While we wait for the Nets next move —and we’re confident there will be one— we take a different look at things. We assess the risk of the Nets two biggest moves of the off-season (so far), the salary dumps that brought the Nets D’Angelo Russell and two picks in next year’s draft (as well as Timofey Mozgov and DeMarre Carroll).
We also take a look at D-Lo before the Lakers; what Infor, the software company who bought the Nets jersey ad, says it can bring in terms of analytics help; the other Jeremy Lin and late breaking news!
First, the breaking news.
A good day for Quincy Acy ... a really good day
It’s not often that a young couple gets a wedding gift worth $1.7 million on their wedding day, but it may very well have happened Sunday to Quincy Acy. He and his long-time GF, Jessica, were married...
Allow me to reintroduce myself pic.twitter.com/Qn4FOpPquU— Jessica Acy (@Lovesome_Jess) July 16, 2017
Members of the Nets performance team congratulated the lovely couple, telling Acy they expect to see him in October.
Now, there’s been no official announcement of the wedding gift, but Sunday was the day that Acy’s vets minimum deal was to be guaranteed. That would mean $1.71 million.
So congratulations. Maybe twice.
Judging each of Sean Marks deals, there are gradations of risk. The riskiest (and the one with the biggest reward) is the Lakers deal. The least risky has to be the Raptors deal. Here’s what we’re talking about...
The Nets traded Brook Lopez, their best player, their career scoring leader, for Timofey Mozgov, a player with one of, if not the, worst contracts in the NBA, and D’Angelo Russell, a player who despite his insane potential proved to be a headache, a player that the Lakers abandoned at age 21. In addition, the Lakers got the Nets 27th pick —required it, in fact— and the player taken with that pick, Kyle Kuzma, has looked like a steal of the draft during summer league.
What could go wrong? A lot.
—Brook Lopez was the Nets franchise, particularly in Brooklyn. He embraced the move, courageously worked his way back from foot surgeries (plural) and won the hearts of fans not just by his consistent play over the years, but by his character. He could become the anchor of the Lakers and have a long career. That’s not a big concern. Good for him. But suppose that the Nets have a long period of adjustment, trying to find a way to replace his scoring and his leadership?
—D’Angelo Russell is the centerpiece of the trade. Obviously. He’s 21, younger than all the active members of the Nets summer league team, younger than 40 of the 60 prospects the Nets worked out before Draft, and one of four players to accumulate 2,000 points and 500 assists before the age of 21. The others were Stephon Marbury, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. And yet, the Lakers gave up on him. Will his immaturity become an issue? Will he show up on Page Six? He’s already made his first appearance. And will he and Jeremy Lin (and Caris LeVert?) be able to co-exist? Jeremy Lin admitted Sunday he doesn’t yet know whether he or Russell will have the ball in their hands. Lin did say he expects the two of them to do “serious damage” ... once things get straightened out. How long will that take? Even if he succeeds and becomes a star, is he going to want to re-sign or do to a superteam. If the Nets rebuild takes another two years, Russell will have played his four-year career as a loser.
—Timofey Mozgov isn’t a bad player and he’s generally been healthy. He and Russell have chemistry, too. He’s just overpaid. Way overpaid. Historically overpaid. He’s going to be paid $15.3 million at age 31; $16 million at age 32; and $16.7 million at age 33. Does anyone think a seven-footer is going to worth even close to that age 32 or 33? It’s not just money. It’s a significant percentage of the cap. Stretch him, you say. Even the Nets decided at the end of this coming season, he would be owed $32.7 million. Stretch that over five years, and you’d have $6.54 million in dead money on the cap every year through 2023. Coming off the D-Will stretch, we don’t see that happening.
—Kyle Kuzma is a 6’9” talent, all of 21 years old. He is, arguably, the big surprise of the Summer League, averaging 19.8 points per game, putting up 6.6 three-point attempts per game while shooting 39.4 percent from downtown. He is not a great rebounder, but he doesn’t need to be. Would the Lakers have done the Russell deal without the inclusion of the 27th pick? No. It sealed the deal. Would the Nets have taken him if they had kept the pick? Don’t know. But watching him made just us a bit queasy.
On the other side of risk scale is the Toronto deal. Justin Hamilton for DeMarre Carroll, the Raptors lottery protected pick in next year’s draft and the least favorable of the Magic and Lakers pick in the second round. No protections on the second rounder.
