Nets free Agency: a Reunion with Ryan Anderson?

Coming off a 55-27 season in which the Rockets cemented themselves as the West’s third best team, and their goal is to take things to the next level.

For the Nets, that unfortunately means there is little to see here in terms of player availability … if the Rockets maintain the status quo. 

However, the NBA is a fluid league, and the Rockets will look at every option. Sure, the Rockets have perfect role players for their system, and will not engage in a dramatic shake up just to upgrade their role players. Nevertheless, Daryl Morey has always been a huge advocate of doing everything you can to obtain stars, and his only way of getting one this summer is a money dump of a key role player. Morey is pragmatic, and while the Rockets were great in 2017, that does not guarantee that they leap the Warriors in 2018. Morey knows this and he will be pragmatic in building his roster. 

There are three obtainable big free agents the Rockets could pursue that both fit their system, and arguably warrant a money dump to get them: Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin, and Paul Millsap. For the Rockets to add any of the three, the Rockets would need to carve out approximately $16 million in cap room (more for Millsap if they maxed him). 

To open space of that magnitude, the Rockets would need to dump Ryan Anderson, or Eric Gordon and either Trevor Ariza or Lou Williams. They would need to do this without taking any return salary back. And the need to execute the deal, combined with the other team assuming all the salary, would provide the other team with leverage. 

Enter the Nets. If the Rockets are engaged in salary dumping these pieces this summer, the Nets should seriously consider taking advantage.  

Keep in mind that these scenarios are highly unlikely. All 3 players will have multiple options (including staying put) and the Rockets would not engage in money dump talks without assurances. However, LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio, and the Hawks taking advantage of the Spurs needing to money dump Tiago Splitter, was unlikely in 2015. You never know.

The Rockets do not have a first rounder in 2017 to offer. But the Nets could target the following in a deal; the Rockets 2019 first rounder,  Sam Dekker, who was a nice reserve this year, Chinanu Onuaku, who has upside off a bench, or Montrezl Harrell who boasts excellent per 36 numbers. The Rockets also have two second rounders this year, and a second rounder in 2018, that they can dangle to entice Brooklyn. 
Beyond a major move like this (which again is unlikely), the Nets likely will find little mileage with Houston. Harden is going nowhere, as are Pat Beverley and Clint Capela on their excellent value contracts. Nene is a free agent but will likely stay in Houston or join another winner. Troy Williams, Isaiah Taylor, and Kyle Wiltjer have no value. 

So to sum up, the most likely scenario is that the Nets do not poach any Rockets this summer. But Morey is always willing to gamble on stars, and if he takes a gambit at dumping Harden’s role players to add a second star, Brooklyn should listen and see if the Rockets would provide them with young value in exchange for clearing their salary cap up. 

Can the Nets acquire any picks in the 2017 draft?

As the NBA playoffs approach their conclusion, the rumor mill has begun to swirl, if only mildly. And once the buzzer hits on the last game of the Finals, a huge 6 weeks begins for the Brooklyn Nets as they try to dig out from under the mess they created in 2013.

You cannot win in the NBA without a star; every team that won a playoff series this season had a player on one of the three All NBA teams. With that, the Nets need to do anything they can to find a star. 

Having the 22, 27, and 57 picks in a good draft is a start. Good players fall outside the lottery. After all, theee NBA players were second round picks and four more were not lottery picks. However, history tells us that the best chance, mathematically, of adding a star, is at or near the top of the draft. 

Accordingly, the Nets need to do anything they can to move up. In addition, the Nets need to maximize the number of picks they have. After all, between Isaiah Thomas at 60, Draymond Green in the second round, and Jimmy Butler at pick 30, all picks matter, and the more shots you have the more likely you will connect. 

Why try to add a star in the draft? Because that is the most likely place to do so.  Star free agents only want to sign where they believe they can win – that makes the Nets a non factor on the market in that regard, given their 20-62 record. In addition, stars on the trade market, as they decide where they will resign or not, dictate the game as to where they will go, just like free agents do. That, coupled with the Nets’ asset scarcity, does not make them a player for stars on the trade market.

