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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 17

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And we’re back, for our 11th 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 28-54.

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Blazers Reunion

As Mike Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm tweeted this week...

Indeed, there’s an increasing sense that the Nets got two very good players in the low-budget, under-the-radar signings of Davis and Napier who could very well be the sixth and seventh men off the bench for Brooklyn. Both are solid veterans —Davis is 29, Napier 27— who know how to play the game unselfishly. (Allen Crabbe, their teammate on the 2016-17 Blazers squad, played a big role in getting them to leave Portland, a perennial playoff team, for Brooklyn who as we all know has won 69 games the last three years.)

Of the two signings, the more surprising was that of Napier. At 6’2”, he doesn’t fit the mold of a Kenny Atkinson guard. Spencer Dinwiddie, who’s tall as well as fast, is more his style. But Napier showed that he could fill in for Damien Lillard and C.J. McCullum or play with them, just as he might fill in for D’Angelo Russell and whoever is at SG for the Nets.

As Ben Nadeau of Basketball Insiders points out this week...

In the nine games that Napier started for the Trail Blazers last season, he averaged 16.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists — including a stat-stuffing 21-point, eight-rebound, six-assist and two-block effort in a loss against the Atlanta Hawks. Beyond that, Napier tossed four or more assists on 12 occasions and made two or more three-pointers in 18 games as well.

And when he was paired with Lillard and McCullum in a small ball lineup, the trio was the Blazers most productive, When Napier and Lillard were on the court together this season, the Blazers had a 122.8 offensive rating, for example. And as Sports and Other Things pointed out, Napier was also present in four of Portland’s five highest rated offensive lineups based on those same offensive ratings.

His 3-point shooting keeps improving as well, jumping to nearly 38 percent this past season, the best of his year career. His biggest number, however, is number of games played. For the first time in his career, he played in more than 55 games last year, appearing in 74.

Expect the Nets to use him in a lot of different sets and combinations. In his conference call with season ticket-holders, Marks addressed the possibilities the Nets backcourt presents, logjam or not.

Atkinson and the staff will “certainly look at different combinations,” Marks said, and how the guard corps will be used is a “continual conversation,” not just between coaches but the players themselves in HSS workouts. “There are a lot of different combinations we can go with our group.”

The Nets got Napier for the vets minimum, at $1.92 million, with a team option in year two that would pay him less money, $1.84 million. If he continues his upward spiral, he is a real bargain.

His Blazer teammates’ love of Davis is well known, with Lillard saying he was heartbroken at Portland’s decision to let Davis go and play more offensively capable and younger players going forward.

Again, Nadeau, who points out that Davis had twice as many double-digit rebound games as the entire Nets team...

Last season, Davis reached double-digits in rebounds on 20 occasions and topped out at 15 boards in only 26 minutes during a blowout victory over the Golden State Warriors.

Somehow, the efforts of Jarrett Allen (five), Dante Cunningham (two), Quincy Acy (one), Jahlil Okafor (one) and Timofey Mozgov (one) combined to reach that double-digit plateau only 10 times last season.

Defensively, Davis can add to the Nets ability to limit teams 3-point shooting. They were best in the NBA at that last year, permitting only 24.5 attempts per game. The Nets had a lot of players who could run out to the perimeter to intimidate players. Of course, the Nets interior defense was so bad coaches may have just decided, screw the three’s, let’s feed underneath. Davis should help that big time as Nadeau notes...

With Portland, opponents shot 43.6 percent against Davis in 2017-18 — the best mark on the roster. Nobody on the current [Nets] roster, not even Allen (46 percent), came close to matching the new arrival in that regard for Brooklyn.

Don’t expect Davis to play a lot next to Allen, but when he does, Davis might wind up in the role of bodyguard. Allen, skinny and 19 years old, did get intimidated last year, bullied actually. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that. Being stronger —his top off-season priority— will help, but so will having Davis around.

Davis is getting $4.4 million without a team option next July. Presumably, that was his agent’s decision. A good year in Brooklyn —and more cap room next July— should make the 6’10” big a valuable commodity on the free agent market.

On another Blazer-related issue, GM Neil Olshey noted this week that one aspect of last year’s trade of Crabbe for Andrew Nicholson didn’t work out so well for him. Olshey opined last year after the trade that the big —$12.8 million— trade exception he received in the deal would be a “huge value.”

Well, on July 25, the anniversary of the trade, the TE went away, expired without being used. Olshey had to admit things didn’t turn out as he hoped.

“Honestly, we were caught off guard. We thought for sure the Allen Crabbe trade exception would have huge value in the league. And like I said, teams just are not in the business of giving up quality players the way they were. Because I think everybody understands they’re going to have to pay the freight this summer for what everybody did back in 2016. And there wasn’t as many pieces in the marketplace to do the absorption deals we’ve seen in the past.”

