Nets fans: with the offseason upon us, what are the Nets likely to do with each of their pieces? Here is a brief look at the entire roster, and what the Nets could look to do.
The Free Agents, In Priority Order
Paul Pierce: While Billy King said Livingston was his top priority, Pierce is the key to the Nets offseason. If he leaves, they can only replace him with free agent deals up to $3.28 million: good luck. The Nets can pay Pierce more than most suitors, and given their plan is to have salary cap room in 2016 to retool around that vaunted free agent class, can offer him big money through 2016 without repercussion. Likely Scenario: The Nets will offer a deal in the 2 year, $24 million neighborhood, and Pierce decides between that, a $3.28 mini midlevel offer from the Spurs or Clippers, or as a wildcard, a return to Boston if they secure Love’s services prior to the draft. We have to hope he chooses to be back in the fold. If he leaves, there’s no real way to replace him. Prediction: HE’S BACK. Prediction Confidence: LOW
Shaun Livingston: Some fan ire for Livingston is confusing. True, he isn’t a shooter, which is the most obvious role player skill. But he runs the offense, and is a great defender who can guard multiple positions which allows for switches on the constant PNR’s teams run. He’s worth every penny of the max $3.28 million per year over three years Brooklyn can offer. Likely Scenario: The Nets offer this above deal to Shaun. A few other teams offer deals in the 4 year $20-25 million neighborhood. Shaun will have to decide how much his love for Brooklyn and Jason Kidd is worth in his wallet. Prediction: HE’S GONE. Prediction Confidence: HIGH
Andrei Kirilenko: Kirilenko was valuable to the Nets with his ability to guard multiple positions, and cause havoc with his energy and activity. Injuries limited him both in games played, and in impact–he simply did not have his legs on some nights of the year. Likely Scenario: With a $3.3 million player option, and the Nets offering their mini MLE to Shaun, Kirilenko either picks up the option, or declines it and signs elsewhere. Prediction: HE’S BACK. Prediction Confidence: LOW.
Andray Blatche: Blatche deserves credit for playing well in games 6 and 7 against Toronto, and while he regressed somewhat this year, he did not crater, and validated that he is an improved player. However, teams pay for offense in this league, and the Nets need a better defensive big. Likely Scenario: The Nets can offer up to 4 years, $25 million to secure Blatche, but do not. Someone offers Blatche a 3 year deal too rich for Brooklyn’s blood; perhaps Billy attempts to sell Blatche on staying for a bit less cash. Prediction: HE’S GONE. Prediction Confidence: LOW.
Alan Anderson: Despite receiving some fan based ire this year, Anderson was brought in as a 15th man, and had a solid year considering the expectations for him specifically. He’s a useful bench piece despite his flaws. Likely Scenario: A team offers Anderson their mini midlevel, or a deal in the $2-3 million neighborhood. Once again, the Nets are selling Brooklyn and the roster over cash. Prediction: HE’S GONE. Prediction Confidence: LOW.
Jason Collins: Jason Collins clearly broke barriers in becoming a Net, and deserves much adulation for his courage, for being a pioneer, and for being a great man. He has two NBA skills at this point: he can set screens, and he can guard traditional back to the basket bigs. That leaves him playable against certain teams, when circumstances warrant. Likely Scenario: Collins retires, pursuing a life of impotant, critical social endeavors that are before him. Prediction: HE’S GONE. Prediction Confidence: HIGH.
THE PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT, IN ORDER OF SALARY
Joe Johnson: I cannot say enough about Joe and what he’s done as a Net. After a down year in which he was adjusting to playing with Deron (another ball dominant guard) and hurt his plantar fascia by the time he adjusted, Joe put together a great all around year and even better playoffs. Likely Scenario: The Nets just keep him: nobody will deal for his mammoth deal and send fair value back anyway. Prediction: HE’S BACK. Prediction Confidence: HIGH.
Deron Williams: This will be discussed more on this site, but it’s without dispute that Deron had a disappointing year. The question: how should the Nets respond to that this summer. Likely Scenario: The Nets shop him, at least quietly, as they test the market for him and/or seriously entertain offers. Prediction: HE’S BACK. Prediction Confidence: LOW.
Brook Lopez: This was a sad year for Brook. He became an all star, looked to be building on it, and then goes down for the season. His absence may have led to Brooklyn discovering an effective brand of smallball, but they missed him against Miami, and now must ponder: integrate him in, or deal a man with a damaged foot? Likely Scenario: The Nets test the market as with Deron, but do so a bit more quietly, as this is truly more of a gauge of the other 29 teams’ feelings. Prediction: HE’S BACK. Prediction Confidence: HIGH.