What could go wrong? Not much.
--DeMarre Carroll will have value even if he isn’t the same player he was in Atlanta when he signed his four-year, $60 million deal in 2015. He has a reputation as a locker room presence, a good guy. He also has a good relationship with Kenny Atkinson, who he worked with in Atlanta He can serve as a mentor to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and/or Caris LeVert. If healthy, this becomes a very good deal even if he’s paid $15 million a year. He could start. In any event, he adds to the rotation.
--No worries that Justin Hamilton will come back to haunt the Nets. He’s headed to Beijing! The Raptors are waiving him. With him in the deal, the Nets wound up with more cap space. By demanding Toronto take 7-footer, the Nets were able to reduce the net cap hit on (and salary paid to) Carroll this year. Carroll will make $14.8 million but Hamilton's $3 million salary leaves the Nets with a net loss of $11.8 million in cap space and payroll.
--What could go wrong with the draft picks? Well, the Raptors could surprise and become a top four team in terms of record, dropping the Nets pick to No. 27 or lower. It’s too early to suggest who will be available when the Nets pick but NBADraft.net projects Rodions Kurucs and Hamidou Diallo, two players the Nets had looked at, but then dropped out. And if the the Lakers or Magic do well, the second rounder could fall into the second half of the second round of a weak draft. Meh.
The reward of the Lakers trade could be huge. Both Magic Johnson and Luke Walton have said Russell has all-star potential but it’s somewhat risky, mainly because of what the Nets payroll looks like in the out years of the deal, particularly 2019-20 when Brooklyn will be paying Mozgov $16.7 million, Andrew Nicholson, $6.9 million and Deron Williams $5.5 million. If Russell is an all-star AND HAS SIGNED A NEW DEAL, the Nets are likely not to care.
The reward of the Raptors trade are unlikely to be so big. Maybe the Nets get a steal with the Raptors pick or they package it in a bigger deal for a top flight player.
There is NO easy way out of “the hand we were dealt,” as Sean Marks diplomatically puts it, other than taking risks, every day. Big risks, small risks. When they play out, we will know how well Marks et al have done.
The Pre-Lakers D-Loading
Sean Marks seems willing to dismiss D’Angelo Russell’s time in L.A. He notes L.A. is a tough place to play, particularly as a Laker. He cites an interview he did with Russell as a freshman at Ohio State as giving him a comfort level . Marks was an assistant at San Antonio at the time. (The Spurs leave no stone unturned.)
“I’m not concerned about the maturity and so forth. What I am concerned about is what he brings and what our culture is, and how we can help develop him as a basketball player and a young man,” he told reporters at the June 26 press conference.
So what was Russell like when he was at Ohio State when Marks interviewed him, before Iggy Azaela and all that Hollywood nonsense? Fred Kerber of the New York Post profiled him as part of the Post’s coverage of the Knicks draft prospects in 2015. They eventually took Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth pick, but Russell was on the Knicks shortlist. He, of course, was taken at No. 2.
The headline said it all... Most skilled’: The praise that will keep D’Angelo Russell out of Knicks’ grasp
Back then, Kerber talked with a number of people who knew Russell. They painted a picture of a tough kid from Louisville with a great work ethic and a love of the big stage.
“He’s got a prototype NBA game,” said Louisville coach Rick Pitino — who recruited Russell but lost him to Ohio State. “If you asked me, ‘Who’s the most skilled player in the NBA draft?,’ it would be him by far...
“Nobody passes like him. He’s an erratic scorer but he can score. He’s got great size, quickness, good hands. He’s an adequate defender. He goes left predominantly, like a Jalen Rose. He’s a better shooter than Rose was when Rose came into the league. He’s got unbelievable vision. He’ll see everything going on.”
Kevin Boyle who coached Russell at Florida’s Monteverde Academy, liked his confidence.
“Very confident. He has great belief in himself that he can score and he can play against anybody,” said Boyle who also coached Kyrie Irving, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Joel Embiid. “He has backed it up. He has had great success winning.”
“He would be a great fit in New York,” said Boyle, in what now seems like a prophetic statement. “He’s going to score more at the NBA level.”
“He does like the big stage,” Boyle said. “A lot of kids can’t handle that but he’s got the mentality of, if he misses five shots in a row, there’s something wrong with the ball. He doesn’t think it’s him and that’s a great quality about him.”
