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NetsDaily Off-Season Report No. 22

And we’re back, for our 10th big year! Every weekend, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off 20-62

Brooklyn Nets v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Looks like we’re two weeks away from training camp. Teams that have announced the date for Media Day and the opening of training camp —the Nets have not— have it scheduled for Friday, September 23 or Monday, September 25. Media Day, which has been held at both Barclays Center and HSS Training Center, is just what you think it is: a chance for the media to get a look at the team, ask questions. Meanwhile, YES, WFAN, and the NBA are off in corners, recording the audios and videos you will see during the year. (One of our favorite Media Day moments was seeing Andray Blatche in a Santa Clause cap singing Merry Christmas in September.)

Until then, we will keep plowing away every Sunday, throwing the seeds of the new season, hoping they'll bloom, or something like that.

Who’s going to score???

When D’Angelo Russell was traded to the Nets in June, Larry Nance Jr., his former Lakers teammate, said he hoped Russell scores 40 a game with the Nets.

He may have to.

As Jorge Sierra of Hoopshype wrote in his Nets preview, “None of the members of the team has ever averaged 16-plus points in an NBA season.”

Yikes, that’s true.

Russell has the highest one-season average of any Nets player, 15.6 points, last season. Jeremy Lin averaged 14.6 with the Knicks during Linsanity and 14.5 last season. After that, it drops off. Sean Kilpatrick, in his second year, put up 13.4 last season. Then it’s DeMarre Carroll’s 12.6 ppg in 2014-15, but 8.7 last season; followed by Allen Crabbe at 10.7 last season; Trevor Booker, 10.0 also last season, and Timofey Mozgov, 9.7 in 2014-15.

You can extrapolate the numbers into per 36 or per 48 to make it look better (Russell averaged 19.9 per 36 last season) or note that Crabbe, aided by the greenlight on Atlantic and Flatbush, will take more than 3.8 three-pointers next season, or argue vociferously that the motion offense will provide new opportunities to better three-point shooters. No matter what, scoring may be an issue. No one is a proven scorer. And that goes double up front. There, only Booker has scored in double figures over a full season. Mozgov has come close, but 9.7 isn't 10.0.

Without a trade or free agent signing to add depth at the 4 and 5, the Nets have to hope that the efficient game Mozgov has displayed in FIBA Eurobasket gets translated to the NBA and/or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has gotten better finishing (and shooting from deep), etc., etc., etc.

It’s nice to have so many improving three-point shooters, but it would be even nicer if they were wide open. Opponents need to respect what’s going on underneath.

Russell’s scoring —and passing— could play a key role in making that happen. Mozgov said it best when TASS’s Andrey Kortashov asked him about his Lakers teammate last week...

“He’s going to score a lot. He’s going to shoot threes a lot. He’s a really, really good shooter. He’s really talented ... and I hope he’s going to feed me,” he said, adding a smile at the end.

All of those things need to happen — Russell needs to score a lot, needs to shoot threes (efficiently) and needs to keep offenses honest by feeding the post and pick-and-rolling the hell out of the ball down low.

The Nets finished fourth in three-point shots last season and 25th in three-point shooting percentage. We don’t expect they’ll be out of the top five this year in shooting, but hope for a dramatic increase in makes. Jeremy Lin has said he’d like to go from 37 percent to 40 percent. Joe Harris, the Nets best (qualifying) three-point shooter, hopes to go from 38 percent to 42 or higher. D’Angelo Russell thinks the 35 percent he shot his first two years in L.A. can jump too. Quincy Acy hit 43 percent after he was called up. Can he maintain that number that high if he gets more minutes? Et cetera, et cetera.

But again, the Nets need scoring down low. Badly. One NBA insider jokes the Nets have transformed themselves in the offseason. Last year, (and the year before that), the Nets had the worst point guard rotation in the NBA. This year, he notes, the Nets have the worst center rotation. Right now, it’s 31-year-old Mozgov and his contract, and 19-year-old Jarrett Allen.

There’s a lot more on the Sierra season preview that we should all be mindful of.

Frontcourt is quite weak … Along with the Lakers, Brooklyn was the only club in the Botton 8 in both defensive and offensive rating last season … You don’t dig yourself out of a hole like that right away, especially when it’s in your best long-term interests to play the young guys.