That is why the Nets need to turn to the draft. The highest probability chance of building a winner, for any team, is to draft a winning core, and then use free agency and trades to supplement the core. Winners are not built on the free agency market. Even the recent winners reliant on signing LeBron James had a Wade, or Kyrie and number one pick to dangle for Love, in the hopper. 

Just take a look at the cores of 8 teams that advanced in the playoffs this year. 

The Warriors drafted their title winning core and drew Durant that way. The Cavs drafted Kyrie, LeBron was attracted to that, and a draft pick was used to acquire Love. The Celtics drafted Bradley Smart Olynyk, and Brown, acquired Thomas with a pick, acquired Crowder cheaply for a player it drafted, and Horford was attracted to that core. The Wizards drafted Wall Beal and Porter, the Spurs Leonard Parker Manu and Mills (to whom Aldridge was attracted).  

In addition, the Raptors drafted DeRozan and added Lowry by dealing a pick. The Jazz drafted Hayward, Gobert, and Hood, dealt for a rookie Favors, and dealt a pick for Hill once ready to win. The Rockets acquired Harden for picks in what was a freak trade – and the single worst trade in NBA history. 

By and large, the evidence bears out that you have to draft your core and use free agency and trades as a supplement. The list of contenders that had a bad roster and bought a team on the market reads as follows: __________.

So with that, the Nets should do close to anything they can to both move up in the draft and add picks in the draft. 

The question then becomes: what opportunities will they have to do that? To answer that, here is a look at all 60 picks this June, and whether there may be something there.

The Lottery:

1-4: Boston, Los Angeles (L), Philadelphia, Phoenix – forget about it. The Nets lack the ammo to acquire these picks. These 4 will either pick players or trade for massive Paul George like names. Move it along.

Potential option #1: 5 and 10: Sacramento: there most likely is nothing here. The Kings dealing DeMarcus Cousins for Heild and picks signals a rebuild. And Brook Lopez is just not good enough for the Kings to deal a top 10 pick pick, especially with Cauley-Stein in house. Lin is an upgrade for Sacramento at point guard but they would be ill advised to deal down to 22 for his services – it’s just not worth it. However, the Kings are prone to doing stupid things. File this away as remote, but not impossible. 

6, 25: Orlando: there likely is nothing here.  Usually a new GM hire is given time, and that makes me believe the new hire will launch a rebuild and keep the picks, rather than deal for veteran help. 

7: Potential option # 2: Minnesota: I can see this pick being in play. Tom Thibodeau is likely, as a coach, desirous of accelerating the process behind KAT in year 3. Brook Lopez makes no sense next to Towns, and Jeremy Lin is not worth the 7th pick, so I do not see a trade here that makes sense. However, dual role GM-coaches often do stupid things to win in the short term. Brooklyn should explore if the Wolves are desperate for an upgrade and undersell on their pick. File this as highly unlikely but not impossible.

8: New York: given Phil’s seeming fixation with running Melo out of town I do not see the Knicks dealing this pick for “win now” talent. There is likely nothing here. 

9: Dallas: file this away as unlikely. The Mavs seem committed to rebuilding given their shedding of Bogut and Deron. However, having signed Harrison Barnes, Dallas shifting gears into “let’s surround Dirk” mode isn’t out of the question. However, Brook is not an option with Noel in house. And Lin is just not worth the Mavs dealing from 9-22.

Potential option #3: 11, Charlotte: This has always felt like the option with the most legs. Charlotte is in win because rebuilding in a small market kills revenue mode, and keep Kemba Walker happy mode. Brook Lopez would be a big upgrade for their front court and the Hornets could sell that Kemba Batum Brook MKG forms a playoff core. Brook and the 22 for the 11 is likely not enough value for the Nets but is the starting point for a potential deal. 

