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NetsDaily Off-Season Report - No. 6

Every weekend, we’ll be updating the Nets’ off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help fans get ready for ... whatever.

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NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

In a rush of stories this past week, the outlines of Jacque Vaughn’s coaching staff became clear ... and with it, yet another hint of where things are headed.

Jay Hernandez confirmed his departure from Charlotte and arrival in Brooklyn. Ronnie Burrell will be heading west from his successful run with Long Island to the big team in Brooklyn and Kevin Ollie, who led UConn to the NCAA championship in 2014, then spent two years with Overtime Elite, the development program, will be sitting close to Vaughn this season.

What’s the theme of the new staff — now with six assistants including three holdovers? Development, development, development. Hernandez did player development with the Hornets, Burell has said his top priority with Long Island was development and Ollie will be watching the NBA Draft on June 22 to see where his two charges, Amen and Ausar Thompson, fall in the lottery.

They join Adam Caporn who was also a head coach with Long Island and ran Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence before that; Trevor Hendry who rose through the development ranks in Long Island and Brooklyn and Ryan Forehan-Kelly who spent last summer working with Nic Claxton, one of his many player development roles.

Sean Marks and Vaughn are going from a coaching staff built for a title run to one where the priority is getting the most out of their players, present and future. Igor Kokoskov and Brian Keefe, whose contracts were not renewed this summer, were veteran NBA assistants who were well-respected around the league, but it appears the Nets braintrust wanted to go in the proverbial “other direction.”

The other thing is that this is now Vaughn’s staff, not Nash holdovers. With a four-year deal starting this season, giving Vaughn his preferred assistants makes sense. The Nets still have one, maybe two assistant gigs left to fill. Steve Nash had eight assistants last season before he was dumped and replaced by Vaughn. When Vaughn was elevated, the Nets did not replace him.

It’s possible that one of the final hires will be lead assistant. Of the six current assistants, only Ollie has experience being the head guy and he has no NBA coaching experience although he played for 11 teams, including the Nets, in a 13-year career, where he was a “coach in waiting,” as Brian Lewis wrote Saturday. Perhaps, Vaughn sees Ollie as his lead guy. He did coach more than 200 games at UConn, winning 62% of them and he was a strong candidate to lead the Pistons before owner Tom Gores broke the bank and hired Monty Williams.

While Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports reported that James Borrego, formerly the head coach in Charlotte, was “in the mix” for Brooklyn, a highly placed league source told NetsDaily he was not a priority.

So despite a lot of wild trade speculation, the moves once again suggest the Nets are retooling and that Marks comments about giving the core another chance were not pap, not blather meant for the masses. Yes, there have been reports, including by us, that the Nets have “interest” in Damian Lillard but there isn’t any indication yet that Lillard wants to leave the Rose City. He has been a regular at Blazers draft workouts in recent weeks and is nothing is not loyal. (Yes, there was a report he has put his $7 million Oregon home on the market but there was also a report he plans on building a new one.)

What might the new emphasis on player development mean for the Draft? There’s been plenty of speculation (that word again) the Nets will trade either No. 21 or 22 for veteran help. That might very well be true but if you look at the make-up of the new staff — and quite frankly their development successes, you could also argue that the Nets might surprise and use the two firsts and the No. 51 as well. Avoiding the “second apron” of the new CBA and with it, the death of flexibility might also be a reason to use all the picks. Finding a solid player or two in the Draft helps a lot in salary cap calculus.

On a side note, the Long Island Nets head coach opening has to be seen as a great stepping stone. Ronald Nored who was Marks first head coach on the Island is now a top assistant with the Pacers. Will Weaver, who was G League Coach of the Year when Long Island went to the Finals in 2019, has gone on to be head coach of the Sydney Kings in the NBL and Paris Basket in the French League. Mike Scotto of Hoopshype has speculated he might wind up on Vaughn’s staff as well. Caporn, who was head coach two years ago and Burrell are now both NBA assistants. It’s a good job.

Draft Sleeper of the Week

G.G. Jackson is one of those players whose standing in the Draft no one can seem to figure out. A combo forward, he has vexed draftniks (and presumably scouts as well.) On some mocks, he’d be a reach for the Nets picks at No. 21 or 22 while on others, like ESPN, he’s projected as a high second rounder. As’s Jorrye Nixon wrote of him, he “arguably the most polarizing prospect in this class.” Jam Hines writing for SI’s Fan Nation called him, “one of the most difficult scouting evaluations in this draft class because of his age, melding of tools and skills,”

Here’s one scouting report from Hoop Intellect...