Carry on.

Wanted: help underneath

So do the Nets sign (or trade for) to solve this issue? Yes, the Nets are still in Sean Marks’ “talent acquisition mode,” or as we’ve dubbed it, “Sign them all, let Kenny sort them out.”

Do we think the Nets are still pursuing a trade? Yep. Here’s why...

As far as we know, the Nets have not yet renounced Randy Foye’s cap hold. That’s as strong an indicator that they’re interested in making a deal.

Foye made $2.5 million last year. His cap hold is $3 million. Nets can, in theory, sign-and-trade Foye as part of a larger deal, perhaps to a team looking to unload someone with a longer term deal than they’d like to pay.

There are restrictions on such sign-and-trades. A sign-and-trade must be for three years, with only the first year guaranteed. The Nets could send cash considerations to the other team to cover that first year and the receiving team could then simply waive Foye while agreeing to pay him.

The Nets have $5.1 million in cash they can use between now and June 30. Normally, they use that to buy second round picks. However, in the 2018 NBA Draft, they probably won’t need second round picks. They currently have one guaranteed second rounder, the least favorable of the Magic and Lakers picks, from the Carroll salary dump, and are also likely to get a second rounder from the Pacers. As long as Indiana is in the lottery, the Nets get their second. That’s from the Thaddeus Young trade. So, with only a tiny bit of luck, the Nets could wind up with two second rounders in the 30s.

Why spend money to add to that haul? This year, there’s no real need to hold on to all that cash until the NBA Draft. It may be more valuable to facilitate a sign-and-trade … or sweeten another trade ... now.

You will know the Nets have given up on trading for someone when they renounce Foye’s cap hold (which they can do without a press release) or sign someone.

We do know that the Nets are working out bigs. We have some evidence of that.

There’s this...

And this...

And this, too.

We suspect there might be others too.

We’ve discussed Sullinger before. Our Bryan Fonseca interviewed him after the TBT in Brooklyn. So what about Zeller? He and Sullinger are both former Celtics big men and both are unemployed, but the distinctions end there.

Zeller is a couple of years older at 27 and a legitimate seven-footer on the lanky side, whereas Sullinger is 6’9” and decidedly not lanky. Zeller is more a traditional back-to-the-basket 4; Sullinger, more of a stretch 4. Both could play some 5. Zeller has never made a three-point shot in his career, going 0-for-6 in six years. Sullinger has shown a bit of range. Zeller is a better defender, more pesky than skilled. With Sullinger’s weight issues, etc., Zeller is less risky.

But Zeller faded from the Boston rotation the last two years. His traditional skills didn’t fit and he had a team option available. In 2014-15, he averaged 10.7 points and 5.6 rebounds, playing in 81 games, starting 59. But last year, he had a debilitating illness that laid him low and put Zeller out of the rotation for a long stretch headed into the playoffs. He only played only 78 minutes in the postseason, with seven DNP-CDs, averaging 2.9 points and 1.7 rebounds in seven minutes per game. His biggest number though was eight million, the number of dollars on his non-guaranteed deal. With Boston needing every dime to sign Gordon Hayward and trade for Kyrie Irving, he was the first casualty of the big wave, dumped on July 2.

It’s not that he can’t play. Take this game from near the end of the 2015-16 season.

He shows a bit of everything other than three-point range.

Should the Nets choose either Sullinger or Zeller, expect the deal to be a minimal one, without a full guarantee. If either succeed, they’ll join a team with a lot chips on their collective shoulder.

All in (but Mozgov)

Spencer Dinwiddie in a SLAM podcast a couple of days ago, said every Nets player other than Timofey is working out at HSS Training Center, near the 36th Street subway in Industry City.

That includes the 12 other players with full guarantees, the three players on partial deals —Dinwiddie, Jeremy Senglin and Milton Doyle — as well the two G-League two-way players, Yakuba “Billy” Ouattara and Jacob Wiley. Also, some of the holdovers from last year’s Long Island Nets, including Prince Ibeh, who had a short-term 10-day deal with Brooklyn at season’s end, and Akil Mitchell, the 6’8” UVA forward, have also been seen around the building.