Potential Option #4: 12, Pistons: There should not be anything here if the Pistons are smart, but dual role GM’s often are not. Maybe the Pistons would trade down to secure Jeremy Lin. Maybe they would trade Drummond for Lopez, believe it’s an upgrade, and fork the 12 over. Neither makes sense for Detroit but the Nets should make some calls here. 

13, Denver: There is nothing here. Lopez is not a fit with Jokic and the Nuggets have no reason to add Lin with Murray and Mudiay in house. The Plumlee trade also signaled that the Nuggets are at a point where they do not believe late first rounders are good enough to help them. 

14, Miami: With Whiteside and Dragic in tow the Nets cannot make them better to warrant trading down. Move it along. 

The Rest of Round 1

Potential Option #5: 15, 20, 26, Portland: With such elite guards and Nurkic coming on, there is no place for Lopez or Lin here, and they traded RHJ to Brooklyn. With that, there is likely nothing here. Still, with three firsts, limited roster spots, and a summer that did not go as planned, the Nets should make calls – there is smoke here. 

However, I worry the smoke is not fire because the Blazers have little incentive to salary dump pieces right now, and Portland dealing Plumlee for a first rounder highlighted a desire to rebuild with youth – they are less likely to dump a first than many believe. As for the “need” to salary dump guys, there is no team building benefit. When the Blazers retained all of their RFA’s last summer the idea was simple: we don’t know if these are core guys going forward but retaining them, and trading down the line if they’re not core guys, beats letting them walk for nothing. 

The Blazers derive no benefit from a money dump because thy are over $30 million above the cap. The Blazers would need to clear $45 million or so just to have a CHANCE to add a replacement piece in free agency – salary dumps do not help them. if I were Portland I would only trade pieces like Crabbe for value in return. Meyers Leonard may be poor, and a popular money dump name, but why hemorrhage assets to dump him, when you cannot sign a replacement this summer due to your cap situation? Why not try to rehab his value this year? Worst case, he sputters, and you salary dump him next summer — with one less year on his deal, and therefore requiring less assets to send out. 
All of this is the long way of saying I do not see a Nets-Blazers deal that makes sense in Portland. But with so many moving parts the Nets need to be on the phone.

16, Chicago: The Bulls in their postseason presser cited a desire to rebuild. That does not come off as a team willing to trade down in round 1. And the Bulls lack a spot for Lopez or Lin. Dealing the 16 pick for RHJ is unwise. But Marks can always ask.

Possible option #6; 17, Bucks: I would not deal with the Nets if I were Milwaukee. With Giannis ball handling, Brogdon thriving, and Delly under contract, Lin is of no use. While Lopez is an upgrade who fits, the Bucks should hoard their cap space and sell stars on a chance to pair with Giannis. Trading Brook for the 17 would be a start, if the Bucks decide to add talent at a weaker position right now, but the Nets would need a whole lot more than that.

Possible option #7, 18, Pacers: the Pacers would be ill advised to deal this pick for a short term upgrade but desperate times often breed dumb measures. If the Pacers are hellbent on an upgrade they may see Lin as a helpful addition for the 18 pick. The Nets would be wise to consider this.

Possible option #8, 19, Hawks: Lin is not a fit. But with Dwight unhappy maybe Lopez to Atlanta is possible. The 19 is a start on the return package, but more would be required. And RHJ for the 19 is an option. 
21, Oklahoma City: the Thunder have a major salary crunch and value cost control very highly. The chance they deal this pick for Lopez approaching UFA (a scourge in their eyes), or for Lin with Russ in house, is less than remote.

Possible option #9, 23, Raptors: the Raptors are in a salary crunch but want to retool for next year. Getting out from DeMarre Carroll’s salary would help, so the Nets should see if the 23 is on the market as compensation.

Possible option #10: #24, #30, Jazz: the Jazz are good, but it is unclear how this core gets further than that and passes Golden State out west without upgrades. To upgrade on the market would require having space to spend beyond what they have now. A salary dump involving Alec Burks or even Derrick Favors could accomplish that and for a first the Nets would have to jump. 

