Billy King Meets the Media, More Questions Remain

Billy King addressed the media on Monday, June 22 to talk Nets draft and free agency. By and large, his comments were unsurprising, although one tidbit was worrisome.

Thaddeus Young opted out of his contract: many conflate this with “well he must be leaving,” but there is no reason to do that.  If Young opted in he would be a Net next season, and a free agent in 2016.  The only way to secure a longterm deal this summer, with the Nets or elsewhere), was to opt out.  All opting out means is he wants a 2-4 year deal: that could be with the Nets.

On retaining Lopez and Thad, Billy mentioned confidence in signing one of the two based upon tools he has.  Per the statement he was more confident in signing one playee than the other. Billy has publicly pined for bringing both back, so less confidence in retaining one of Lopez or Young than the other is concerning.  My hunch: he would offer Lopez more money and has the ability using Bird Rights to max him, making Brook that player he has more confidence in keeping.

Asked whether Brook Lopez was a max player, King said “next question”: H/t to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN for the transcription. Billy declining to portray negotiations with a free agent in public is not a surprise, and his quote says nothing regarding whether Lopez will be back or not.  He should (and Thaddeus Young should), as I stated here.

Billy doubt the ability to move up in the draft, citing the cost: this is not surprising at all.  First round pick are incredibly valuable given the cap jump and CBA: it is hard to build a roster and the % of your cap occupied by a first is so tiny. Contrary to many of the invented trades out there, the Nets have nothing on their roster warranting a team to deal a pick in the lottery, or even in the teens.  You don’t want Mason Plumlee because he hit a plateau, and his upside at 25 is questionable.  You think a team wants to deal a top 20 draft choice to plummet down to 29, just to have that player you so desperately want to deal? I would be pleasantly surprised if Brooklyn moves up, but do not take the failure to move up as an indictment of the front office.

Billy extended a qualifying offer to Mirza Teletovic: I would likewise take nothing from this.  The tender of a qualifying offer ($4.2 million in Mirza’s case, a figure set by the league) triggers the Nets’ right to match any offer made to Mirza in free agency by another team. It does not mean he will be back: if an offer is made and he signs that “offer sheet,” the Nets can simply decline to match it. It jut allows them to match, if they want to.  Not knowing what another team will offer, why not maintain that right? The Nets can work out a deal with Mirza if they would like, but the most common tact teams take with restricted free agents is to allow other teams to set the market, and then react to that.

With that, the following are the possibilities with Mirza:

a) Billy negotiates a new deal with Mirza before he signs another team’s offer sheet: this is extremely unlikely but can occur.

b) Mirza dislikes the market for his services, and signs the $4.2 million qualifying offer.  This could happen, and would be a fine (but rare among restricted free agents) result.  As Mirza has in his hands the qualifying offer (as required to trigger restricted free agency) he can elect to simply sign that tender.  It is why the Nets did not extend one to Jerome Jordan: the market for him would be slim and they do not want to be boxed in.  Restricted free agency is often a chilled market.  Teams are wary of offering money in the event a deal is matched, as their cap space is occupied by that offer sheet during the 3 day matching period (of which teams usually take the entire 3 days).  Mirza could avoid that by signing his 1 year $4.2 million qualifying offer.  That would be fine for Brooklyn: he would be unrestricted in 2016 and would help next year’s roster without impacting the future.

c) Mirza can test the market and sign an offer sheet: If this occurs (and this is the result I expect), the Nets would have three days to decide if they wished to match the offer sheet (in which case Mirza would become a Net under the exact terms of the offer sheet), or if they decline to match, in which case Mirza would be headed to that new team.  Given teams know Brooklyn’s salary predicament, teams know a piece like Mirza may not be a priority, and that there is opportunity here to swipe a player.  The offer sheet could be generally of any amount of money or length up to four years.

My take: if Mirza signs the qualifying offer, I would welcome him back.  If he gets a multiyear free agency pact, I would decline to match the offer.  I like Mirza, but the plan right now is to use flexibility in 2016 to build a winner, which necessitates having as much cap space as possible.  Without lottery picks, or the type of trade assets that net stars, free agency is Brooklyn’s best chance.  And the Nets should not allow a role player — a good person and role player, but a clear role player nonetheless, to eat into the type of cap space they need to transform the roster in 13 months.

As for Alan Anderson, I am of the same exact view.  Flexibility in 2016 is more valuable than either player.  Flexibility, and the ability to win today to make that flexibility appealing, is a delicate balance.  That balance strikes in favor of a star level talent in Lopez, and an established starter who does multiple things like Young, but not in favor of seventh men like Anderson and Teletovic.  Both players making $5 million per in 2016 (their approximate market values) would eat into the Nets grander 2016 plans.  Players of their caliber are readily available on the open market every summer and the Nets should look to find them after building a core, not allow them to preclude that building.

If Anderson would like a one year deal, and Mirza would like the qualifying offer, great. If not, it was grand, and best of luck at your next stops.

