We originally started off the Off-Season Report this way...
Between the time you finish reading this, we expect much of what was written is outdated.
And indeed, minutes after the piece was pubbed, The Wizards agreed to trade Bradley Beal to the Suns for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, several sound picks and a pick swap, what looks a lot like a salary dump of one of the game’s great scorers. Of course, Beal has a contract well in excess of $200 million and would have hamstrung building efforts in our nation’s capital.
That’s the way it is in the days leading up to the Draft which this year is once again at Barclays Center Thursday at 8:00 p.m ET. Speculation becomes a rumor and rumors fly. Everyone is to be believed if they believe in what you believe and if in reverse, no one is to be believed if they do not believe in what you believe.
At this point around noon Sunday in the east, it appears Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard and their teams currently rule the NBA. Unless and until either moves on, there might be a momentary stasis in the annual whirlwind centered on the Draft. Indeed, virtually every NBA pundit thinks there will be a record or near-record number of trades this week. There were 18 last season.
In the case of the Nets, Damian Lillard’s situation remains uncertain. Word this week is that if the Blazers don’t get big-time, ready-made help, there will a serious conversation as Lillard has put it. between the player and organization about his future.
Complicating matters is the Wizards found a new home for Beal. The Heat, who lost out to the Suns, will now likely move on to pursuing Lillard. Lillard himself has said the Heat would be his favorite landing zone if he wanted out of Portland. Of course, the other team Lillard said he might find appealing is the Nets. But there’s been no real traction there at least in media reports and the general consensus is the the Heat could offer more than the Nets in terms of talent rather than picks. IF, IF, IF Lillard asks out.
Seth Highkin has covered the Blazers for years, most recently in his Rose City Report. Here’s what he wrote earlier in the week, which still seems accurate as we finish up today:
Even if Lillard does ask to be traded—which, it must be stressed again, he has not done—he’s under contract for four more years, and he’s not wired to pull a James Harden and hold out of training camp any more than Durant is. He’d show up and do his job in that event, and probably eventually come back around to staying long-term. The situation would be closer to Kobe Bryant’s trade demand in 2007, which didn’t come to fruition because he realized the Bulls and Mavericks would have to give up too much to get him. Any team Lillard went to would be in the same boat the Knicks were in after they traded everything for Carmelo Anthony in 2011.
This week will be an interesting week for Sean Marks. For the first time since he assiduously gathered them back in February, Marks will have access to a wealth of assets he put together in deals for unhappy players. In short here’s the haul from the “Big Three” trades...
Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, Royce O’Neale (via a trade using a first-round pick in the James Harden deal.)
First Round Draft Picks:
-2023 First round pick (Suns unprotected)
-2025 First round pick (Suns unprotected)
-2027 First round pick (Suns unprotected)
-2027 First round pick (76ers protected 1-8)*
-2028 First round swap (Suns unprotected)
-2029 First round pick (Suns unprotected)
-2029 First round pick (Mavs unprotected)
Second Round Draft Picks
-2027 Second round pick (Mavs)
-2028 Second round pick (Bucks)
-2029 Second round pick (Mavs)
-2029 Second round pick (Bucks)
*2027 76ers first round pick becomes 1-4 protected if by 2027 Draft, 76ers haven’t satisfied Thunder with a first round pick from previous trade between those two teams. If Thunder receives 76ers first round pick in 2027, Nets pick rolls over to 2028, protected 1-8.
-$18.1 million TPE expires Feb 8, 2024
-$4.5 million TPE expires Feb 5, 2024
-$1.8 million TPE expires Feb 8, 2024
-$1.8 million TPE expires Feb 5, 2024
-$1.6 million TPE expires Feb 6, 2024*
*The $1.6 million TPE is from Kessler Edwards trade. Edwards was dealt to open a roster spot just before the Irving and Durant trades.
David Michineau of France, Juan Pablo Vaulet of Argentina.
There’s lot of flexibility there to make complicated deals both on a one-for-one or multi-team bases. Beyond what they picked up in the “Big Three” deals, the Nets have their own first and second rounders, a total of 11 firsts through 2030 as well as eight or nine seconds depending on various issues in that same time frame. Of the 11 firsts, eight can be traded this week.
