Nets Trade Winds: Central Division Edition

My Nets offseason series continues with a look at the central division – who can the Nets pluck from Cleveland, Indiana, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Chicago?

Let’s take a look.

Cleveland Cavs: Whether LeBron stays or goes (no, Brooklyn isn’t getting HIM), the Cavs figure to be active, either to surround him or shed veterans for assets. Kevin Love is also unlikely – the Cavs would likely seek assets or a talent upgrade for him neither of which the Nets can or should provide.

But otherwise, the Nets can become active. If Cleveland needs a parking space for any of its bloated contracts – Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, or to a lesser extent Kyle Korver – in exchange for picks – the Nets should be open for business. The Nets could absorb or nearly absorb any of those pieces.

In addition, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic have some upside. If the Cavs need to ship them in a Nets deal to make dollars work, the Nets would be wise to explore.

Indiana Pacers: the Pacers are in a fascinating position. With Thad, Bojan, Darren Collison, Al Jefferson, and Lance Stephenson all on options, Indiana could in theory enter the summer with Oladipo and a ton of cap space, if they are so inclined.

Their veterans do not really make sense in Brooklyn. TJ Leaf was a first rounder last season; maybe the Pacers would trade him to add DeMarre Carroll to boost their wing production as they compete in the east. Maybe, instead, Indiana would deal their first rounder to add a piece like Carroll – that is less likely. The Nets should push for Ike Anigbogu in any deal.

Glenn Robinson III is an intriguing free agent to consider. He is a young wing who has not had much chance to shine in Indiana, due to injuries and roster depth. That could change in Brooklyn. The Nets should give him a look since he plays a premium position and has a 3/D profile.

Milwaukee Bucks: First things first: even if obtainable I want no part of Jabari Parker. The Nets need flexibility to obtain stars (whether in the draft or free agency). The worst thing they can do is cap themselves out – with a roster too good to tank but not good enough to win. Parker would help do just that.

The Bucks would only likely deal John Henson if a big upgrade was available but if they did, the Nets could look into a pick rental situation with him. Tony Snell or Matthew Dellavedova who had bad years, are more likely options.

Beyond that, the Bucks have no picks to deal until 2023 due to the Bledsoe deal, which may keep things quiet here.

Detroit Pistons: The Pistons are chasing the playoffs; the Dwane Case hire made that clear (he has too much cache to sign on a rebuild).

Reggie Bullock would be a fine young piece to consider if the Pistons do not guarantee his deal (for some odd reason).

Other than that, one area the Nets can target here is traded – the Pistons want win now upgrades and the Nets should exploit that. A Carroll for Leuer-Galloway swap, or something similar with Lin, should be on the Nets’ radar. The Pistons are unfortunately unable to trade a first rounder before 2020, but maybe the Nets, in such a deal, can pry the first rounder and Henry Ellenson, to sweeten the pot.

Chicago Bulls: While the Bulls (perhaps recklessly) per Woj want to accelerate their rebuild and dip into the free agent market, their status as a rebuild makes them a poor Nets match for transactions.

David Nwaba was a strong find for Chicago last year. If the Bulls let him walk in pursuit of a reshuffle, the Nets should take a strong look. Noah Vonleh also may warrant a look.

Going more nuclear, if the Bulls heel turn on their rebuild and explore salary dumps to sign free agents, the Nets should be open for business on Omer Asik, Cristiano Felicio, and Justin Holiday if the Bulls really went there.

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Nets offseason plan: any Southeast division picks or players for sale?

Continuing to tour through the league, I look at how the Nets might try to upgrade this summer.

Our tour goes through picks or players the Nets May poach the Southeast Division: the Heat, Wizards, Hornets, Magic, and Hawks.

Miami Heat:

The Heat are in a similar spot as the Thunder last summer, minus a star in Westbrook – they are capped out with a first round loser, and no obvious path to improve.

With no tradeable picks until 2022, it will be hard to poach this roster. The Nets could, in theory, rent space to Miami to park a contract, but Miami has no picks to send back. And if a team is dealing a star to Miami (which feels unlikely), that team isn’t going to add picks to the deal.