And Thad Matta, the Buckeyes coach said simply, “he was the best I’ve had as a freshman. He was as diligent as I’ve ever seen in terms of getting better every single day.”
Like many of his teammates, Russell was tested early, wrote Kerber, quoting Russell’s older brother.
“He survived my dad,” brother Antonio said with a laugh. “My dad growing up really instilled a lot of respect, morals and values into us and made us see a bigger picture — to want to be more than just staying in the west end of Louisville, which is very gang-related and drug-infested. My dad moved us out of the West End and showed us there is so much more to life.”
“There were probably like 20 different gangs within gangs in that area,” D’Angelo Russell said of Louisville in a Big Ten Network podcast. “[Sports] was just motivation to get away from those guys that weren’t on the right path, knowing there were two routes down that road. It was either in jail or the graveyard.”
Now, he’ll get a second chance in the big city where he could become the big star. It will be interesting.
Infor for 3?
Infor, the enterprise software company, may be known to Nets fans for the jersey patch they’re sponsoring. But at their big annual event, the Inforum, last week in New York, a company executive talked about how the company is trying to help the Nets with their three point shooting. It was a big part of their presentation.
Marc Scibelli, chief creative officer and head of digital transformation strategies at Infor, talked about how the company’s new in-house think tank, Hook and Loop Digital, is helping. When the team’s management first approached H&L with the idea, the company admitted they knew practically nothing about basketball. They did know, however, how to bring the data science together.
“We can bring the AI (Artificial Intelligence) in; we can bring all of that together for your performance coaches and work with them — just like we didn’t know a lot about farming and agriculture, but we can work with feed companies,” Scibelli explained.
H&L culls telemetry data from players on performance metrics like ball arc and also monitors Internet of Things devices, said. “The trick is bringing it to them in real time, bringing it so that they don’t have to go into deep Excel documents; that’s what they were doing before,” Scibelli said.
Scibelli talked about it at the event, held at Javits Center...
Can it work? Is there a commitment to it? We’ll be checking.
H&L is also working on applications to differentiate Barclays Center from other next-gen stadiums, Scibelli said. “How do you find the shortest beverage bar line? How do you find the cleanest bathroom? How do you get […] drinks and food delivered to your seat?” Scibelli said, listing some of the apps’ functions.
Now if they can just clear the traffic jam at the security gates... Sigh.
Young Jeremy Lin
Wait, there’s another one?! Yes, there is, a 14-year-old hoopster named Jeremy Lin. In fact, Lin the younger impressed Ballislife.com so much at their 2017 Ballislife Jr. All-American Camp that they posted some of his highlights on Tuesday, reports For the Win.
Jeremy the elder, who’s now 28, got word of the kid’s success and tweeted out encouragement.
The Nets’ Lin also posted a throwback image of him in his first year as a pro ... and gave him a shoutout in his interview on arrival in Taipei Sunday.
You know they’ll be getting together.
Mozgov for 3!
Is this for real?
There it was, a video of a Team Russia practice this week ... and there was Timofey Mozgov taking and making three point shots. Intriguing, eh?
In his NBA career, Mozgov has attempted 40 three point shots, making seven. A tiny number, but it’s twice the number Brook Lopez took and made before his explosion last season, when Kenny Atkinson gave him the greenlight. Lopez made 3-of-21 in his first eight years, then 134 out of 387.
Of Mozgov’s total, most of his attempts, 24 to be exact, came in 2012-13. He made four that year, not encouraging. But Mozgov does have a deep two-point range. Over the last three years, he’s made better than 43 percent of his shots from between 16 feet and three point range, better than Lopez in those years, in fact. The sample is somewhat small. So, don’t expect Lopez, but don’t be surprised if Mozgov gets the greenlight as well.
What’s next? Is it possible the Nets are done? Maybe, but we doubt it. The Nets are in a very strategic position right now. It would be surprising if Sean Marks didn’t take advantage of it. Teams like the Knicks, Rockets, Bucks and Blazers may all need some help in either finalizing a trade, adding a player or just getting under the luxury tax threshold. With between $16.7 million and $20 million available, the Nets should be able to use some or all of it to their advantage.
With all due respect to Jeremy Lin, Brooklyn is still a long way from respectability. But they need to show progress this season. A winning culture needs some wins to attract outside free agents and keep its own.