Kevin Garnett: Often, we tend as a sports world to say a player is finished because he isn’t who he was, even though he’s still good. That’s KG right now: he’s nowhere near who he was, but he’s still a good defender and shooter, who was instrumental with his J and passing from the high post, and in piloting the Nets defense. Likely Scenario: He will mull retirement. If he does not retire he will be back: the Nets could shop him but that seems remote. Prediction: HE’S GONE. Prediction Confidence: LOW.
Marcus Thornton: The Thornton acquisition was an example of what Prokhorov’s wallet allows Brooklyn to do despite lacking cap space or assets. Teams under this CBA are hellbent on saving money, and the Kings saved a sliver in dealing Thornton, and made saving slivers more this summer easier: the Nets took advantage. Likely Scenario: The Nets look at making a similar deal of Thornton to the one that got him here: a better talent on an even worse deal, but that deal is hard to come by. Prediction: HE’S BACK. Prediction Confidence: HIGH.
Mirza Teletovic: Teletovic and the Nets fanbase is oddly weird for me. One sector of fans seems to revere him, and he has nicknames like King of Bosnia. Another sector thinks he’s awful. The truth is in the middle. Today’s NBA puts a premium on shooting, and he’s a 39% three point shooter — an excellent figure. He also is on a friendly contract. Likely Scenario: There’s no real one for one deal with Mirza that improves the team, and for those wanting more draft picks, no team will deal a first for Mirza. Mirza could be dealt if the Nets locate a blockbuster and he greases the skids for the other team in the deal. Prediction: HE’S BACK. Prediction Confidence: HIGH.
Mason Plumlee: Plumlee was a revelation this year, making the all rookie team as the 22nd pick in the draft. While he’s not as good as many believe: he struggles to rebound, he fails to grasp some basic defensive concepts, and he can’t shoot, he’s also a lunch pail type of worker, and has the drive to improve. Likely Scenario: Brooklyn is youth starved, and given its reliance on the current roster holding together due to its lack of cap room and assets, internal improvement is essential. Plumlee is one of few who can provide that given his age. He would be included in any deal for a significant roster addition, but given the lack of assets, what is available to Brooklyn? Prediction: HE’S BACK. Prediction Confidence: HIGH.
Marquis Teague: Teague is simply not an NBA level player. While that may sound harsh, he showed no discernible NBA skill for Brooklyn. Likely Scenario: The Nets have a premium on the entire roster and will likely look to deal him away for a nonguaranteed deal, just to get rid of Teague. He makes about $1.1 million, so there’s no point of attaching a pick to make it happen: dumping him would be helpful but he’s not exactly damaging the franchise. The Nets also could look to include him if they make any larger deals, just because. Prediction: HE’S BACK. Prediction Confidence: LOW.
Jorge Gutierrez: Gutierrez is also disliked by some, for reasons totally unknown. He is a third string point guard, and its hard to expect more of a third stringer than what he provided. He’s a decent reserve who has a few viable skills (his passing, his work ethic defensively), and several weaknesses — hard to expect more out of a guy on a nonguaranteed deal under $1 million. Likely Scenario: Gutierrez was signed to a nonguaranteed deal, which basically means the Nets have given him another training camp invite, but this time have done so after signing him Prediction: HE’S BACK. Prediction Confidence: LOW.
A Note On Why the Nets MUST Try to Win, and Win Now
Just a note about the Nets plan. There’s some talk out there that the Nets should rebuild. The thing is this: rebuild with what? The Nets cannot tank for a lottery pick until 2019: they do not have picks in 2014, 2016, 0r 2018, and because Atlanta and Boston get to swap with them in 2015 and 2017, they can only pick in the lottery in those years if those teams are also bad, something the Nets cannot really bank on. And while trades may be available to the Nets: who recoups multiple first round picks?
Rebuilding sounds appealing in the abstract, but from where the Nets are, initiating a rebuild would put the Nets in a brutal position: the lottery, without the draft picks or trade assets to get out.
Maybe keeping this core through 2016, when they can reinvent, does not breed a championship, but if the Nets can win games, be relevant in the playoffs, through 2016, it can make Brooklyn a place free agents look at and say “I can see myself doing well there, being the missing piece in a fun city.”
The Nets had no free agent appeal in New Jersey, and used the Deron trade to force their way into the picture. Since then, Mirza chose to begin his career here, Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko took less money to come here, and indications have surfaced that Brooklyn is becoming a place to be. Big name talent has always wanted to play in the league’s most fun cities, when those teams have an attractive core. Kevin Garnett, during the trade presser this summer, discussed how him and Paul Pierce were intrigued by the “bones” of what Brooklyn had: it is notable that they both decided this was where they wanted to be, and that Jeff Schwartz helped make that happen.
That’s an appeal the Nets, if they went into a rebuild, could lose.
Here’s hoping the sun shines brightly on the Nets during the offseason!