Possible option #11: #28, Lakers: I discussed this at length in my last piece but if the Lakers salary dump mozgov or Deng this is where you try to exploit an asset. 

Possible option #12: #29, Spurs: The Spurs are huge on developing late picks so this is unlikely. However, if a big time free agent like CP3 or Lowry commits the Spurs may be in a numbers crunch to make it work. The Nets should help them alleviate such a crunch if that happens … for a charge. 
ROUND 2:

31, Atlanta: Picks this high in the round likely are not for sale but this pick could be part of a larger package. 

32, Phoenix: the Suns tanked with a fierce commitment and will keep this pick.

Possible option 13: 33, 35, Orlando: I expect Orlando to keep these picks because they need cheap young talent. But with 25 also in house perhaps Orlando packages picks for a piece like RHJ. 

34, Sacramento: see the Hawks at 31. Likely not for sale. 

Possible option 14, 36, 39, 46, 50 Philadelphia: The Sixers have 14 players in the fold before this draft and may look to be players in free agency. I could see Brian Colangelo devaluing second rounders and allowing a team like Brooklyn to cheaply poach them by packaging their 57 pick with cash to move up. 

Possible option 15, 37, 53, 56 Boston: Boston has 8 roster spots to fill, but with their eyes on big fish and some critical internal free agents, they may decide they cannot carry three second rounders. The Nets should look to capitalize. 

Possible option 16, 38, Chicago: The Bulls should keep this pick if their rebuilding desires are sincere but the Bulls often are not, and they are quietly cheap. The Nets may be able to parlay the 57 and cash into this pick. 

Possible option 17, 40, New Orleans: The Pelicans should keep this pick as they need to develop more young talent. But they are thinking big picture team building around Brow and Cousins and their organization does not value picks. The Nets should pursue acquiring it. 

Possible option 18. 41, Charlotte: the Hornets should keep this pick, but ditto as with NO here. And maybe this is part of a package to acquire the 11 for Brook. 

Possible option 19. 42, 55, Utah: Last year the Nets got Whitehead by dealing the 55 and cash to Utah for the 42. Utah simply had nowhere to fit the mid second on a loaded roster. De ja vu?

Possible option 20. 43, Houston: see Utah at 42.

44, 58 Knicks: I expect the Knicks to keep this picks in spinning a youth movement. Unless it’s genuine this time.

47, Pacers: the Pacers need all the help they can get right now. I do not expect them to deal this pick for cash.

Possible option 21. 48, Bucks: I can see ownership in Milwaukee not valuing picks under Kidd’s stewardship. Or see this as a component of a Lopez trade with the 17 pick. 

Possible option 22. 49, 51, Nuggets: the Nuggets sold Gobert for cash in 2013. They have a roster crunch and the 49 pick will not play for them next year. These pick are ripe for sale. 

Possible option 23. 52, Wizards: the Wizards notoriously do not value picks under Grunfeld and dump late picks for cash or little else. This pick could be moved. 

Possible options 24-26. Suns at 54, Spurs and Hawks at 59-60: Picks this low in the draft are ripe for sale. And should not be beneath the Nets as they need every asset they can put their hands on. 


So Can the Nets Get D’Angelo Russell? On the Nets and Lakers.

The Celtics drafting number one, with a pick that would have been the Nets’ if they did not make “the trade,” is clearly a bummer.

However, when the Lakers scored the 2nd pick in the draft, that led to less depressing Nets rumors.  There was talk of a salary dump involving Luol Deng or Timofey Mozgov.  And there was chatter of D’Angelo Russell being available.

Where the Nets fit into this really depends on what the Lakers do this summer.  Their interest in Paul George is no secret, and Magic Johnson has declared his intent to spend lightly in 2017, because he thinks he has a better chance of luring big free agents in 2018.

