And we’re back! Our weekly off-season report is back for its 14th big season. When we started this feature, it was to sustain Nets fans from one bad season to another, a bridge over the NBA’s version of the River Styx. Now of course that’s changed but we are still here, offering the best insight in the Nets off-season moves, from the Draft through free agency and up to the opening of training camp at the end of September.
So here we go...
The other side of the season
The Nets season ended in the second round of the playoffs, which was certainly not what the fans and the organization had hoped for.
On the business side, though, the organization made extraordinary strides in virtually every metric of popularity and loyalty A survey of those metrics show that the “Big Three,” even while playing only 334 minutes together, attracted big audiences —and big sales— for the Nets.
Here’s a survey of just how well the Nets did, and how much they improved, this year ... and in recent years in everything from merchandise sales to fan diversity...
Ratings for Nets games on YES Network, the team’s regional sports network, were up 70 percent this season. League-wide, RSN ratings were up only four percent. Game 7 of the Nets-Bucks series on TNT was watched by 6.9 million people nationwide making it the most viewed-playoff game at the time this season, according to NBA Comms Twitter. In addition, it was the second most watched game of the season, regular season or playoffs, with only the Christmas Day matchup between LeBron James Lakers and Luka Doncic’s Mavericks topping it.
Locally, the game was seen by about 750,000 in the New York metropolitan area. TNT estimated that the audience peaked at 1.3 million at game’s end.
The Brooklyn Nets were the second highest team in merchandise sales (based on the latest NBAStore.com sales) in U.S. sales, with Kevin Durant at No. 2 (behind LeBron James), Kyrie Irving at No. 6 and James Harden No. 9 in individual gear sales. (Harden has reportedly moved from ninth to eighth after being traded). The ranking was the franchise’s highest ever. The team also shattered its in-store merchandise sales game after game during the Playoffs.
In Great Britain and Europe, the Nets are third behind the Lakers and Bulls while their players rank Nos. 2 (Kevin Durant); 4 (James Harden); and 5 (Kyrie Irving). LeBron James, called the most hated in the BetOnline Twitter poll, is No. 1 in Europe. Steph Curry is No. 4.
In Japan, the Nets are also second behind the Raptors, home of Yuta Watanabe, the Japanese native (and former Nets Summer League player). None of the Big Three make the top 10, unfortunately.
(Surprisingly, the NBA doesn’t release data for China where all the “Big Three” are popular.)
- Fanbase Growth/Diversity:
According to recent YouGov data – The Brooklyn Nets have added the most amount of total fans of any NBA team in the past year. Based on percent increase, the Brooklyn Nets have the fastest growing fan base in the NBA over the past year.
According to the Morning Consult, data shows the Brooklyn Nets have the most racially diverse fan base of any major U.S. sports team.
- Social Media:
The Nets had 319 million engagements on social media from November 2020 through May 2021, placing them in the top three in the league. The Nets surpassed the Knicks on Instagram in mid-season. Brooklyn now has 3.2 million followers on Instagram, the Knicks 2.8 million. (The Knicks still have a large lead on Twitter.)
According to SportsProMedia and recent Conviva data, the Brooklyn Nets have seen an increase of +151 percent in average engagement per post.
Brooklyn social media followers have grown 34 percent year over year, per Nets internal data.
Videos created by the Nets and posted to an NBA -owned Twitter page generated 13.1 million views during the second round of the NBA playoffs (June 5-20), the most of any of the eight remaining teams, according to data from Tubular Labs.
Not bad for a team that a little more than a decade ago had the lowest TV ratings, worst arena and merchandise sales below that of the Seattle Sonics.
Steve Nash, sportsman
After the Game 7 loss to the Bucks on Saturday, Steve Nash has been making himself known across the sporting landscape.
There he was offering encouragement to Sabrina Ionescu and talking with fans after a New York Liberty loss Tuesday...
Postgame, Steve Nash spoke with Sabrina Ionescu as she headed off the court. pic.twitter.com/QzEeex0GR5— Alec Sturm (@Alec_Sturm) June 23, 2021
Nash is taking some photos with fans. pic.twitter.com/DRRfEVGVBl— Alec Sturm (@Alec_Sturm) June 23, 2021
Nash also joined fellow Canadian Wayne Gretzky this week in taking a position in Joe Tsai’s National Lacrosse League expansion team in Las Vegas. He already owns a piece of the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS.
But he knows that his first real off-season as an NBA head coach is going to be full.
“We’re — as an organization — always looking to improve, always challenging, always asking questions, and that’s no different for me, my staff,” he said.
“I’ll definitely spend a lot of time with the film department, with the analytics department and with the front office this year, even the performance team, players, just trying to continually ask the right questions and find answers and solutions for ways that we can get better.”
Of course, he’s still waiting to see how many assistants he’ll have to replace. Ime Udoka has already been hired by the Celtics and Jacque Vaughn is one of two finalists for the Pelicans job. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports Sunday that the job is down to the 46-year-old Vaughn who has head coaching experience with the Magic and 36-year-old Charles Lee, a Bucks assistant with no head coaching experience on any level.
Something else to watch: it’s possible that Udoka and Vaughn could look to hire other Nets assistant coaches — or player development assistants — for their staffs.
All those second rounders!