Again, this is the first time Marks will have access to all those picks, the fourth largest cache in the NBA. In fact, it is unique in his tenure with the Nets. And always expect surprises. It’s a Marks trademark.
Draft Sleeper of the Week
Every year, there are surprises at the NBA Draft Combine. Scouting reports missed that this player or that has a killer attitude on defense or has other skills beyond his lights-out 3 point shooting.
This year, one of those surprises was Brandin Podziemski out of Santa Clara. The 6’4” guard lit up the Combine and has been rising to right around where the Nets pick at Nos. 21 and 22. Also, we know the Nets had Podziemski in for a workout, per his IG.
Brian Lewis profiled Podziemski this week. writing “While the Nets have a glaring need for shot creators and shot makers, Podziemski has a skill set that fits.”
Specifically, Lewis wrote:
A 43.8 percent 3-point shooter (on 5.8 attempts per game) as a sophomore, he’s likely the most accurate deadeye shooter in this entire draft.
“If he played at North Carolina or Duke or something like that, he might not have been as much of a [sleeper],” ESPN Draft guru Jay Bilas told The Post. “But he’s really a good player, and I think he’s going to be a first-round draft pick.”
Podziemski is a native of Wisconsin who has sought Polish citizenship so he can play for their national team, At the Combine, he surprised with his athleticism as well as his defense and rebounding. At Santa Clara, he averaged 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals.
“That’s about where I have him — in the early to mid 20s,” Bilas said. “He can score, good playmaker, and he rebounds his position. He’s only like 6-4, but he can really rebound. And he’s got really good range as a shooter, handles it pretty well, and he can score off the dribble and he can make plays for himself and for other people.
“I think he’s one of the better shooters in the draft. … He’s good on catch-and-shoot, good off the dribble jumpers. I think he can be a better defender, but he’s good athletically and I think he tested really well at the Combine. … He’s a really good prospect.”
He would also be welcomed by New York sportwriters. He has a reputation about being open.
“Being a white guy in the NBA, there’s no secret that you’re a minority,” Podziemski told HoopsHype. “It’s harder for you because teams target you on defense, especially, and you’ve got to have that confidence, swagger, and toughness about you to be successful and be in the league a long time.”
Here’s some video...
Cam Johnson update
Cam Johnson was in Melbourne this week, seemingly enjoying a vacation spent both on the links and in the stands at an Australian Rules Football. And while there have been a number of reports of interest, here and there, the Nets are seemingly enjoying their pursuit of his signature on an NBA renewal contract. Most of those reports have opined on what team may pursue him. Certainly the Rockets. Maybe the Pistons. But Marc Stein who has had a history of breaking big Nets news, offered this in his substack: that the Nets have “all but convinced Johnson to re-sign.”
The Nets can’t officially lay out a contract till July 1, but Sean Marks and Joe Tsai seem to have built up a reservoir of trust. Johnson was in Nets sweats on that Melbourne course he challenged and the Nets in their social media and other postings have offered up Johnson as a keeper.
Looking back a year ago this week there were reports that Nic Claxton in a similar situation would get a big offer from the Raptors and that the Nets would be unwilling to match. That never happened. The Nets and Claxton agreed on what both thought was a fair deal: two years at $20 million, part of which would be in unlikely incentives, many of which Claxton met by the way. Instead of risking Johnson — and the new CBA would permit the Nets only 24 hours to match. expect the Brooklyn braintrust to get this out of the way quickly.
As Lewis noted, the presence of his best buddy Mikal Bridges will be factor any decision-making. That bond strengthened this week when CJ agreed to represent the US in the FIBA World Cup, joining his “twin” in pursuit of gold in Manila.
“Yeah I’d say so. That’s my twin — I haven’t played an NBA game without him, literally — the guy I came into the league alongside of and somebody I’ve grown close to. I value those people in my life and he’s a good teammate,” Johnson said. “So the continued opportunity to play with him is going to be very important.”
Johnson and Bridges have also grown close to Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, attending a dinner honoring her at the Gordon Parks Foundation. Also on hand besides the ownership couple was the Magic point guard Cole Anthony (still on his rookie deal) and his mother, Crystal McCrary, honored along with Wu Tsai.