Brooklyn’s only chance here is if the Heat make a few Blazers like moves. Something like sending Justise Winslow and James Johnson to Brooklyn for nearly nothing in return.

But unless the Heat unexpectedly part with Bam Adebayo in a money dump (not happening), this is not worth it.

Washington Wizards:

The most likely path this summer for Washington is to reshape the roster around Wall and Beal, in their effort to contend. The Wizards also have their full complement of picks.

That opens up myriad trade possibilities depending on how short term the Wizards get.

Perhaps the Nets could extract the 15th pick in the draft, in a trade built around Allen Crabbe and Ian Mahinmi – it’s a real but perhaps Washington feels the upgrade in talent (both players expire in 2020) warrants the pick being dealt.

Thinking along similar lines, if the Wizards want to move on from Gortat and expand their wing rotation to handle Boston’s loaded group, a Carroll-Gortat swap could work – they should not, but if Wizards parted with a first in the deal, that is a home run. Alternatively, the Nets could simply eat Gortat’s contract in exchange for a first – without moving Carroll – if the Wizards feel Wall’s comments about their big man rotation leave Gortat out of the picture. The Wizards would likely insist on dumping Jason Smith and Jodie Meeks in a package like this – the Nets should accept if on the table.

If the Wizards balked on dealing a first, Kelly Oubre could be an alternative.

Charlotte Hornets:

The Hornets truly can go a number of ways this summer.

At the deadline, there were rumors of them dealing Kemba Walker, and using him to offload bad money. If Charlotte does that, expect a complete rebuild, and expect the Nets to be unable to help.

But if Charlotte changes course and goes into “sell Kemba on staying” mode, we could see the Hornets chase short term upgrades to get Kemba to stay.

That could put their pick, at 11, on the table. Maybe the Nets facilitate with a trade centered around a Carroll-Marvin Williams swap.

Going more nuclear, the Nets could acquire the awful Nicolas Batum contract for the 11th pick, Carroll and Lin. The Nets would be forfeiting a lot of future cap space, and allowing Charlotte to reshape it’s future roster. As such, the Nets, in such a scenario, would need to demand more, from among Kaminsky, Monk, and other future firsts.

Dwight Howard’s deal fits more neatly into many of these scenarios. But would the Nets organization ever acquire him?

Orlando Magic:

Trades are always tough with other rebuilding franchises. The Magic have bad contracts but they are not going to dump picks to shed them.

Aaron Gordon? He is not a star, or close really, and is poised to get a huge contract. That money on the books doesn’t benefit the Nets long term. And the Nets don’t have the cap room to make a max offer. And the Magic are likely to match any offer made.

Mario Hezonja is a worthwhile target, simply because he may come cheap, and because there is a recent record of young players leaving Orlando and thriving elsewhere (See Oladipo and Tobias Harris).

Atlanta Hawks:

There is little here for Brooklyn. The Hawks will likely look to turn veterans into kids or rent space picks – neither fits the Nets’ interests since the Nets should want the same thing.

Mike Muscala could be a target if he opts out and he would strengthen the big man rotation as well as provide another shooter. That is about it here.

Trade Winds – Who will the Nets add? Atlantic Division Edition

You smell that?

It smells GOOD.

That my friends, is the smell of the NBA offseason, finally upon us.

How will the Nets use their cap space? Can they move up in the draft? Can they add a pick? Will they keep their 2019 powder dry?

With questions abound, this article begins a series. I will look at every team in the NBA, and consider the Nets’ options.

One common thread will exist in these posts: the Nets likely are not a compatible trade partner with teams in rebuild mode, since the Nets are not in asset dealing mode.

For starters? The Atlantic Division. Who can the Nets poach locally?

Toronto Raptors:

The Raptors are a tough team to figure regarding offseason plans. On one hand, they went 59-23 and appear dissatisfied with being swept by Cleveland. That tends to show they will look to win now. On the other; Masai Ujiri wanted to rebuild in 2013 and did not due to the team’s fluky emergence. With fan disappointment about losing and a clear limited ceiling perhaps he feels this is his window to rebuild.

