Nets off-season: any Charlotte Hornets for sale?

As the Nets gear up for a significant offseason, they must look under every rock for talent. That requires an analysis of every roster in the league, and what opportunities may present themselves for improvement. 

Now, it is time to take a look at the Charlotte Hornets: how can the Nets take advantage of their situation to improve?

In short, the Hornets may be in “win now” mode this summer, and that offers the Nets a chance to take advantage. The Hornets, after intense losing in 2012 and 2013, have been reluctant to rebuild since.  Some smaller markets believe that they cannot rebuild, and must remain competitive or pseudo competitive in order to turn a profit. 

Spending brought the Hornets to 43 wins in 2013-2014, and the Hornets won 33 and 48 games the next two years. However, after benefitting a year ago from talent under market value, the Hornets plummeted to 36-46 due to various defections, including Jeremy Lin.

That puts the Hornets in a precarious position. They sit at 36-46 with no cap space to make upgrades. While they own the 11th pick in the draft, a player at that threshold is unlikely to improve the team in the immediate term. A rebuild would make sense, but the Hornets appear to have no interest in that under Michael Jordan’s ownership, particularly after 2012 and 2013 caused financial struggles and was, frankly, hard to watch. In addition, the Hornets picked up Rich Cho’s option for 2017-2018, which makes him a lame duck with a possible win now mandate.

When you combine the Hornets apparent desire to win now, their lack of money to spend, and the unlikely ability of the Draft’s 11th pick to make an immediate impact inthe win column, the Hornets situation is ripe for draft picks or contracts to be traded. 

Simply put, the Hornets (right or wrong) apparently want to win now, and the easiest way to boost that effort is to use their draft pick and future assets to upgrade the roster through trades. Teams in win now mode often make reckless decisions to satisfy those interests; the Hornets could be that team this summer. 

Kemba is free in 2019, and could develop wandering eye if the Hornets do not start winning. That is yet another undercurrent militating toward a win now move. 

This offers the Nets various opportunities to try to scour future assets. Remember: the Hornets traded the 22 pick for Marco Belinelli last year to upgrade in the short term. 

There is reason to believe the 11th pick is in play, and the Nets should seriously pursue the pick (I am presupposing that the Hornets pick 11, given they have the 11th worst record; they will likely pick close).

Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky are solid up front. But Brook Lopez is better. Do the Hornets deal the 11th pick as the prime compensation to secure Lopez? The Nets would have to consider that. Would the Hornets trade Cody Zeller, Marco Belinelli, and their pick for Lopez? They could sell Lopez’s ability to start around Kemba and Batum. Belinelli expires after 2018, so the Nets would not sacrifice much flexibility. If the Nets did not want Zeller’s contract, he is movable, and they could find a third team. If they did want him, he is a good player who thrived in 2016-2017. 

Trading the 11 pick and Zeller for Lopez is likely too much value. If the Hornets wanted the 22 pick, that levels the scales some, and the move would still be one the Nets should strongly consider. 

The Nets can consider similar trades involving Marvin Williams, who Kenny Atkinson worked with in Atlanta. They could also try to get Frank Kaminsky tossed into a deal but he thrived in the second half, which would make things more diffficult. 

The Nets could even try to get the 11th pick from the Hornets another way: trading Jeremy Lin. Lin was huge for the Hornets in 2016, and the Hornets could easily sell his return as a win now stroke. Would Lin land the 11 pick if the Nets took back Belinelli, and threw the 22 pick on the table? What about a Belinelli Sessions, or Belinelli Lamb package, to accomplish the 11 spot move up the ranks. The Lamb addition would require the Nets to eat some post 2018 money, but the Nets again would have to consider such a package.

If Lin’s signing causes the Nets to move up 11 spots this draft, and they find a comparable point guard this summer, is that not a huge win for the franchise? 

Finally, as to trades of both Brook and Lin, the Nets should target the Hornets’ picks in 2019. If the Hornets see Brook or Lin as a serious upgrade, two picks could be on the table because of their desperate state. 