So, at the end of the day, the Blazers got luxury tax relief from the Crabbe-for-Nicholson deal ... and the right to pay Nicholson, who they stretched, $2.84 million annually in dead money through 2023-24. That’s something the Nets might have done as well if they couldn’t find a deal for immobile Nicholson. You can argue, as many pundits have, that the Nets didn’t get as much as they should have in that trade, but Portland got a lot less.

Where did they go?

Seven new players were added to the Nets roster this summer, meaning seven others (including two ways) won’t be around Brooklyn starting in October. A few Nets went packing in trades: Timofey Mozgov to Charlotte (and then Orlando); Jeremy Lin to Atlanta and Isaiah Whitehead to Denver, who promptly waived him. Like Whitehead, a number of others had to find work outside the NBA.

So here’s a list of where each of the ex-Nets will be playing next season, starting with Whitehead.

Isaiah Whitehead, signed a new deal, reportedly for $1.1 million, with Lokomotiv Kuban of the Russian League and the Euroleague. It’s a good landing spot for the Seton Hall product. Saša Obradović, one of the continent’s top coaches, is his new mentor.

Nik Stauskas was signed by Portland not long after Ed Davis decided to join the Nets. Stauskas signed a vets minimum deal. He gives the Blazers some additional outside shooting.

Dante Cunningham was also signed to a small deal, in case with the Spurs. Cunningham, 32, will provide back-up and veteran leadership for Gregg Popovich at a couple of positions.

Milton Doyle, one of the Nets two-ways, will play next year in Spain, with UCAM Murcia. Doyle had hoped for a deal with an NBA club but he couldn’t get anything guaranteed. The Nets originally tendered Doyle a two-way qualifying offer, but pulled it and renounced his rights to facilitate the trades with Atlanta, Denver and Phoenix.

James Webb III is expected to sign a deal with Pallacanestro Cantú of the Italian League if he hasn’t already. Cantu’s coach, Evgeny Pashutin, is a very experienced and respected European coach.

That leaves Quincy Acy and Jahlil Okafor without new addresses. No word on either although there were some rumors last week that Okafor could wind up with the Lakers. Nothing close to confirmation, however.

After signing Jordan McLaughlin to a camp invite this week, the Nets now have 19 players on the roster, one short of the NBA maximum for the off-season. Again, no word if they have someone particular in mind for the 20th spot or are waiting for other teams to pare down their rosters before making a move. It appears the Nets will not immediately sign players to two-way deals but will rather let the camp invites battle it out. Last summer, they were quick to do two-ways with Jacob Wiley and Yak Ouattara, then dumped for in mid-season for Doyle and Webb III.

Of course, there’s no rush. Camp doesn’t open for another seven weeks.

IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO TALK DRAFT!!

That of course has always been one of our mantras here and since the Nets (currently) have THREE picks in the 2019 Draft, their own and the Nuggets protected firsts as well as the Knicks second, why not look down the road to June.

The 2019 Draft is viewed as not very good. Some think it will be historically very bad. But there are mock drafts and big boards out there already so were not deterred. First, we used Kevin Pelton’s projected win totals to calculate where the Nets might pick. At this point, Brooklyn would have the 11th, 25th and 35th picks. Not bad.

Next, we went to the ESPN Insider Big Board for the 2019 Draft and looked at who the Nets could get at those picks. ESPN projects 6’11” Jontay Porter of Missouri, Michael’s brother, at No. 11; hyper athletic 6’2” combo guard Lindell Wigginton of Iowa State at No. 25 and 6’4” shooting guard Terence Davis of Mississippi at No. 35.

That would be a respectable haul, but of course, 1) it’s early and 2) the Nets have a bit of an international bias which is often not reflected in draftniks rankings. Brooklyn’s last three picks, Aleksandar Vezenkov of Bulgaria in 2017 and Dzanan Musa of Bosnia and Rodions Kurucs of Latvia this year are all international. So factor that in as well.

Now, aren’t you glad you joined in this exercise? It will be repeated often between now and next June.

Tsai Scores

Other than the injury to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the big news out of the Jeremy Lin “Hoop for Hope” charity event in China was Joe Tsai’s court debut as Nets minority owner. He got his picture taken with RHJ and Spencer Dinwiddie and played a few minutes, scoring on this layup.

As you can see, he went right by Dinwiddie who’s not foolish enough to embarrass the next boss.

Tsai, who paid $1.1 billion for the 49 percent stake in the Nets, is friendly with Lin. Both have Taiwanese roots.