If the Raptors continue competing, as I expect, their inability to deal a first rounder until 2020 (due to the Nets owning their 2018 first); their toxic relationship with DeMarre Carroll similarly complicates matters.

Lucas Nogueira is a free agent the Nets can consider. He has never put his talent together and there are questions abound about his NBA future, but he alters shots with his length and has the raw skill to be a good interior defender, if channeled.

Jakob Poeltl, under contract, is another, as a solid defending and rebounding big. He is worse than RHJ right now, but cost controlled through 2020. Dealing RHJ for Poeltl and another asset – perhaps that Toronto 2020 first rounder, although that is a reach – would give the Nets more cap room in 2019, replace RHJ with two assets before his extension, and, for Toronto, provide another wing defender to throw at LeBron, or at Boston’s morass of wings.

Boston Celtics:

Unlike the Raptors, the Celtics’ focus is clear – make the NBA Finals.

But despite the Nets potentially having veterans, young and old, who could help Boston, Danny Ainge is a notorious big game hunter. He is unlikely to cash assets out on small games in a deal with Brooklyn.

That makes something like, say, RHJ for a first and either Daniel Theis or Guerschon Yabusele, unlikely.

Perhaps Aron Baynes is a candidate to backup Jarrett Allen, if he wants to avoid a multi year deal given the cap crunch and build some value.

Marcus Smart? He would help Brooklyn build a winning culture but the Nets cannot afford to kill their future cap with role players.

Philadelphia 76ers:

The Sixers will pursue LeBron James and other big names this summer. That makes them an obvious trade target for the Nets, who, starting July 1, have cap space in which to dump contracts – at a price.

Jerryd Bayless sticks out on the Sixers’ 2018-2019 books like a sore thumb, but since he expires in 2019, it would be thievery if the Nets could extract the Sixers’ 26 pick to eat his deal. Simply put, the Nets only have role player money to spend on the market – the 26 pick, in a rebuild, is way more valuable. Particularly when the Nets HAVE done well drafting in the 20’s.

If the Sixers give up on Furkan Korkmaz, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, or Justin Anderson in opening cap space, the Nets should look to pounce. Similarly, in the unlikely event the Sixers decline Richaun Holmes’ team option to maximize their cap space, the Nets should show strong interest.

The Nets should not worry that if they give Philly cap space, they “helped them” get LeBron, or Paul George, or (insert star here). If the Nets don’t do it, someone else will – and then Philly still has their stars but the Nets reap no benefit.

Lastly, if the Nets do keep their cap space for the free agent market, perhaps guys like Marco Belinelli or Ersan Ilyasova are willing to at least start the season with a mediocre team – both, particularly Belinelli, would spur the development of D’Angelo Russell by giving him floor spacers to work with offensively.

New York Knicks:

Unless the Knicks strike gold on the free agent market, their plan appears to be to continue developing their kids, and keep the powder dry for 2019.

Going radical, would the Knicks, sick of Joakim Noah, swap him in exchange for Timofey Mozgov, and dump an asset to do it? The Knicks don’t have a second rounder for several years, so there is likely no mileage here.

Maybe the Knicks think they can sign a big name this summer and the Nets can help out by taking on Kyle O’Quinn, Ron Baker, or Troy Williams in exchange for future second rounders.

Beyond options like that, there is not much doing on this front.

Nets Offseason Primer: Setting Up the Next Five Years

The 2018 Nets offseason will be a significant one, and may defines Sean Marks’ tenure.

Before this summer, Marks’ moves, while deserving of praise, have been mostly obvious, given the stringent handcuffs the prior regime (stewarded by current ownership) imposed.  The Nets had no choice, as a 60 loss team without picks for several years into the future, but to dump veterans and add picks, to climb to a baseline level where he obtained actual options.

Marks, it should be noted, has done well within that strategy, given what he inherited.  On the other hand, it should be noted that the strategy itself was an obvious one, and that he has lot of work left to build a contender.