At press time, the Lakers will have approximately $40.4 million in space next summer on an assumed $103 million cap, with the following pieces in place, assuming they exercise Brandon Ingram’s option do not renounce Julius Randle, and let every other piece depart: Ingram, Randle, Deng, Mozgov, and Jordan Clarkson.  However, they would only have $9.5 million to spend on free agents other than Paul George, and George may not be attracted to a core this barren, with that little to spend on help to surround him.

Enter the concept of salary dumping Mozgov and Deng.  If one assumed their $34,000,000 in 2018 was off the Lakers’ books, suddenly they would have a treasure trove with which to surround George, and retain more of their young pieces along the way.

All of this begs the question for Nets fans — if the Lakers are willing to salary dump Mozgov or Deng, can the Nets pawn young assets to make it worth their while?

Clearly, there is appeal to a salary dump on the Nets’ side, if the price is right: the Nets desperately need young talent, anyway they can find it. The lost cap space is not that meaningful: both expire in 2020, so the Nets would lose 3 summers (2017-2019) of cap space.  One of those summers, in 2017, is likely a lost cause anyway insofar as big spending is concerned — the Nets are not in a position right now to nab bigtime free agents, so what is the value of the cap room?

Sure, a veteran like JJ Redick is a better player right now than Mozgov or Deng.  But Redick (just by way of example), is not taking the Nets to the playoffs or title contention — not close.  The Nets would be better served acquiring young assets by taking on bad money, then signing better veterans that do not move the needle, without obtaining picks.  Essentially, the Nets would be better served acquiring Deng and a first rounder than acquiring Redick, alone.

While acquiring picks by taking on dead money is alluring, however, at some point there are diminishing returns on that approach, when you add too much bad money.  If the Nets are to add Mozgov or Deng they had better acquire real value in return: they already have about $12 million in dead money through 2020, by way of Andrew Nicholson and a person I shall not name.  Deng or Mozgov would essentially place a max salary on their books full of dead money, through 2020.

As described above, the Lakers likely NEED to dump at least one of Deng or Mozgov if they want to add Paul George.  That provides leverage to teams they talk trade with.  And few teams can afford to take on such a high volume of dead money — but the Nets can. Being one of few legitimate suitors for either player means they should drive a hard bargain.

D’Angelo Russell becomes the obvious piece to contemplate, given the rumor the Lakers, poised to draft Lonzo Ball, may shop him.  If the Lakers put Russell on the market, despite being a disappointment to date, he should develop a fairly robust market.  Teams have long leashes with top picks, often believing they can be salvaged if put in the right situation.  That hurts the Nets, as other teams will likely have more to offer the Lakers.  The Nets have Lin and Lopez, but neither player, as high character and talented as they are, likely moves the needle for Paul George in terms of wanting players to team up with in LA.

However, if the Lakers are so desperate to move Mozgov or Deng that they attach Russell, he has enough upside that the Nets need to jump on that.

Beyond that possibility, which is unlikely, the Nets would need to think closely about whether a salary dump is worth it.

The Lakers pick 28th in this year’s draft in addition to 2nd.  The 2nd pick is going nowhere (unless the pick itself is used to get George right now), but the 28th could be in play.  While a nice asset, a pick that low is not enough to take on 3 years of dead money.  The Lakers lack a 2018 pick, so they have no first to trade after the 28th pick, until 2020.  Is the 28th pick this year and a 2020 first worth three years of dead money upwards of $16-$18 per?  I tend not to think so, and George’s potential becoming a Laker makes this risky, but the Nets would have to consider it, as it is a close call.  Having another pick in the 20’s would open up so many options in their rebuild. And if the Lakers added Larry Nance Jr., and/or a 2018 or 2019 second rounder, into the deal, the Nets would have to pull the trigger (adding Nance feels unlikely).