Quite the lineup honoring Clara Wu Tsai at Gordon Parks Foundation Tuesday. That’s L to R: Mikal Bridges, Cole Anthony, Crystal McCrary (Cole’s mom), Cam Johnson and Joe Tsai. pic.twitter.com/mKbbqTdXAw— NetsDaily (@NetsDaily) May 25, 2023
Last week, FYI, the Tsais were also honored for their philanthropy by the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Nets official hospital, in Manhattan. On hand there were the Tsais, BSE Global CEO Sam Zussman, Dr. Riley J. Williams III, the Nets medical director and Sean Marks.
Bruce Beck (@BruceBeck4NY), lead sports anchor at @NBCNewYork, hosted the event which also featured a special performance by nine-time Grammy Award-winner @SherylCrow, who was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. pic.twitter.com/TmzqK2kVgV— Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) (@HSpecialSurgery) June 14, 2023
Things seem pretty stable at 168 39th Street in Sunset Park.
The big sale and the Nets
Michael Jordan is selling his stake in the Hornets, a small market team without much success in his tenure, for $3 billion. That includes the operating license to the Hornets home arena, which is owned by the city, much like Barclays Center’s relationship to the state of New York.
The sale follows the recent $4 billion purchase of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury and the purchase of 25% of the Milwaukee Bucks which valued that franchise at $3.5 billion. If teams in places like Charlotte, Phoenix and Milwaukee are going for those lucrative valuations, how much would a deal for the Nets, Liberty and Barclays Center be worth? You’d have to think $5 billion would be the ceiling ... currently. Not bad considering the Tsais bought the three in two separate deals for a little more than $3 billion back in 2019.
There’s no indication that ownership has any interest in selling control — maybe a small piece perhaps to recover what it’s invested in the properties, losses, etc. The NBA made it possible recently to sell significant, if not controlling, interests to sovereign wealth funds like the government-controlled PIF of Saudi Arabia which is financing the merger of its LIV golf with the PGA.
The larger issue with the sale, however, may have little to do with money. By selling the Hornets, MJ has left the NBA without a single Black owner in a league where the overwhelming majority of players are black.
The only two people of color who now have majority ownership in an NBA team are the Sacramento Kings’ Vivek Ranadive (Indian) and the Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Tsai (Taiwanese). The 2022 Race and Gender Report for the NBA also reported that 82.4% of NBA players were people of color during the 2021-22 season. African American NBA stars LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul have said they would like to be part of NBA ownership groups in the future. Dwyane Wade (Utah Jazz), David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs) and Grant Hill (Atlanta Hawks) are African Americans who currently have minority ownership of NBA teams while Shaquille O’Neal sold his minority stake in the Sacramento Kings in 2022. Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who is Black, also told Andscape that he hopes to become a part of team ownership after his pending retirement.
Tsai will tell you he is not Taiwanese, but Chinese. That said, you’d hope the NBA will try to find a way get more Black investors in teams than Gulf Araba. We shall see.
Move it, move it
From what we know, Mikal Bridges is in Brooklyn and has attended all of the Liberty home games; Cam Johnson, as noted, is in Melbourne; Nic Claxton is Texas with his personal trainer; Ben Simmons, David Duke Jr. and Royce O’Neale have been working out together in Miami; Spencer Dinwiddie was in Nanjing, China, apparently on a marketing mission; and Patty Mills? Well, he and his wife have been stylin’ in Milan, Italy, for Fashion Week...
As one fashion writer put it, “Dripped out in a gold double-breasted D&G suit, the Australian NBA champ could be seen toasting the new collection with Italian menswear monarchy and the brand’s eponymous founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana in Milan.”
If someone had told us at NetsDaily last summer that one of our small group would be cradling the Larry O’Brien trophy inside a champagne-drenched championship locker room in June, well, we would have thanked the gods that gave us KD and Kyrie and waited for the memory. As it turned out someone was selling something even crazier than the Brooklyn Bridge. Fast Forward...
That’s Matt Brooks, formerly our Film Study guy, after the Nuggets beat the Heat in Game 5 to win it all. Matt took a job with the Nuggets as one of their in-house writers in the regular season. So Matt Brooks won a title before James Harden. Who knew? He tells us, alas, he wasn’t on a float for championship parade through Denver. Hoping he gets a championship ring, though. Congrats again, Matt.
See you all next weekend when things will have changed in a number of ways. Hang on.