Marks now, however, has some options regarding where he elects to take this rebuild.  He can start pushing chips in the middle of the table, building out from the core he’s carefully crafted.  He can start acquiring picks for the core he’s crafted, and move into a tank. With picks on the near horizon and 60 losses off the present day ledger, there is more flexibility.

Heading forward, the cap situation bears out a clear reality – the Nets need to stockpile more draft picks, and create more options to obtain the one thing that teams need to contend – stars. 

Here is a look at why.

  1. The Nets 2018 cap space? Not as much as advertised.

If the Nets, let every free agent but Joe Harris depart, they will only have approximately $15.1 million in cap space in 2018, as follows:

Under Contract: Crabbe: $18,500,000; Mozgov: $16,000,000; Carroll: $15,400,000; Lin: $12,516,476; DLO: $7,019, 698; world’s worst person (stretch): $5,474,787; RHJ: $2,470,357; Allen: $2,034,120; LeVert: $1,702,800; Dinwiddie: $1,656,092

Cap Holds: 29th pick: $1,618,320; Harris ($1,544,951)

Assumed as gone: Whitehead, Stauskas, Cunningham, Okafor, Acy, Webb, Doyle

 

Keep in mind that under this construct, the Nets have virtually no chance to get a star this summer.  Their trade assets and 29th pick are typically not enough to add a star.  And $15.1 million in space is not getting you a star.  That figure may allow the Nets to sign a quality tole player to a multiyear deal – but why should a 28-54 team handcuff future flexibility for a role player? And while in theory they can dump a piece to open space, that likely cannot occur without dumping draft picks – so that is not something the Nets should do.

The kicker? The Nets, as follows, are in a similar spot in 2019.

  1. Even if the Nets keep the powder dry this summer, they lack cap space next summer.

The Nets’ 2019 salary structure – if all they do in 2018 is draft at 29, 40, and 45, and resign Harris, leaves them with $85,466,649 in commitments, and about $18.3 million in space, without their 2018 second rounders, as follows:

Under Contract: Crabbe: $18,500,000 (assuming he opts in, which financially he should) Mozgov: $16,720,000; Harris: $6,000,000 (assuming the 3/$18 extension some have bandied about); world’s worst person (stretch): $5,474,787; LeVert: $2,625,718 (assuming option exercised); Allen: $2,376,840 (assuming option exercised; 2018 29th pick ($1,895,400); 2018 40th pick ($900,000 low estimate); 2018 45th pick ($900,000 low estimate)

Cap Holds: DLO ($21,059,095), RHJ ($7,411,071), Dinwiddie ($1,603,638); 2019 10 pick assumed ($4,201,200)

Cap Holds to Renounce Whether Brought Back or Not due to excess salaries: Carroll, Lin

Assumed as gone: any “one year contract” players signed to round out 2018 roster

 

Once again $18.3 million in space is simply not enough to add an impact player, and should not be wasted on role players.

Going forward, the Nets would have substantial cap space in 2020.  But that poses an obvious problem – a capped future ceiling.  With a core of Russell, LeVert, Allen, Dinwiddie, RHJ, their 2018-2020 first rounders, and whoever of Harris and Crabbe they decide to keep, the Nets likely would be in the worst place a team can be – the 30-40 win range.  Tank for a high draft pick and potential star? They would likely be too good.  Trade for a star?  How, with so many long term deals? Sign an elite free agent?  The Nets at this point would likely be a sub 40 win team for six consecutive seasons.  Who is signing into that?

This approach would maximize the Nets’ victory output in 2019 and 2020.  But the approach has an absolute – and obvious – ceiling.

What SHOULD the Nets do? Really, the same thing every bad team should do. Open up as many OPTIONS to add stars as possible.

That means that for all the Nets’ non star assets, and players without star or high level starter potential, they should be looking to acquire draft picks. Draft picks are chances to pick stars in June, and, when stars are traded, they carry more value than decent players on long term deals.  The Nets need as many of those picks as possible surrounding DLO, LeVert, Allen, and their upcoming first round picks over the next few years.

That means testing the market for RHJ.  For Dinwiddie. For, if he is resigned, Harris.