There are other options the Nets may consider here. Kemba and Batum are going nowhere, but perhaps the Hornets do not value Kidd-Gilchrist, and the Nets can trade Lopez for him, all while moving up and swiping the Hornets’ lottery pick. That makes little sense for Charlotte, but desperate teams in win now mode often do things that make little sense.

Miles Plumlee’s dead money is intriguing, but at 12.5 million per through 20, he may make too much to absorb. At some point, too much dead money is a bad thing; cap space will eventually matter in Brooklyn. The Nets would need multiple firsts from the Hornets to take Plumlee on and that is likely not on the table.

There are other options here that could be on the table. Maybe the Hornets think a Booker-Belinelli swap benefits them, and would be willing to dump their second round pick (at place 41) to make it happen. Or maybe a Booker-Ramon Sessions swap could lead to that. 

For that matter, given the Hornets financial crunch BEFORE adding talent, maybe the Hornets would sell the 41st pick to the Nets for cash, or swap the Nets’ 57 pick for the 41st pick as a financial saver. The Nets need every asset they can get and this would help.

Another sneaky add to look at is Johnny O’Bryant. He impressed as a reserve big late in the year, and the Hornets gave him a non guaranteed deal. If the Nets provide the Hornets the talent upgrade they seek, the Hornets may be willing to throw him into a package to get the deal done. Christian Wood also put up big D-League numbers, if the Hornets let him go.

All told, if the Nets want to make a big offseason move, Charlotte is a place to look.

Have Cleveland second in 2018 not theirs. Otherwise stocked. 

Nets Offseason Outlook: Any Knicks for Sale?

With the Nets marching towards a significant offseason, it is now the time to start thinking about who across the league they can get their hands on over the summer.  While some Nets will surely be back and the Nets sincerely want to develop their players, when you are 12-54, the need for talent upgrades is paramount.  The Nets will look to add pieces.

That brings me to the Knicks, and who from across the river may be available.  In Knick like fashion, they sit in a peculiar position. On one hand, there are murmurs that they finally seem to acknowledge a need to rebuild, and will have Porzingis, next year’s top 10 pick, and Hernangomez in house to start that process.  That may lead to a full blown commitment to youth, and a Melo trade. On the other hand, the logistics of dealing Melo given his no trade clause and large salary are difficult, and if Melo sticks around, the Knicks may hedge between rebuilding and winning now.  Lastly, the Knicks appear to be back to evaluating players based on the triangle, which should mean even more personnel change.

So, can the Nets benefit from that change?  For now, it is hard to say, because the direction the Knicks choose this summer is anyone’s guess. A sincere rebuild around Porzingis, another win now like summer, or a hedge between the two (the most likely scenario) are all in the cards.

As for the Nets, for starters, do not expect to see Melo, Rose, Noah, or Lee in a Brooklyn uniform.  Melo will only waive his no trade clause to go to a winner, and the Knicks would want more assets than the Nets can send them.  Rose is a shoot first point guard who, since his knee injuries, has been exposed for his inability to run an offense, and for, frankly, being a ball hog.  There is no place for that in Brooklyn’s motion offense. He also went AWOL on his team (which was 17-20 at the time and has gone 10-21 since), which makes him an awful culture fit on top of being a bad basketball fit.  Noah’s contract is too large an albatross to take on.  And Lee, as a solid shooting, bigger guard, is a nice fit on the Knicks going forward, almost regardless of the direction they assume.

In addition, Porzingis and Hernangomez are going nowhere.

However, depending on what the Knicks do this summer, there are other options for Brooklyn.  Lance Thomas has been a dud for the Knicks, and, if they try to score big on the free agent market, they may see if someone will take on draft compensation in exchange for parking his contract there.  Thomas essentially has only two years on his deal, as his 2019-2020 salary is not guaranteed, so there are worse pills to swallow, although the pick would have to come in 2018 or beyond.  The Knicks under Phil Jackson have been judicious as to not dealing their first rounders, so perhaps they would not bite on dumping Thomas in this fashion.  However, there may be something here.