Jordan Clarkson is an intriguing option, but due to his surprise status as a solid player, has become overrated.  He is a solid reserve guard, but not a starter on a good team.  Perhaps the Lakers would use a Mozgov or Deng dump to ditch Clarkson, but the Lakers need more, not less, talented players to pair with Paul George.  They likely keep Clarkson this summer.  If they try to salary dump him, however, the Nets should consider it. A player of his caliber is likely worth $15-$18 million on the open market, and he would add a young piece their kids can grow with.

From there, there are other options the Nets can take a look at, but the pickings slim.  Julius Randle is not going anywhere, unless the Lakers deal for Paul George; same goes for Brandon Ingram.  Ivica Zubac is a solid young player, but  Magic Johnson seems to be enamored with him.  Tariq Black has not shown much development the past few years, so while he is an option if the Lakers decline their team option on him, he is not exactly a Plan A. Corey Brewer is a theoretical salary dump candidate, but since Magic does not want to spend this summer, and he expires after the coming season, the Lakers have no reason to dump assets just to deal him. Nick Young is simply not a fit in Brooklyn; nor are Thomas Robinson and Ron Artest. Tyler Ennis showed some flashes as a Laker but still has barely developed through four seasons.  The Lakers seemed happy with David Nwaba and I would expect they bring him back.

 

 

 

Can the Nets take some Golden State Warriors as their own?

The Golden State Warriors may claim their second NBA title in three years.

And the Nets may claim some of their players this summer.

Heading into 2017-2018, the Warriors face the tightest of salary crunches, essentially because they have non-bird, rather than Bird, rights to Kevin Durant.

The short of the matter is that if Kevin Durant wants the max of $36.1 million, or any number above $31.8 million, then the Warriors will lose Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, unless either is willing to take a substantial paycut.  As for the details, if Durant signs as a non-Bird free agent (they do not have full Bird Rights) for $31.8 million, the Warriors can retain their roster, largely in full.  However, Durant’s max is approximately $4.2 million above his non-Bird number, at around $36 million, so the Warriors would have to use cap space to sign him to any number between the $31.8 million and $36 million.  That would reduce their cap space to a number between $7.5-$12.6 million, as they would have $12.7 million in space if he signed as a non bird piece.  From there, the Warriors would be forced to renounce Andre Iguodala and Shawn Livingston, as their cap holds would exceed their cap space; both players would have to leave to make their market value, although, of course, both could take less to stay. From there, the Warriors would be forced to renounce one or two of McGee, McAdoo, Clark, Pachulia, and West.  If the Warriors wanted a slot around $4.5 million, they could get there by renouncing these players.

In short, Durant’s non-Bird status puts the Warriors in a position where they may lose some of their non top 4 guys due to a salary crunch.  In all likelihood, we will see the Warriors retain their big 4, but be forced to make changes on the edges.  They should still be dynastic, unless Iguodala and Livingston both leave (and even then, still could be).

So where can the Nets join the hunt for talent here? For starters, forget any pipe dreams about the Warriors big 4.  Draymond and Klay are not being traded.  Durant and Curry want to win and will likely stick together; if they leave (unlikely), it would be to win big somewhere else outside the other’s shadow.  Brooklyn is not an option; there is not a single relevant connection to a free agent’s analysis there.

The problem with the Warriors’ free agents is two fold. First, if any of them want to win at this stage (think Iguodala and West), the Nets are a non factor.  Second, the Warriors combine a world class offensive system that a coach could win with even with mediocre players, with the elite talent of the second and third best NBA players, and two top 15-25 players, that a coach could win with even running the world’s worst system.  Combine the system and talent level, and the Warriors are frighteningly good. That creates a question as to all of their free agents the Nets could touch: would they be as good, or close, in Brooklyn (or, really, anyplace outside Golden State), where they simply will not have the types of looks at the basket and creases in defenses that they have in Golden State?  Remember: if you sign, say, Ian Clark, you don’t get to bring Steve Kerr and Steph Curry with him.

Ian Clark is a good piece to look at in this prism.  Sure, he’s an over 36% three point shooter, and he is only 26.  But the Nets have several young point guards, and Clark shot 20% from three in 2015, his last season without the Warriors’ greatness skewing his numbers.  Is he really worth a 4 year, $25-$35 million deal?  I doubt it.