Billy did not touch on other issues of note today: he discussed Thad, Brook, the draft, and Mirza.  There are many other questions of note for Brooklyn.  I’ve discussed, in that regard, how the Nets should handle the Deron Williams problem, and options the Nets have with Joe Johnson.

But still, the Nets face some other roster building issues this summer.

The kids: Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson

This is quick and easy.  Keeping both players at the mere price of $845,059 for next season is a no brainer.  Markel began his development into a rotation piece.  He gets lost defensively on rotations and struggles shooting the ball, but his on ball defense and athleticism are clearly NBA ready.  His off ball defense should come along, and if he ever develops a jumper, he can be a legitimate rotation player.  Jefferson’s future is not as clear.  He is clearly an athlete, but cannot shoot, and is rough around the edges.  Still, even his athleticism was a boon to Brooklyn at times this season.  At these prices, on one year deals, the Nets will not, and should not, let either player go.

The bit players: Jerome Jordan, Earl Clark, and Darius Morris.

The Nets may let all three of these players go.  Clearly, the Nets will look to make changes to their roster, and each of these free agents is expendable, despite Jordan showing some potential early in the year.  Teams typically fill their 13th through 15th spots in August, and the Nets will (and should) likely wait on making decisions on any of these three players until later in the summer, after their primary plans, and potential deals, work themselves through.  I would not be surprised to see Jordan back in a Nets uniform.  He showed promise, and is just fine for a reserve center.  I believe the Nets have nothing to lose however, and should explore other options before circling back to Jordan.  Jordan is an unrestricted free agent whose fate will likely hang in the balance until at least August.

I would be surprised to see Clark, and would be stunned to see Morris back in Brooklyn.  Both are on nonguaranteed deals, and are readily tradeable, as the recipient can waive them on arrival.  Neither player has any real trade value on his own, but both can be used to assist the Nets in dealing a bigger piece, like Deron, Joe, or Jack.  Such assistance would help match salaries, or could at least partially mitigate the other party’s expense in taking those contracts on, as they could waive these pieces on receipt.

TRADES: WHAT OF JACK, PLUMLEE, BOGDANOVIC, AND KARASEV?

I’ve gone through my take on the Nets free agents and reached the following decisions: the Nets should keep Lopez, Young, Brown, and Jefferson, and allow Anderson, Teletovic, Jordan, Clark, and Morris to walk. I’ve also touched on Deron and Joe, essentially stating that if the Nets can trade either at a gain, great, but if not, they should keep both players.

However, what is to be made of the other Nets under contract: Bogdanovic, Plumlee, Jack, and Karasev.  I’ll take them each in turn.

Jarrett Jack:  Jack is a piece the Nets should look to move.  From a advanced stats perspective, he was a significant minus for Brooklyn all year.  Even taking his big shot making and viewing him positively, he will be 32 to start the season, he makes $6.3 million next season (exorbitant for a reserve guard), and he is distinctly an aging role player, not a potential star, core piece, or young player who is developing.

Reserve guard is a spot the Nets can fill later (like Mirza and AA’s spots), and Jack offers the Nets little value.  If the Nets had a chance to deal him (http://www.bulletsforever.com/2015/3/5/8153569/jarrett-jack-martell-webster-nba-trade-rumors-washington-wizards-brooklyn-nets) they should have swiped it.

The Nets should not assume future salary for Jack.  He only makes $500,000 next season on a buyout (if the Nets exercise the option), and it would be foolish to swap him for future salary.  But Jack is not a core piece by any stretch of the imagination.  If the Nets can turn Jack into even the smallest of future assets — a favorable pick swap, a couple of second rounders, a young piece languishing on a bench — they should do so.

Mason Plumlee: The Plumlee question is not a simple one, but I think the Nets should explore the market for his services.  Certainly, there are reasons not to explore.  Plumlee is a source of cheap production, set to make just $2,328,530 in 2016-2017.  Having a rotation player making that little will help the Nets in 2016, as they try to use the space they have to import talent, is valuable.  Brook and Thad are the hopeful starters, but you can never have enough quality depth to withstand injuries.  And Plumlee was very good prior to February last season.  He served efficiently as a dive man in the pick and roll, and his energy boosted the Nets.

At the same time, Plumlee struggled mightily for months, and many of his struggles are due to his lack of finesse around the basket, his inability to hit free throws (which, when you’re not as valuable as say, DeAndre Jordan, in other aspects of the game, becomes more magnified), and his cluelessness making defensive rotations (he continues to work hard yet make bad decisions, which is at least a yellow flag).  And while Plumlee is cheap now, he will eventually hit restricted free agency in the 2017 summer. And as the Knicks’ Shumpert trade showed, a non-star set to hit restricted free agency has little trade value, as the recipient knows that you are trading him to avoid paying him, and thus has all the leverage to send little value (JR Smith’s inclusion in that deal hurt the return, but not as much as has been reported).  The Nets, if Lopez continues to play as he is, likely will not wish to pay Plumlee in the $9 million per year range (young players are always overpaid on potential when they hit restricted free agency, and the TV deal will also make contracts bigger generally).  If so, the Nets are better served addressing that issue this summer than waiting.