Kyle O’Quinn may be seen in similar fashion, but unlike Thomas, he has produced this year, and the Knicks are unlikely to part with him unless they receive assets in exchange.  That makes little sense for the Nets to engage in.  Similarly, Mindaugas Kuzminskas would require the Nets to trade assets, and he has had an underwhelming rookie year. I would pass. Lastly as to the “no goes,” Sasha Vujacic makes next to no sense for any role other than as a veteran leader.

Justin Holiday is a piece the Nets can look at. He is already 27, so there may not be any untapped potential there, but he is a high energy wing who competes hard on both ends, brings a lot of energy to the table, and shoots the 3 well.  He may be worth a look this summer.

From there, the Knicks have Ron Baker, Maurice N’Dour, and Chasson Randle at the bottom of their roster.  Baker and N’Dour may have some upside, but do not appear to be upgrades over pieces like Harris and Acy already in house. Randle is a piece the Nets passed over multiple times this year as he was available, and is not an upgrade over Whitehead or Dinwiddie.

As for the draft, the Knicks do have two picks in the second round: Chicago’s and Houston’s.  There is no harm in the Nets seeing what the price point of those picks is, and trying to buy into additional second round stock.

 

 

 

Nets Interest in George Hill: Don’t Count on It.

On an ESPN podcast, Brian Windhorst, in a conversation devoted to the Utah Jazz, referenced the Brooklyn Nets having potential interest in George Hill.  Windhorst did not rely on a source telling him the Nets were interested in Hill, but referenced what NBA executives, of other teams have been discussing with regard to the Nets.

Over on Netsdaily.com, Net Income transcribed portions of Windhorst’s conversation on the podcast in this regard.  As Windhorst stated, unnamed NBA executives essentially believe that the Nets may make a huge offer to Hill because he changed agents as, after Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson switched agent representation to the same agency, the Nets made bloated offers (totaling $125 million) to them.

As a point of emphasis, my commentary on Windhorst’s comments arises from my logic, as I do not have any source related to these issues.  I am simply analyzing Windhorst’s comments using my own knowledge as a NBA observer.

First, it should be emphasized: the basis for the belief that the Nets may target George Hill is that other teams’ GM’s believe they may.  I would not read much into that.  By definition, the GM’s of other teams do not know what the Nets are doing.  By the same token, the Nets do not know what the Lakers are doing, the Lakers do not know what the Bulls are doing, and the Bulls do not know what the Hawks are doing.  By definition, that is the entire idea: the NBA’s teams are in direct competition and are not telling each other what they are doing.  Accordingly, I would not believe that the Nets are interested in George Hill because other teams’ executives have speculated to Windhorst in that regard.

Second, the basis these GM’s have for believing that the Nets may want Hill is rather odd. The GM’s are not hearing through backchannels that the Nets want Hill.  They are not pointing to prior moves, or discussing the Nets plan as they see it.  Rather, they believe essentially, that the Nets sought to add Crabbe and Johnson after they retained a particular agent, that Hill retained this agent, and that this will cause the Nets to drive Hill’s price up — as they did with Crabbe and Johnson — by making him a similarly hefty offer.  The unnamed team executives come off as believing that the Nets are both targeting this agent’s players, and actively trying to drive prices up for other teams.

That theory is, in short, odd.  One reality of the NBA business, sure, is that teams do favors for agents all the time.  This is a people business, and surely there is a good amount of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” going on.  But it is one thing to, if you are the Cavs, for example, sign a 12th man who is represented by Rich Paul (LeBron’s agent) instead of a similar 12th man of another agent, to keep Paul happy.  That is a tiny move, and the favor may outweigh any small difference in such lowly regarded players. It is quite another matter, however, to commit $125 million to two players, just to make an agent happy.  Those are dramatic commitments that a team is not going to make unless they believe in the players at issue.  It is much more likely that the Nets figured “we like these guys, and with Wade and Dragic in Miami, and Lillard and McCollum in Portland, Miami and Portland may balk at these offer sheets.