Unlike Clark, who makes we nervous because we have seen him be a non factor outside Golden State, James Michael McAdoo has never played anywhere else.  He has shown in his three years that he can shoot (despite poorer numbers this year), and play competently on both ends as a wing.  There is the concern with him, however, that his skills simply will not translate over to a lesser team. However, at just 24 years old, and with the Nets in need of quality forwards, I would give him a look this summer, if the money and years are manageable.  On paper, he is the type of restricted free agent that may be balked on (or the Warriors may not even make a qualifying offer).

Zaza Pachulia, however, is a piece to consider.  Unlike Clark, Pachulia has a pedigree of producing outside the machine that is the Warriors.  The Nets need a bruiser up front, and he could play that role.  He also, for whatever reason, has consistently been underpaid and undervalued by the league.  Whether the Nets keep or trade Brook Lopez, if they can get Pachulia for reasonable money (and more importantly, years), they should consider it.

Shaun Livingston, despite being a fan favorite, is a piece to be hesitant on.  If he leaves the Warriors, it could be a tell that he wants to start, or at least be closer in level to the starting point guard such that he has an increased role.  However, Livingston has quietly shown slippage in Oakland, a danger for a player about to turn 32, and his decline would not be masked in Brooklyn by a powerhouse of teammates.  And if he returns to Brooklyn, he will want a payday. No thank you there.

Kevin Looney and Daimon Jones are unlikely to be available this summer. The Warriors have them on tiny, cost controlled salaries, and they need as many of those as they can find, with a payroll likely looking at four monster salaries coupled with a dearth of picks.  However, they are young, live bigs with upside, so if the Warriors look to trade either to make an immediate term upgrade, the Nets should take a serious look at seeing if they can acquire either cheaply. The same goes for Pat McCaw as a forward (although, again, I see no reason for the Warriors to even contemplate dealing these cheaper contracts off).

Beyond that, there are no real options. JaVale McGee’s lack of discipline and character questions do not just go away because he produces with this group; how does that translate to a regular NBA team.  Poorly, based on past history.  No thank you.  Matt Barnes is the opposite of a character veteran, is not good anymore, and is not a fit in Brooklyn, even in the slightest.

Finally, the Warriors have no picks to trade until 2019, and it is hard to imagine the Nets being able to provide an upgrade that both warrants them to trade a pick, and that makes sense for the Nets.  Given the Warriors bloated salaries, they cannot absorb Lopez, Lin, or Booker because they cannot send much back.  A pick trade here feels unlikely.

 

Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz: Summer 2017 Trade Partners?

With a dearth of high end lottery picks, a free agency market likely turned off by their 20-62 record (we have consistently seen the best talent choose the best teams as free agents), and a shortage of high end trade assets, the Nets must be creative in building their roster.  One thing they need to do is hunt for undervalued assets, and take advantage of teams that need to shed talent.

Enter the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz, quietly, need to assess if they are poised to become the “can’t break through” Clippers or Raptors in two years.  They are very good, but the question of whether they can move past the Warriors, Spurs, or Rockets, is very real.

The Jazz are locked into their current core barring a significant salary dump.  They have $36.3 million in cap space, not including cap holds.  However, they cannot renounce Hayward’s cap hold of $24,109,710 for simple economic reasons.  Cap holds cut your cap space, by the amount of the hold.  Therefore, if the Jazz do not renounce Hayward (but renounce everyone else), they will have $12,193,923 to spend on new pieces.  However, if they renounce him, that means they must use cap space to sign him.  Accordingly, if they were to renounce him, then max him at $30,600 (his max if he’s not “Designated Player” eligible), then they would have just $5.7 million to spend on new pieces.  Clearly, retaining his cap hold is the way to go. The same rationale applies to Hill’s cap hold.