That’s certainly a good thing, and it’s been true most of the summer. Their outside commitments are done and all but one are living in Brooklyn, close to the training center. Sean Kilpatrick lives close to his family and business in Westchester.

It’s not that different from most teams in today’s NBA. Players are more committed to their teams. What is different is how long the Nets have been together. Reports are that ever since the end of the season (or since the trades that brought them to Brooklyn), most of the Nets have been working out, scrimmaging, bonding. In some cases, they’re at HSS all hours of the day or night. We all know the post-midnight ramblings of D’Angelo Russell: off the plane, in the gym. He's not alone.

By the way, in case you missed it, here’s how Caris LeVert explained his failure to show up for a late-night training session with D’Angelo Russell, the one DLo mentioned at his press conference (and that some head-shakingly dumb pundits called another example of “snitching.”)

“Okay, here’s what happened with the midnight workout. So we went to dinner together as a team and D’Angelo asked me if I would go with him. I was like, ‘Sure, but I got to watch ‘Power’ first. So after I watch ‘Power,’ I will come to the gym with you for sure. So he went to the gym, but I was still watching ‘Power.’ I went after ‘Power’ was over, but I guess he was gone already.”

Or maybe he fell asleep. Just sayin’.


We don’t know how we’re going to handle the pundits’ projections of the Nets season. We’re beginning to see some early reads and they’re pretty much in line with what we’ve seen and heard all summer long. It goes something like this... Sean Marks has done a GREAT job, but the Nets have a LONG way to go and all this talk about playoffs Balderdash! We’ll figure it out.

But we did want to take note of the Bleacher Report breakdown of breakout players this coming season. They picked out five players at five positions who could “reach new levels that would dramatically benefit" their teams.

Their top point guard prospect for a breakout is Jeremy Lin. Here’s what B/R wrote about Lin.

A healthy Jeremy Lin is a dangerous force, especially now that he's surrounded by far more talent than has previously joined him during the opening salvo of his Brooklyn Nets career. D'Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe give him shooters to whom he can pass, and the Timofey Mozgov-Jarrett Allen combination, while no Brook Lopez, can set hard screens to free Lin for aggressive drives toward the hoop.

Though "Linsanity" wasn't evoked in 2016-17, he had the best offensive season of his career during the 36 games in which he appeared. The three-point stroke came around, he continued to minimize turnovers and he kept excelling as a PnR ball-handler.

That should remain true in 2017-18, just with the luxury of more health and better talent to take pressure away. It's a deadly combination for one of the league's more underrated floor generals, and it should finally allow Lin to be viewed by the national audience as more than a one-year flash in the pan.

One more shot at LinSanity II? We'll take it.

Root, root for the home team

We like Timofey Mozgov. He can play. He has a championship ring with the 2015-16 Cavaliers, when he started 48 games. He loves his country. Plus he has a quick wit, like this exchange he had with Andrey Kortashov of TASS, the Russian news agency about his relationship with the Nets ownership.

We don’t know if he’s met Mikhail Prokhorov yet. But you can be sure that with Russia’s success so far in FIBA Eurobasket and the trade, Prokhorov and Nets chairman Dmitry Razumov are big fans. They’ve long supported Team Russia, showed up at big games to cheer on Team Red. Wouldn’t be surprised to see them in Istanbul as Russia moves into the Eurobasket quarterfinals Wednesday vs. Greece.

Final Notes

If you’re looking for some sports talk about Brooklyn, we highly recommend Ain’t Hard To Tell, a new podcast featuring NetsDaily videographer Dexter Henry and writer Bryan Fonseca. They started a podcast over at Dex’s Backpack Broadcasting.

Episode one dropped Friday morning, and they talked about your beloved Brooklyn Nets, and even offered up some shoutouts to the rest of the NetsDaily family during the episode.

You can watch here on the Backpack Broadcasting YouTube, and listen here on iTunes, as well as Google Play, Stitcher, and you can follow the show’s @AHTTPodcast accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

The NBA discussion begins at the 33:57 mark, and we center in on the Nets, particularly D’Angelo Russell, on 36:25. Then, it’s a discussion of whether Brooklyn can make the playoffs.