Accordingly, it is a stretch to believe that the Nets were looking to serve an agent’s interests through these deals, rather than their own.  An equal stretch, from these unnamed executives, is their assumption that the offers to Crabbe and Johnson portend a hefty offer to Hill.  Since Marks has been hired, he has, by all accounts, dumped Joe Johnson, traded Thaddeus Young for a first rounder, traded Bojan Bogdanovic for a first rounder in a deal where he ate bad money just to get the pick, and sought two first round picks for Brook Lopez.  In addition, Marks preserved cap space to take bad money on this year, rather than spend through his coffers last summer. Those moves plainly come across as a GM looking to rebuild, not a GM looking to win games in the present.

Sure, Crabbe and Johnson were offered large salaries.  They are also 24 year olds, whom Marks sought to pay for their age 24-28 seasons.  By contrast, when faced with paying Bojan through his age 28 through 32 seasons, Marks sent him packing for cost controlled youth.

Simply put, NOTHING about Marks’ plan, in dumping veterans for picks and kids, is indicative of a GM planning to make a major offer to Hill for his age 31-35 seasons.  Hill is six years older than Crabbe and Johnson — seven if you include this past year (since the signing would be one year later).  Absolutely nothing about trying to secure the pre-prime, under 25 Crabbe and Johnson portends a desire to secure a post-prime, over 31 George Hill.

This begs the question: why do opposing GM’s see the moves as interrelated?  The answer appears simple: never underestimate the ability of the NBA’s 30 franchises, given how competitive they are, to be petty, vindictive, and angry at other teams.

Sometimes, teams get angry over big events, like when Dan Gilbert flipped out about CP3 to the Lakers.  But sometimes, teams become bitter over moves that do not even register on fans’ radar, like when several NBA executives were incensed that the Heat bought out Beno Udrih to escape the luxury tax in 2016.

The unnamed GM’s Windhorst references speaking with: it feels like they harbor resentment toward Brooklyn over their offers to Crabbe and Johnson.  By offering them so much money, the Nets obviously caused Miami and Portland to shell out a ton to match, but also drove the price for other guards up, and teams are certainly aware of that over the long term.  Other agents in the coming summers will say “I want $80 million, my guy is better than Crabbe,” or “my guy has done more than Johnson did so $60 million better be on the table.”  One can foresee a GM bitter at the Nets, saying “they do not have a shot at winning for years, and all they did is drive up our prices just to do these guys a favor. They must want to price us out of the market when they are relevant in two years. And maybe they think (this agency) will just give them a player.”

The reality of the matter, of course, is the Nets did nothing wrong trying to pry Crabbe and Johnson. When a player (like them) is one year from restricted free agency, the team can avoid the process entirely, if the team is willing to give the player an extension by the prior Halloween.  The Warriors did this with Klay Thompson, for example.  Another way to avoid restricted free agency without an extension, in a way, is, when July 1 hits, telling your player you want him back and resigning him before other teams become involved, as the Pistons did with Drummond last summer.

If you do not act proactively, then you leave your restricted free agent in a spot where he has to test the market, and get an offer sheet from someone else.  If you do that, you cannot be bitter, or angry, when “someone else” makes the player an offer, and attempts to pry the player from you. You had every opportunity to avoid that scenario and CHOSE not to.  Really, when Mickey Arison proclaimed that “you’re not poaching any of my guys,” it was nothing but grandstanding.  In reality, the Heat could have locked Johnson up way before the Nets got involved; they chose not to, and they chose to let him find an offer sheet elsewhere.

The Nets, in simply trying to add players, did nothing wrong here.

Alas, bitterness over the Nets’ hefty offers seems to be exactly what these unnamed GM’s who spoke with Windhorst are referencing, in their belief that the Nets will now try to make a big offer to Hill.  Really, in what other prism does this make sense?  Under Marks’ plan of adding young talent under 25, it makes no sense.  Under the premise of large offers to 24 year olds, an offer to a 31 year old makes no sense.  Patting an agent’s back to do a favor through $125 million in contractual commitments? That makes no sense either.  However, a narrative that the Nets are trying to screw others’ teams by driving up prices, and will do the same with Hill?  When you frame the unnamed executives’ comments that way, they have some logic to them.