There is no doubt about his raw skills. At 6’9” in bare feet with a 37” max vertical and a solid frame, he was the consensus overall No. 1 prospect in the 2023 high school recruiting class. But he reclassified to the 2022 class and chose to stay close to his home in Columbia, S.C. and played for the Gamecocks. Every scouting evaluation notes his shot-making and play-making ability as well as his offensive rebounding prowess. He could be an elite rim-runner as well. So what’s the issue? It starts with maturity. He was the youngest player in Division 1 last year, starting the year at age 17. He is likely to be the youngest pick on June 22 as well and won’t turn 19 till mid-December.

Here’s what Nixon wrote about him and his maturity/consistency issues...

He wasn’t very efficient, but what was even more worrisome is that he at times sulked when he didn’t get the ball, let one mistake compound to another, and even took to Instagram live to publicly complain about not getting the ball late in a close conference loss to Arkansas … Some of his struggle to adjust may be due to growing pains going from primarily being a post player in HS/AAU to more perimeter-oriented in college, but regardless he seemed to more often than not be going through the motions as a young Fr … As a prospect Jackson has big upside, particularly scoring the ball offensively, and he seems to have no problem showing it … There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance and some of the shots and possessions Jackson had this past season straddled the line maybe too closely,

It didn’t help that South Carolina was 11-21 for the season, a major disappointment. All that said, Nixon also sees a possible star on the horizon in Jackson.

[I]f he’s selected in the right situation some team could be rewarded for their patience and diligence and have a great value pick on their roster … GG Jackson certainly qualifies as a player that could fail to “make it” with his first team. The upside is incredible.

Similarly, Hines thinks there is a lot more Jackson could do in an NBA setting, even suggesting that Jackson could fill the big guard/wing role.

Due to operating as a primary handler and South Carolina not consistently looking to push the pace, we didn’t get to see much of him flying up and down the floor in transition. We saw more of it in high school and AAU ... With everyone looking to get out and run, expect him to return to being a dynamic transition finisher in the NBA, ideally with a playmaking guard...

How much Jackson taps into his off-ball upside will be dependent on his own consistent effort, the development plan his drafting team has for him and its roster construction. Striking a balance between on and off ball reps will be vital to unlocking the player Jackson can become, who won’t turn 19 years old until just after the start of the next NBA season. He’s a lottery pick for me.

Assuming (as we did above) that the Nets are heavily in player development mode, and assuming his maturity is not some fatal flaw, Jackson would seem like the kind of prospect you take a chance on if you have multiple first round picks and at the moment, the Nets do.

Also, prospects like Jackson suggest that, as draftniks will tell you, this draft is deep.

Working out around the world

We are starting to get reports of Nets players working out on their own this summer.

Billy Reinhardt, who’s written for us in the past, tweeted that three Nets and a former Net have been working out at one of their homes in Southern California under the tutelage of a personal trainer...

Here’s some of what Guevara posted...

Meanwhile, in Hawaii, Patty Mills and Yuta Watanabe were working out together as they prepare for FIBA World Cup stints in August, Mills for Australia, Watanabe for Japan...

Mills also issued a challenge to anyone who thinks they can match his deep shooting skills...

And from Florida, Ben Simmons posted the latest image from his rehab...

He, too, would like to play in the World Cup for the Aussies.

Is Jock Lansdale a possible free agent addition?

With all the Australians on the roster — Patty Mills and Ben Simmons: on the coaching staff — Adam Caporn: and in the front office — virtually the entire training staff aka the “Melbourne Mafia,” not to mention Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello, you’d think January 25, Australia Day, would be a company holiday.

Should the Nets think about adding another, maybe Jock Landale, the Suns 6’11” big man who’s a restricted free agent? As he proved in the playoffs vs. the Nuggets, the 27-year-old Melbourne is a solid back up. In Game 6 vs. Denver, Landale started in place of the injured Deandre Ayton, scoring 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, with five rebounds, one block and an assist. As the Arizona Republic reported...

Landale was a more versatile backup big for Ayton than the veteran Bismack Biyombo ... on both ends of the floor. Landale can occasionally step out and hit 3s, runs the floor well as a finisher on the break, is decent in the pocket to hit spot-up jumpshots and floaters from midrange and in the paint from catching pick-and-roll pocket passes.