The Draft is a month from Tuesday, July 29. The Nets currently (and we emphasize currently) have four picks, the Nos. 27, 44, 49 and 59 picks, the latter three of course seconds.
Do not dismiss those second rounders as worthless, not in a year when the MVP was taken at No. 41 and a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame class went undrafted More importantly, the Nets scouting department has a good track record and as many as 10 scouts, full-time and part-time.
Want to know just how valuable a second can be? Over the past 20 years, the Nets traded away seconds that became Kyle Korver (No. 51): Draymond Green (No. 35); Pat Connaughton (No. 41) and Talen Horton-Tucker (No 46). Not to mention Nic Claxton was taken at No. 31, Joe Harris at No. 33, Spencer Dinwiddie at No. 38 and Bruce Brown at 42.
So what can the Nets do with all those seconds? Unlike players taken in the first round, there’s no guaranteed two-year deal for those prospects taken after No. 30. So there’s a lot more flexibility. Here’s a list of possibilities for the Nets.
- They can sign them to a standard NBA contract. They did that with Nic Claxton in 2019 after he was taken at No. 31 and Rodions Kurucs in 2018 after he was taken at No. 40. Not that likely with a roster built for a championship, but ya never know.
- They can sign them to a two-way deal. They did that with Reggie Perry in 2020 after he was taken at No. 57. We don’t know yet what the two-way restrictions will be this year, but before things were changed last year, a two-way player could be with the NBA club for 50 days before the team had to decide whether to sign them to a standard NBA contract.
- They can sign him directly to a G League deal. They did that with Jaylen Hands in 2019 after he was taken at No. 56. Call it a domestic stash. The team retains the player’s Draft rights while letting him develop under the tutelage of the organization’s development and training staffs.
- They can stash them overseas. They did that with Alexander Vezenkov in 2017 after he was taken at No. 57. It’s the traditional Euro stash route. Normally, the player stays with the same international team but also gets opportunities to meet with team representatives when they’re overseas or on trips to Brooklyn. The Nets have in the past set up things like shooting clinics for their stashes at overseas locations. (They currently have four international stashes.)
- They can trade them to move up in the first or second round. They did that in 2016 when they traded their 55th pick and cash considerations so they could take Brooklyn’s Isaiah Whitehead at No. 42 and they sorta did that in 2020, too. In the three-team deal with Pistons and Clippers they got the 55th pick, Reggie Perry, moving up from No. 57. Billy King twice traded seconds in 2011 to acquire the rights to Marshon Brooks in the first round and Bojan Bogdanovic in the second. Maybe the Nets see someone just out of their reach and offer multiple picks and perhaps some cash considerations to move up.
- They can trade this year’s picks for future ones. This year’s draft is seen as a top 5 draft so the picks, even deep ones, may be more valuable than they normally would be. They did that with their own first rounder in 2019 when they were looking for cap space to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets traded the rights to Mifiondu Kabengale, taken with the 27th pick, for the Clippers first round pick in 2020 as well as the rights to Hands.
- They can include the picks in a larger deal to sweeten it, either as a pick or in a swap of picks. They’ve done that a couple of times. This happens a lot in multi-team trades.
- Something new and unexpected! Just kidding (sort of). The Nets have a habit of doing the unexpected on Draft Night. Also, one other thing to note: Marks has never had this kind of flexibility in his five previous Drafts. He was either hamstrung by not having the Nets own picks or by having to swap them or if he had picks, by the need to open cap space.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
We always like prospects who say they want to play for the Nets and Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili said that this week. A native of New York who grew up in Tbliisi, Georgia (the country, not the state) Mamukelashvili told reporters he wants to stay in the area and would love to play for the Nets (or the Knicks.)
Mamukelashvili is a 6’10” point forward who played well in the NBA Draft Combine this week. He measured well too. Known for his offensive versatility and scoring, Mamu measured 6’9” without shoes and had a 7’1.25 wingspan. Surprisingly, he had a 36.5” max vertical. For comparison’s sake, that’s the same as Nic Claxton and an inch better than Jarrett Allen scored in their Combine measurements.
Here’s some highlights...
The Pirate senior has been projected near the end of the second round where the Nets have two picks. Will he move up after his Draft Combine showing?
Go Deep, KD!
In their Boardroom podcast this week, Kevin Durant and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, spoke a number of things, including how much he appreciates the Nets culture and the Nets fans, a positive for the Nets who hope to sign him to an extension this summer. (In that same vein, it was good to see him sitting next to Joe and Clara Wu Tsai at Thursday’s Liberty game.)
He spoke as well about he thinks he could have played other pro sports, particularly mentioning baseball and football.
“Any sport I put my mind to if I started at an early age like when I started basketball,” Durant said. Although Kleiman said Durant can throw a football 60 yards, Durant said his natural position was as a wideout.
“I can be a wideout at least...Well, I could go, all go routes,” said KD. Kleiman joked there would be skeptics noting how how skinny he is.
A big Redskins fan, Durant has in the past mentioned how he excited he was when the then-Redskins moved to Landover, Maryland, close to his home in Capitol Heights in Prince Georges County, Maryland.
We’ve been reading “Can’t Knock the Hustle - Inside the Season of Protest, Pandemic and Progress with the Brooklyn Nets Superstars of Tomorrow,” Matt Sullivan’s new book on the Nets and player empowerment. We’ll be reporting on what we read in the coming days.