Essentially, you just get the feeling that these unnamed GM’s are bitter at the Nets for driving the market up when they are condemned to their losing state, and making things harder on other teams.  And it seems like they worked backwards from there, to craft this narrative that the Nets are committed to spending their time offering as much money as possibleclients of Crabbe and Johnson’s agent.

Unnamed GM’s essentially believe that the Nets’ large offers to Crabbe and Johnson portend a large offer to George Hill.  But once you take those beliefs apart, they make little if any sense.

 

Nets’ Offseason Plan: Time to Poach the Celtics?

It is time for leg three of this series.  As the Nets scour the league for talent, who is a realistic add? From that group, who helps? 

For today’s leg of the series, it is on to Beantown, a place that has pillaged the Nets present and future. 

The Celtics figure to be at a crossroads of sorts this season. In all likelihood, they will be fresh off a second round or conference finals exit, with the Nets’ top 3 pick in tow. The question: how do the Celtics take the next step, from very good to great?

In al likelihood, the number one pick does not elevate the Celtics past the Cavs next year; top picks typically are not that impactful initially. And with the Celtics asset trove, and financial flexibility — they have over $40 million in cap space without factoring in their Nets pick or options to spare parts — Boston can do real damage this summer. And with multiple stars on the market potentially, the Celtics will look to add big name talent to surround their core of Thomas, Horford, Smart, Crowder, and Bradley.

At the same time, Thomas Bradley and Smart are free agents next summer (2018), with Crowder hitting the 2019 market — and each is in line for a significant raise. The Celtics should keep this group together and use their assets to launch from 53-65 wins, rather than go backward, and they will likely try to carry out that intent.

What does that mean? That means the non core Celtics pieces are prone to being snatched, given the bigge priorities. The above doesn’t even factor in money earmarked for Ante Zizic and Gerschon Yabusele, first rounders they stashed last year. 

So with all of those financial and big name considerations, can other parts of the roster be poached?

Let’s start with Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk is a restricted free agent, but with all the money earmarked for Thomas, Bradley, Crowder, Smart, and big name trade or free agent acquisitions, he may become too rich for Boston’s blood. Olynyk has been a consistent 35% three point shooter in Boston, his 15 and 8 averages per 36 averages are solid, and he is a competent athlete who plays good positional defense. He has not improved much since year 2, and the Nets would be paying for his age 26-30 seasons, but if Lopez is traded for future assets, he can play an expansive offensive big role for Brooklyn.

With all restricted free agents, the likelihood is the incumbent team will match. And surely, with many big money decisions not up until 2018, the Celtics may match any Olynyk offers and look to move him if need be down the road. However, with the financial flux they will soon be in, and his role as a non core piece, he is worth an offer. Olynyk is not solving any problems in Brooklyn, and there is worry that he will not improve, will be pushing 30, and that his numbers are inflated by Stevens’ system. Still, why not offer $50-60 million over four years and see if it sticks?

Next is Tyler Zeller, who the Celtics have a team option on for next year. They have to decide by July 2, and may decline the option to open up better alternatives. Zeller has regressed and has seen his playing time take a dip. There are real questions as to his place on the roster, and I don’t see Boston retaining him. The Nets may be well served offering him a small, make good offer to see if they can salvage his career; he would certainly earn more playing time. 

From there, James Young, Demetrius Jackson, and Jordan Mickey sit at the end of the roster; the Celtics have small options on the latter two. I do not expect them to let Jackson go but if they do, he is a young point guard who, while he has done next to nothing, has strong per 36 stats. You can never have enough ball handlers in Atkinson’s offense. Mickey has struggled, but Young has finally shown flashes this year and may be worth a longer look.

The Celtics’ desire to spend in other places also may lead to financial decisions in the second round of the draft. The Celtics have three second round picks this year, from Minnesota, the Los Angeles Clippers, and Cleveland. Those picks would currently fall at 39, 52, and 56 in the draft. With so many financial decisions ahead, the Celtics may decide to trade out of some of that stock, and the Nets should see if there is an opportunity there for another shot at the dartboard. 