The Nets trading their developed role players for picks would serve multiple purposes.  If they decide to tank, frankly, they will be further along.  If DLO explodes and they want to add names on the market, they will have oodles of space, rather than anchoring their cap with deals for guys like RHJ, Dinwiddie, and Harris.  If a star becomes disgruntled and asks out, they will have a much deeper stash of picks to trade – AKA the top assets teams want when they deal stars.

One note on this: the Nets should take a cue from the team their fans now hate more than anyone – the Boston Celtics. When the Celtics hired Brad Stevens in 2013, one must remember that NOBODY believed the picks coming from Brooklyn were poised to be high lottery ones. Like Kenny Atkinson, he was brought in to develop low rung players in a rebuild, and build the Celtics up on a foundation of player development.  That approach, largely due to Isaiah Thomas being acquired, bred a playoff appearance in 2015, Brad’s second year on the job.

However – and CRITICALLY – despite the hard yards the Celtics put in developing their players from 2013-2015, the Celtics NEVER said, “we spent two years developing these players, we need to keep them and we should build around them.” And the Celtics said that without any guarantees or assurances regarding their future.  As we sit here today, just one Celtic, Marcus Smart, is around from that 2014-2015 roster.  The Celtics were anything but attached to that group of players.

And the Nets must show similar detachment. When the Nets have players in house – they should, as they have, treat them incredibly well, and make them feel welcome and part of their family.  That does not mean that they should commit to those players being a long term member of the family.

The time has come.  Will Sean Marks acquire as many picks as possible and position the Nets as a high asset team, with options to acquire stars across a multitude of avenues?  Or will he take a shortcut, give extensions to all of the members of the current core, and place limitations on the Nets’ future ceiling?

Time will tell.

Nets Trade Deadline Primer: Who will be on the move?

Welcome, NBA fans, to one of the best times of the year! It’s NBA trade deadline season.

We are officially within four days (to the hour) of the trade deadline of February 8 at 3pm. For the moment, things will likely stay quiet.  Teams want to flout trades to the media and do victory laps; why get upstaged by the Super Bowl. And on Monday and Tuesday, teams may be quiet because closer to the Thursday deadline is when teams make their best pitches, and become most desperate in selling their players.

With the deadline upon us, let’s get to the nitty gritty.

What should the Nets strategy be from a “what to acquire” standpoint?

Simple. Cash out as many pieces on the roster for assets as possible. If the Nets are to contend in the 2020’s with teams as talented as Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland (?), and other star laden groups, they are going to need more high end talent than this core will afford. The last thing the Nets want to do is pay a cache of role players, and then when future opportunities for young stars arise, lack the draft capital to deal for them, the cap space to sign them, or the high lottery picks to draft them outright.

How can the Nets manufacture leverage?

Patience. Patience at the deadline is a virtue. The Nets probably can get a second rounder or two for Joe Harris, right now. They can probably dump DeMarre Carroll for a second rounder and a castoff young player, right now.

But trades in the NBA are not defined by true market value. They are defined by desperate teams overpaying for players.  What if the Cavs become desperate to unload their “Brooklyn pick” for something to appease LeBron, and a Dinwiddie-Carroll-Harris-Raptors pick package gets the job done because Cleveland is desperate to make their star happy (h/t @pscar80)?  Improbable? Sure.  But if the Nets deal Joe Harris right now for two seconds, they’ll be kicking themselves — and we’ll be kicking them metaphorically — if something that thin goes down with Cleveland and another team.

Or what if, more simply, dealing Harris to a team and taking bad money back nets a FIRST rounder, rather than two seconds, because someone is anxious to unload a deal at the last opportunity. Unlikely? You bet. Market value for Harris? No. Impossible? No.

You can always circle back to a team at noon on Thursday and get second rounders for Harris. Or something small for Carroll, or Stauskas, or another piece. Before doing that, it is worth seeing if someone will overpay, or if multiple assets in combination provide a large return (as opposed to multiple assets, in separate deals, providing multiple small returns).

The overall point? Don’t settle for simple market value deals for your pieces.  See if someone is willing to overpay, due to desperation or overvaluation.