Social Media Warrior

Jared Dudley will not suffer fools gladly. His Twitter feed is a must read. He comments on a number of things, not just hoops. Like yesterday when he made a simple comment on President Trump’s tweet on LeBron James.

But his real burn of the day —third degree, we’d say— came in response to a player who suggested Dudley, who’s earned $47 million in his career, might have to work in the exciting world of fast food once his playing days are over.

Yikes. Stand back, the man is on fire.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson also tweeted, very pithily, about Trump and LeBron.

Numbers Please

Nothing is official, but we’ve been combing social media, Nets press releases, etc. to learn what numbers each of the new guys will wear. Here is our educated speculation...

30 - Dzanan Musa (as shown in his rookie press conference.) His traditional number in European play is 13, which he uses in his Twitter handle (@DzananM13) but that was Quincy Acy’s number last season. So it wasn’t available back in June, Now if Acy doesn’t return, will Musa ask for 13? Or will Shabazz Napier who wore it in Portland grab it?

17 - Ed Davis. Davis has worn No. 17 most of his career. It’s included in his twitter handle (@eddavisXVII) as well. Originally, it looked like Rodions Kurucs would be wearing 17, which he held up at the rookie press conference in June. But veterans privilege and all that. No word on the rook’s new number. He did wear No. 7 in Europe and that’s open after Lin trade.

4 - Theo Pinson wore No. 4 in the Las Vegas Summer League. No. 1 was his choice at North Carolina, but that’s taken big time. First indication that Jahlil Okafor would not return came in the summer league. The Nets normally do not give summer league players the numbers of players on the big club, but Pinson got No. 4, which Okafor wore last year.

35 - Kenneth Faried has worn only No. 35 during his seven-year career, all of it in Denver and yes, it too is a part of his Twitter handle (@KennethFaried35). It’s currently available and he’s tweeted pictures of Faried 35 jersey. Of course, if he’s still around next season, he might have to give it up. Kevin Durant wears No. 35 as well. Just sayin’.

10 - Jordan McLaughlin wore No. 10 in the Summer League so we assume that he’ll wear it in training camp. He wore 11 at USC but that’s not happening in Brook-lyn.

21 - Treveon Graham incorporates his number in his Twitter profile too (@TreBall21) and since no one is wearing 21 this season —and it’s not retired, he’ll likely wear it again for the Nets. Jacob Wiley wore it last for Brooklyn.

34 - Tyler Davis wore No. 34 at Texas A&M and in Summer League and it’s available. So he too will be able to keep his Twitter handle (@Tyler__Davis34)

6 - Jared Dudley wore No. 3 through most of his career, but that belongs to Drazen Petrovic’s memory. So he’s said he’ll settle for No. 6.

55 - Mitch Creek. Creek wore No. 55 for the Adelaide 36ers and there’s graphics in the Aussie media showing him wearing it in Brooklyn. It is available.

No word yet, as we said, on Kurucs or Napier, who’s worn 13 and 6 in his career. At some point soon, we expect the Nets roster page will be updated with the official numbers.

Finally, we hope NO ONE gets No. 15 which Vince Carter wore and should be retired. Maybe this year.

NBA Schedule This Week?

This is around the time the NBA releases its schedule. Last year, it came out August 14. The year before it was August 11. So it’s close.

When it’s out, we will scour it for: who the Nets will open with home and away; how many national TV games (if any); how many back-to-backs; the Knicks dates; and when the Lakers (LeBron James), Hawks (Jeremy Lin and Vince Carter), Bucks (Brook Lopez) and Blazers (reunion game) will be in.

The Nets aren’t playing any regular season games outside the U.S. this year, unlike last year when they played two games in Mexico City. They will play the Raptors in Montreal on October 10 in a preseason game.

Final Note

We love this picture taken Thursday as Dzanan Musa left Sarajevo’s soccer stadium and headed toward the airport and Brooklyn, N.Y.

It’s from Radio Sarajevo. What caught our eye was the boy and girl at the lower right. They were there to root for the Sarajevo soccer team, but obviously recognized Musa, Bosnia’s NBA hope. As we’ve noted before, Musa is a national hero in Bosnia, the player who brought the country its first championship after independence and a brutal civil war, the FIBA Europe U16 title in 2015.

We tend to forget that fans in other countries put a lot of faith in these players, want to wish them well, root for their success. The situation is similar in Australia. Mitch Creek, the 6’5” shooting guard who’s been invited to Nets training camp, is hugely popular Down Under for his fearsome play. Scanning Australian newspapers and websites, you find interviews with him, his youth coach, his professional coach, etc. They are invested in him.

Musa of course is a lock to make the Nets; Creek not so much. It’s possible that the two of them could play next to each other In Long Island. Those games in Uniondale may not mean much to Nets fans, but to their fans back home, they will be huge.