The Jazz have to keep Hayward to maintain their forward momentum.  The only conceivable upgrade over Hill would be Kyle Lowry, but scoring him would require, in addition to renouncing Hill, the Jazz dumping one of Alec Burks or Derrick Favors for no return salary, which would create $22.5-$24 million in cap space to sign Lowry.  If the Jazz keep Hill, he and Hayward (assuming a 4 year, $90 million Hill deal, and non DPE max for Hayward) would make around $51 million next season — taking the Jazz payroll to $116.7 million, with four free agents in Diaw, Ingles, Withey, and Mack.  With the tax at $122 million, the Jazz would be forced to relinquish at least one of Diaw and Ingles, or else pay the luxury tax.  While they paid it near the end of the Deron era, they may decide, “how do we pay the tax in this market, and with the Cavaliers and Warriors as good as they are.” And going forward, while pieces like Favors and Burks will roll off the ledger, decisions will need to be made on pieces like Trey Lyles and Dante Exum.

All of this is a long way of saying that the Jazz face serious financial questions going forward as to who they want to commit to and how much they want to commit.

That is where the Nets can enter the picture. Sean Marks, and Dennis Lindsey, the Jazz’s GM, overlapped as assistants in San Antonio, and Marks can use that working relationship to his advantage.  Hayward is not leaving the Jazz for a lesser team like the Nets, and Hill does not align with the Nets timeline, so disregard those options.  Rudy Gobert is going nowhere.  Rodney Hood, due to his emergence, and Dante Exum, Trey Lyles, and Raul Neto, given their cost controlled deals, are also staying put.  Joe Johnson was also too huge for them to dump.  Beyond that, however, the picture is unclear.

However, the Nets can step in and poach the Jazz, to the extent that they cannot, or choose not to, keep their other pieces.

Favors and Burks are still talented players, and while they may not fit in Utah, they can thrive elsewhere. Favors has been a clutsy piece next to Rudy Gobert, who clearly joins Hayward and Hill as the Jazz’s core pieces.  With just one year left on his deal, the Jazz should be able to move him, if they choose to (and given the fit, they may seek picks and kids rather than paying him in 2018).  The Nets may not be able to bid enough: they have no picks to trade (nor should they trade picks), they should not trade LeVert, and Favors has real value.  However, they would be remiss not to at least see what they can do in that regard.

Burks could be another matter.  He flat out cannot stay healthy, had a poor season in 2017, and has two years left on his deal. However, he is just 26, and the Nets could look to add him on what is essentially a two year, $22.5 million contract, to see if he can live up to his contract.  The talent is there; it has just been hidden by bad health.  The Nets should see if he is available at low cost, or even if the Nets can charge an asset.  The Jazz have their full complement of picks, as well as the Warriors first rounder, and Pistons second rounder.  Perhaps the Warriors or Pistons pick would be available to the Nets as compensation for relieving the Jazz of Burks.  

Beyond Favors, Burks, and the Jazz picks, is Joe Ingles.  On one hand, Ingles was a significant piece in Utah this year, and the Jazz can dump salary to keep him or simply spend big to keep him.  On the other hand, Ingles may be a victim of the Jazz’ roster crunch.  The Nets should seriously explore inking Ingles as a restricted free agent to force Utah’s hand on him.

Also a piece warranting a big look: the always undervalued, still just 27 years old Jeff Withey.  Withey has been a competent reserve big for years, and thrived this season when Gobert was out.  The Jazz dropped off surely, but Withey was useful and proved himself as a fourth big.  Withey would be a huge upgrade over Justin Hamilton for the Nets.  The Jazz may keep him, but if he is also a roster crunch victim, the Nets should take a long look.

Lastly, Shelvin Mack is a competent reserve point guard.  A look at him to provide some insurance behind Jeremy Lin, if bigger targets do not come aboard, would be smart.

The other Jazz pieces likely make no sense.  Diaw wants to win at this stage, and likely stays in Utah or finds another team to help immediately.   Joel Bolomboy is not worth trading for.