So who can they move. 

Below is a list of Nets players and trade assets — from most to least (in my estimation using educated guesswork – I do not have a source but I am using logic) likely to get dealt.

Joe Harris: The amount of consternation about dealing Harris is unusual. Harris is a role player. Nothing more. Rebuilding teams cannot tie their cap up going forward in bench players, and then lack the flexibility for stars as a result. Harris is a guy the Nets need to deal for picks. Fans should take little stock in the “they’re not shopping they’re listening” type of talk. Listening is all you need to do to make a deal.

Tyler Zeller: Having gone from starter to barely if playing, he is a clear candidate for a deal. His value is minimal so any asset based return is a win.

Isaiah Whitehead, Quincy Acy, James Webb, and Milton Doyle: These are low value, low cost young players who the Nets can throw into a deal if it greases the skids or makes the money work. If all that stands between a deal to get assets and no deal are these pieces, neither side will balk. That makes none of them likely to fetch an independent return of assets but all of them likely to be moved.

Nik Stauskas: Stauskas has next to no trade value.  He was a clear throw in in the Nets deal and had negative value in Sacramento as well. The Nets can try to fetch an asset but that feels unlikely.

Jahlil Okafor: It’s about time we judge players by their performance and not their draft position. Okafor failed in Philly. There’s a reason: his game is an obsolete relic. Some like to say he can be an Enes Kanter – but is that a good thing? Kanter can’t play for playoff teams in important games. If the Nets can turn Okafor’s expiring into an asset they should consider it. Perhaps the way to do it is to pool his deal with Stauskas, and eat a contract into 2018-2019.

DeMarre Carroll: I view his situation simply.  If he reigns in a first rounder (or a comparable young player far from his extension year), the Nets need to pull the trigger because this may be the peak of his value.  If he does not, trading him for a paltry return is pointless because he is under contract next year.  In that latter instance, I would bring him into 2018-2019, and see if he has more value as an expiring deal, rather than cashing him in for little.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: It is hard to see RHJ becoming more than a role player in the NBA. A role player who cannot shoot and is not versatile defensively, at that. The Nets should maximize his value by getting a pick or rookie at some point in time before his 2019 free agency.

Spencer Dinwiddie: Dinwiddie is an amazing story. But when he gets his next contract, and when the Nets try to contend in the 2020’s, what will matter is talent, not stories. Dinwiddie is a below average or fringe starting point guard, and he does not figure to progress much further than that because he does not shoot and score consistently enough. Can the Nets commit to that going forward? If a team offers a mid first or other comparable goodies, the Nets can’t just shut their ears.

Jeremy Lin: This is similar to Carroll in that you likely get more value for him next year — that is especially true considering he will opt in. His injury kills his value so much that dealing him now is unlikely; you are better off waiting to see if he recovers value next year.

Caris LeVert: LeVert’s upside given his age is not quite Allen’s or Russell’s but he is a key part of the future. It would take a significant return to pry him. Still, the Nets cannot shut their ears if he gets them into the lottery, where players have larger growth curves. LeVert is a critical piece. But he’s far from untouchable.

Timofey Mozgov: He has 0 trade value. Perhaps a buyout is possible, but the Nets would be remiss to stretch Mozgov’s money over further out salary cap seasons than 2020, and it is unlikely he agrees to a buyout under any other condition — would you?

Allen Crabbe: Crabbe is tough to move with 2 years, $37 million left after this year. The Nets should not dump assets to unload him unless a gigantic acquisition requires that — unlikely — and Crabbe is unlikely to bring an asset in with his contract. He is most likely to continue playing for Brooklyn.  Quietly, his non shooting skills are improving. Hopefully he starts shooting it well.

Jarrett Allen: At 19, and developing rapidly, he is what the Nets WANT, not what they want to trade.  Perhaps he can be dealt for a GIGANTIC young player return but that feels unlikely.

D’Angelo Russell: Since his injury he flat out has not looked good. However, I am confident he will find himself. And he is the clear cornerstone of the roster. Barring a top 5 pick in return, it is hard to trade him in a smart deal for the Nets.