There is little harm in quietly testing the Plumlee market, if only to see if you can hit a home run, or add a young piece at a position of greater need.  Maybe Teague won the Hawks over so much that they swap Schroder for Plumlee (Schroder was very good before the playoffs).  Maybe the Nets revisit the Sacramento situation and see if Stauskas is available.  The Suns are still guard heavy and maybe there’s something to a Plumlee-Reggie Bullock swap. Is Evan Fournier available given Orlando’s backcourt of the future is Payton-Oladipo? Jason Kidd has committed to Michael Carter-Williams, enjoyed coaching Plumlee, and now coaches his brother Miles: maybe a Plumlee-Ennis swap is something the Nets look into. Do the Lakers look to dump Jordan Clarkson if they add Rajon Rondo?

If those options are not available (and they may not be, especially Schroder, as that would represent Atlanta selling low), the Nets can explore packaging Plumlee with one of their draft picks to move up: but do not expect a move into the top 20 for a 25 year old whose game did not grow after the calendar turned to 2015.

Of note: dealing Plumlee to move up in the draft is a risk. The Nets have scant young assets.  Even the top of the draft can be a crap shoot: the middle and end of it most definitely is.  Given the Nets are not going to pick in the lottery no matter what they do (no lottery picking team would deal that for Mason and the 29), the Nets are likely better off having the most shots at the dartboard, rather than dealing multiple young pieces for one potentially better young piece.  To do that for a surefire top pick, or top 10 pick, is one thing.  To deal Plumlee, and a shot at 29, for a shot at say, 22, is quite another.

Finally, the Nets can, and should, look into whether Plumlee can be packaged with Deron to either increase the return for Deron, or to entice a team to add Deron in the first place.  Such a tactic is not smart with Joe or Jack: both expire this summer (Jack with the tiny buyout), so to use Mason to get a team to take them on, or marginally increase the return, is stupid, given they do not harm the Nets’ future plans.  However, Deron’s contract sticks out on the 2016-17 books like a sore thumb, and if Plumlee is the grease that skids the wheels to take him out of town, Brooklyn has to consider it.

Sergey Karasev: The Nets seem to see Karasev as a core piece.  Frankly, I cannot understand why.  He projects as nothing more than an 8th man, capable of hitting jumpers off the bench.  His defense is not good enough to play critical minutes for a playoff team, and Lionel eventually banished him to the bench.  In a league filled with versatile wings who can switch onto multiple offensive options, the Nets best future wing, Bogdanovic, does not do those things, and if they commit to Karasev, that makes two players who cannot do those things, the latter of which has much less upside across the board.

Karasev has little trade value, even disregarding his knee injury.  Plumlee has some value around the league justifying exploration, but Karasev is not going to bring anything back.  He does not cloud their future flexibility.  If a team somehow is only willing to take on Deron because the Nets toss Karasev into a deal, the Nets should jump at the chance.

However, Karasev does have some upside, and given he is unlikely to bring anything back in a deal, the Nets likely will keep him.  Given all the issues they face this summer, exploring Sergey Karasev deals is at the bottom of the list.

Bojan Bogdanovic: Bogdanovic is a legitimate young rotation player.  For whatever reason, it seems that whenever an international player plays in Brooklyn, the player is unreasonably scrutinized, and glorified, all at once.  Bojan is not as good as the star some say he could be, not as bad as the worthless piece others make him out to be.  Rather, Bojan projects as a good NBA rotation player, perhaps a low end starter or high end bench player on a contender.  He improved his 3 point shooting over the course of the season, and developed his ability to make plays off the bounce when ran off the line. Given Bojan’s likely role on a future contender: a weakside shooter — both skills will be critical for him.  He will need to hit 3’s coming off screens, and hit 3’s when double teams leave him open.  And the better he becomes at making plays off the dribble when rushed off his spot, the better he will be.  Finally, his defense is below average: how much he improves on that end will be critical to his value.  An NBA team can play Korver or Redick 40 minutes because they are good defenders, and do way more than just catch and shoot.

A mixture of JJ Redick and perhaps Trevor Ariza (offensively, not defensively) seems to be the type of player Bogdanovic can be if he develops (he is not yet there).  A player who can shoot, make plays off the bounce, fit in with elite players, and serve as a low end starter or high end reserve on an elite team.  If Bogdanovic can do those things, and play competent defense, he could be a very good NBA player.  Bogdanovic’s floor — the 7th-8th man (on a contender) that he likely is now, given he is essentially a streak shooter who plays below average defense, is not that bad.  But the hope of course is he reaches his ceiling.

There is no reason for the Nets to explore Bogdanovic trades this summer.  The Nets should not parlay him into a rotation veteran.  To trade a player with his upside just in the hopes a team takes on Williams would not be smart.  Short of a team parting with a top 25 or so player for Bogdanovic — that is not happening — the smart course for the Nets (and the course they seem to want to chart) is to keep Bojan.

The 2015 offseason is one of many question.  Billy only answered scant few today because he will not have answers for another 3-4 weeks.

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