And there are a multitude of connections other than him having the same passport as half the staff (only a slight exaggeration.) He, like Mills and Caporn, are products of St. Mary’s University in California and he had Mikal Bridges are buddies as well as former teammates. In fact, Landale’s trolling of Bridge got so out of hand that he had to take to the airwaves this week to explain...

Landale is, as noted, a restricted free agent meaning that the Suns can match any offer he would receive and as we’ve noted possibly a million times, the Nets are constrained in what they can do salary-wise, but Landale might be an interesting addition who could be a good mate for a lot of people at HSS Training Center.

Liberty off to a fast start ... in the stands too

The Liberty are going for their fifth straight win Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center. Meanwhile they are doing well in the stands, selling out the lower bowl in Brooklyn for their home opener. That’s 8,575 out of the 17,732 capacity for NBA games at the arena. In the second game, the number dropped a bit to 7,188 for an average of 7,882. Moreover, the crowds have been loud and enthusiastic. After all, Joe and Clara Wu Tsai have built a superteam in hopes of making the Libs a big draw in New York.

Big attendance numbers for the New York team are important for the WNBA. Before James Dolan moved the Liberty out of Madison Square Garden and into Westchester County Center, New York was the big draw in the W. As Brian Lewis wrote back in 2019 when the Tsais bought the club (for assuming team debt!), it was critical...

The Liberty finished in the top four in WNBA attendance in all 18 seasons at the Garden, averaging 9,888 in 2017 before then-owner Jim Dolan moved the team to Westchester. But it has never been better than seventh in attendance in four full seasons outside of the city.

The Liberty were just 12th last season at 2,823, and drew just 1,886 in 15 dates at Westchester. Their plummet was so precipitous it actually accounted for approximately half of the WNBA’s drop to a record-low 6,721 fans per game across the league.

Last season, the slow road back helped the Liberty get up to 5,327, good for seventh in the 12-team league. The Seattle Storm, led by Breanna Stewart, topped the W with 10,631 a night. That number was no doubt a product of several factors: the city has been basketball-starved since the NBA permitted the Supersonics to move to America’s hinterlands, the Storm was a championship contender every year and Stewart is the best women’s basketball player on the planet. Now, of course, Stewie plays for the Liberty and the team had better be a championship contender considering all the time, money and effort Clara Wu Tsai in particular has put into it.

The Liberty are also a beneficiary of new interest in women’s sports (and winning) in the New York metro area. As Melanie Anzidei of The Record wrote this week, the Gotham FC of the MWSL, like the Liberty, is getting big numbers at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. Gotham, like the Liberty, is in first place after investing in a couple of superstars of their own ... and attracting some high profile investors like former USWNT star Carli Lloyd, Kevin Durant and Eli Manning. They expect 12,000 fans Sunday evening when they face the San Diego Wave at Red Bull.

As Anzidei wrote of how the two teams are helping their league and women’s sports in general...

Proper investment allows athletes to focus on the game in a way female athletes historically have not been able to do. That also comes from the security of having a stable league, which is something the WNBA and NWSL have been working towards since their inceptions.

The success of the Liberty has no doubt driven up the value of the franchise. The Tsais reportedly paid little to nothing other than the assumption of team debt back in 2019, somewhere in the low eight figures. The Storm was valued at $151 million with Stewart last season. So, the Liberty have to be worth $200 million. It’s safe to assume that the players union will be watching team valuations over the course of their current CBA which runs out in 2027. The current max salary for a WNBA player is roughly $250,000.

Final Note

The Nets haven’t retired a number since Jason Kidd’s No. 5 a decade back. Kidd certainly deserved it, but one of his teammates from that era deserves a ceremony as well. There were rumors last season that the Nets would finally retire No. 15 to honor Vince Carter, but it didn’t happen. Why we don’t know. In his five seasons with New Jersey, Carter averaged 23.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists with shooting splits of 47/37/81. In his first season following a December trade from Toronto, he averaged 27.5 points and was as good as anyone in the NBA. Moreover, in those five seasons, Carter missed only 11 out of 385 games (something Brooklyn Nets fans can well appreciate) ... and the Nets lost each one. While he’s mostly associated with the Raptors, who have already retired No. 15, his numbers with the Nets are very, very similar.

It is long overdue.