you never know what Sean Marks is going to do after the sun goes down in Las Vegas.
He was on the phone in the stands at the Las Vegas Summer League on Friday night and look what happened: The DeMarre Carroll for Justin Hamilton trade that also resulted in Brooklyn picking up a first and a second round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
So on Sunday when he picked up the phone again in Vegas, fans began to wonder what else was up. So we waited. So far, nothing, other than fans’ exhilaration.
The Carroll trade was indeed exciting, in part because it was disclosed after midnight. It was not on the scale of the June 20 trade which sent Brook Lopez to Los Angeles for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. But it sent a message, as one long-time fan tweeted just after the news broke early Sunday morning.
The near unanimous joy from #Nets fans right now may not be so much about this trade as it is about finally having competent management— Dylan (@MendNBA) July 9, 2017
The Salary Dumps ... Can they play?
The Nets have spent a lot of money on recovering from Billy King’s 2013 trade with the Celtics. Three picks and a swap. You know the details. Too well.
So in order to get back in the Draft and get their hands on young talent in general, the Nets have executed four trades in a little more than a year.
—Sent Thaddeus Young to Indiana for the rights to Caris LeVert, the 20th pick in the 2016 Draft and a future second rounder. The Nets also picked up $26 million in cap space, the net between what Young was going to be paid and what LeVert would earn: $12.6 million in 2016-17 and $13.3 million this coming season. It was the last time the Nets would save big money on getting back in the Draft game.
—Sent Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough to Washington for the rights to what turned out to be the 22nd pick, Marcus Thornton and Andrew Nicholson. Bogdanovic was a rental and wound up leaving the Wizards for Indiana. Thornton was waived immediately but Nicholson will cost the Nets $13.5 million over next two, which does include a near $7 million player option in second year.
—Sent Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the 2017 draft (Kyle Kuzma) to Los Angeles for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. It’s a deal many in the organization see as transformative, getting a legitimate starter and potential star for the expiring contract of a Nets legend. The real price of course was the $48 million over three years which will trail Mozgov as he made his way across the country.
—Sent Justin Hamilton to Toronto (where he will be bought out and stretched), for DeMarre Carroll and two draft picks, Toronto’s lottery protected first rounder next year, and a second rounder which originated with the Lakers. The pick will be the “less favorable” between the Magic and the Lakers. Carroll is owed $30.2 million over two years.
It’s all about finding replacements for those picks lost but it is costly. Add up those salary dumps and that total is a little less than $100 million. Don’t call it “dead money” like Deron Williams stretch payments, which amount to $16.4 million over the next three years. That money, that player, is long gone. But the other money isn’t exactly alive and kicking. The question for Kenny Atkinson is whether the Mozgov, Carroll and Nicholson careers can be revived. They’re not likely to match the value of their contracts, but if the Nets can get anything of value out of them, all the better.
Of the three, it’s likely that Mozgov or Carroll is going to be the most valuable even if Nicholson, the youngest, is only 27.
Mozgov, 31, will not replace Brook Lopez. He doesn’t have the offensive mindset that the departed Lopez has. He can muscle his way inside and developed some moves when he played under Atkinson in New York. Despite his Hulk-like frame, Mozgov can motor for a big man and has good hands. Here’s a compilation of D’Angelo Russell’s best assists of 2016-17. Half of them went to Mozgov.
What you see is that he can run the floor better than Lopez and catch the ball with hands that might not match Lopez’s but will do fine. The Nets like to run, as we saw this season. They played at the highest pace of any team and it’s only going to pick up with a healthy J-Lin and D-Lo on the floor. Mozgov can be the recipient.
“Sure, when we look at Timofey, we look at him as a player,” Marks said. “It’s a big contract, but Kenny and I are excited about getting him on the floor and getting him in our system and obviously D’Angelo [Russell] as well. Both those guys, welcoming them to the family and watching them contribute and grow.”
He told Laker beat writers near the end of the season that he would be working on his three point shooting in the summer. It’s hard to imagine the Nets now wanting him to do that.
And the big Russian does have his pride. After being relegated to the bench after the all-Star break, he implied that his contract weighed on him. Mozgov admitted it was tough to ride the bench as third string center.
"It was not easy at all. Deeper in the season it was a bit more harder," said Mozgov. "Sometimes it’s not about you, it’s about the team."
Carroll on paper looks like a better bet. He did start 72 games and average 8.9 points a game while shooting 34 percent, but he was both injured and inconsistent the last two years, missing games and minutes from ankle, back and a nagging knee injury.
In 2015-16, his first season on a four-year, $60 million deal, he missed 42 straight games after arthroscopic surgery or his right knee. There never much clarity on how bad his knee was, whether he tore his ACL or simply had some minor torn cartilage removed. In any event, he’s had continuing issues with it.
In fact, his history goes back to May 2015, before he signed with the Raptors. He went down in a playoff game vs. Cleveland . The play can be seen here. At the time, reports indicated that there was no structural damage, and the Raptors did sign him to a four-year, $60 million contract by the Raptors two months later. But within six months of that signing, following more discomfort, he was undergoing surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
Toronto writers noted last year that Carroll did not have the lateral quickness he once possessed playing for the Hawks. How good can he be with the Nets? Expect a lot of medical staff review and work with the performance team.