Lastly, the Celtics are likely not a big trade option for Brooklyn. With their goal of adding stars, it makes little sense for the Celtics to take the Nets veteran money on. They want George or Butler for the Nets pick, so drop your Lopez for the pick ideas — would you make that deal as Boston? 

The Celtics cut the Nets with a knife in 2013. But maybe the Nets can start using their parts to start picking the pieces up this summer.  

Nets Offseason Outlook: Poaching Some Dallas Mavericks

This is a second of what will become 29 articles covering the Nets’ free agency and trade options this summer, as related to all 29 foes across the league.  Which players may be poachable?  Which are a lock not to come to Brooklyn? What shots can the Nets take?

As stated in the first article, about the Hawks’ assets, the Nets’ mission this summer is simple.  This needs to be operation load up on as many under 25 assets as possible.  That means employing all means possible to find them.  First rounders, second rounders, D leaguers, international players? You name it, the Nets must try it.

So what do the Mavericks have to offer the Nets?

First, despite sitting in lottery position, the Mavericks are not going to outright tank, as Dirk Nowitzki plans to play next year.  Mark Cuban has always believed in trying to win to build and maintain a culture, and he is not going to start tanking now.

Nevertheless, while not outright tanking, the Mavericks have made a concerted effort to get younger around Dirk.  The plan in Dallas seems clear: rebuild, while trying to remain both competitive, and flexible enough to make a big strike on the market.

So what can the Nets poach from the Mavericks?

The answer, unfortunately, is not all that much; but the Nets can explore. 

The Mavs will have a first round pick this year.  The pick is currently at slot 10.  Their second rounder will likely go to the Sixers by virtue of the Nerlens Noel deal (their first rounder in the deal is top 18 protected and becomes a second otherwise).  The Mavs thereafter likely have their complement of draft picks, and own the Warriors’ 2019 second rounder.

Perhaps the Nets can try to acquire the Mavs’ first rounder; but that appears highly unlikely.  The Mavs have Noel, who fits like a glove next to Dirk given the way Tyson Chandler once fit as a rebounder and shot blocker.  As such, they likely have no interest in Lopez.  Absent Lopez, the Nets simply lack the ammo to even THINK of acquiring the 10th pick in the draft. Efforts in that regard are likely to be a dead end.

From there, there is another angle to explore: do the Mavericks see Dwight Powell (and perhaps even AJ Hammons or Jose Barea) as dead money at this juncture?  The Mavericks will have little flexibilty this summer.  When you factor in Dirk’s return, the 10th pick, and Yogi Ferrell’s and Dorian Finney-Smith’s team options, and the Mavs have just a smidgen under $12 million in cap space before factoring in Nerlens’ Noel’s cap hold of nearly $10.9 million, and the Mavs essentially have no cap space this summer. Their only way to get any space, really, is to dump some dead or near dead money, like Powell’s contract.

For the Nets, that is worth exploring.  However, there does not appear to be much traction to get something done.  The Mavs are trying to get younger, and the 10th pick is a huge chip for them to do that.  They would have to be senile to deal that pick just to dump Powell.  After that, the Mavs have a mix of second round picks, and low end rosterable youth.  At some point, cap space matters as well, and Powell’s three years are simply not worth fringe youth.  Perhaps the Nets can try to squeeze a distant future first for Powell: again, however the Mavs would be crazy to do that, especially considering that they cannot add a star in free agency this summer with the money that a move would generate. 

In addition, while the Mavs have a history of not valuing lower end youth, their second rounder is already Philly’s, thanks to the Noel trade.  Obtaining a second rounder here is not an option.

Nicolas Brussino, an undrafted power forward, is on the Mavs’ bench, doing little this year. The Mavs may let him go, but his per 36 numbers are subpar.

Otherwise, the Mavs have Finney-Smith as a young talent and are not likely to decline his option. If they do, he is worth a look for the Nets because he has shown flashes of talent.

Lastly, of course, Noel is a restricted free agent, so the Nets, in theory, can make him an offer.  However, the Mavs brought him in to build in part around him, and will match any offers.

The Nets will look to improve this summer.  The Mavericks are  not a likely source of that improvement.