Of course, his value to the Nets isn’t just on the court. Carroll has a great reputation as a locker room guy.
Atkinson couldn’t talk specifically about Carroll Sunday because the deal is not official yet. The Wizards are being punitive about the Nets offer sheet and are holding up the cap space needed to conclude the deal. It will probably go through Wednesday or Thursday. But the Nets head coach spoke in general about players on “bad contracts.”
“I’m a player advocate. Bad contract? Every guy that comes onto our roster is an NBA player. That’s the way I look at it,’’ Atkinson said after Sunday’s 88-83 summer league loss to the Bucks. “Bad contracts? I don’t look at it that way. We have to push whoever that person is and get him to play better.”
Jeremy Lin had no such restraints. He could talk freely about Carroll’s value.
“He’s going to be so instrumental because we desperately need somebody [like him],’’ Lin said of Carroll. “He can definitely shoot the 3 and he can definitely play defense, which we really, really need help with. And he can do more than that. But just veteran leadership, toughness, grit, I’m hoping he comes in and is a vocal leader. Those are some things that we need.”
There was some statistical measure that cast doubt on at least one of Lin’s assertions. The Raptors were better defensively with Carroll on the bench.
Nicholson has to be viewed as the player with potentially the least impact of the salary dump targets (dumpsters?) As Charles Maniego wrote for us in May...
Nicholson was a reliable second unit big for the Orlando Magic in his first four NBA seasons. The Canadian provided the Magic with some bench consistency for four seasons – a consistent presence for 15 minutes a night. Former Orlando Magic head coach (and current Nets assistant) Jacque Vaughn nicknamed Nicholson “YMCA,” for his methodical but reliable low post game.
When the Washington Wizards signed Andrew Nicholson to a four year, $26 million dollar deal last summer, he was expected to be the primary backup for Markieff Morris. Along with Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith, the Wizards had high hopes for a veteran second unit. However, Nicholson’s brief run with the Wizards was a disappointment, leaving Washington with a thin frontcourt – an issue they dealt with all the way into the Playoffs.
Nicholson’s uninspiring half season play, paired with the rise of Otto Porter, made him expendable – prompting thoughts of buyer’s remorse from Wizards fans. The Wizards’ SBNation website, Bullets Forever, dreamt of ways to rid themselves clean of Nicholson before the season’s trade deadline.
Maniego suggested that the best bet for the Nets might be giving Nicholson a role as back-up center. He is 6’9” tall with a 7’4” wingspan. He may not be able to run and gun as a stretch 4 in the Nets system, he could play some minutes at the 5.
Also, we noted that Nicholson has slimmed down of late. Take a look at the picture a Lin fan posted of Lin, Russell and Nicholson after a Pilates workout in Las Vegas. Looked a lot different.
So, bottom line, the Nets will be looking for value in Mozgov, Carroll and Nicholson. forget a buyout or a stretch. As noted, the Nets already have D-Will’s $5.47 million a year on the books through 2020.
We like to keep track of Nets staff changes no matter how minor. The latest we noticed was Cameron Baskerville, a player development specialist who comes from the 76ers, where he handled video duties.
Baskerville is 6’7” and only 26 years old. He played ball at Georgia Southern where he could shoot the three and defend. He has to be on of the few NBA coaching types with a Draft Express prospect page.
Team Spirit, Vegas Style
Most of the Nets roster was in Las Vegas this weekend. Of the 15 players currently on the roster, 12 were in Las Vegas for the Summer League.
There were the six guys on the SL roster: Archie Goodwin, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Isaiah Whitehead, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jarrett Allen. Then there was the Sunday night rooting section: Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker, Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick and Andrew Nicholson. On Friday, D’Angelo Russell was courtside to take in the action.
So who didn’t make an appearance ... and they still could. Quincy Acy, Timofey Mozgov, who’s training for Eurobasket 2017; and the recently acquired DeMarre Carroll.
In the stands were a number of front office types. We spotted Sean Marks and chief scout Gregg Polinsky among them.
That’s an extraordinary showing. And our favorite tweet of the week came from ESPN’s Zach Lowe. It emphasized the camaraderie of the group.
Big NBA contingent on Vegas flight. Sean Kilpatrick boards, arrives at seat, looks down to see Joe Harris in next one, exclaims: "Buckets!"— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) July 9, 2017
And here, by the way, is our second favorite tweet, also from Las Vegas.
It’s been a good off-season. Adding someone like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would make it better. The Nets added one potential star in D’Angelo Russell, who would have been a high lottery pick in this year’s Draft. KCP would be the second.
HOWEVER, it would not likely make the Nets a playoff team in the East. The roster is guard-heavy and there are still weaknesses, like in rebounding and rim protection. It won’t be easy, at all, replacing Brook Lopez’s scoring.
Jarrett Allen might be able to help long-term in those categories but short-term, it’s not fair to ask a barely 19-year-old to do anything but learn this season. Mozgov isn’t going to get the job done either. It will be rebounding by committee unless there’s a surprise addition.
So, it’s good to have hope. But hope based on reason, well thought out hope. If healthy,