While just how much better the Nets are playing is debatable, it is evident that the Nets are a better team now, at 5-13, than when they began 2015-2016 at 0-7. Alas, the Nets are clearly not satisfied with their current roster (how could they be), and will try to improve next summer.
But perhaps they may try even sooner. Mike Mazzeo of ESPN reported that the Nets have been gauging trade interest in Bojan Bogdanovic: https://twitter.com/MazzESPN/status/671786426283913216
Whether the Nets should deal Bogdanovic is an open question. On one hand, Bogdanovic shot 48.8% from 3 in April last year, and 52.6% overall. He looked to be taking significant strides, and one can easily envision him thriving next to a point guard who breaks down defenses, as a weakside shooter and playmaker off the bounce. Given Bogdanovic makes just $3.6 million (approximately) in 2016-2017, if he even comes close to performing the way he did to close 2014-2015, he is well worth that money. For that matter, even if he plays the way he is now, he is not a bad contract, on a 1 year, $3.6 million deal expiring in 2017. To dump him now may be shortsighted, in light of what he has shown he can become, which is a low end starter or strong sixth man off the bench.
On the other hand, Bogdanovic is already one season and a quarter into his NBA career, and he is 26 years old, having been drafted in 2011 and having played professionally overseas. Is it possible we have seen the best of him, or something close to that? If so, what we have seen is a streaky shooter, who can blow up on occasion but has a tendency to float through games, and a below average defender who is slow for his position.
There is no reason to salary dump Bogdanovic. But if the Nets can get a top 15-25 pick for him, or a solid roster piece, they have to at least mull it over.
Which brings up the subject of Ty Lawson, who the Rockets may look to move, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders: http://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba-am-almost-trade-season-in-the-nba-2/.
The fit between Lawson and Brooklyn may make sense, if Houston decides to move on. Many rosters are set at point guard, and Lawson makes $12.4 million in 2015-2016. The Nets are one of few teams who have a need at point guard that he can fill. When at his best, Lawson is a speedy point guard, who gets in the lane and defends on the other end.
But Lawson has been in continuous trouble with the law since the start of the 2014-2015 season. The Nuggets could not wait to dump him. His play has suffered. And despite Houston seeing him as a piece that could help them take the next step, he has further regressed, the Rockets have regressed, and he finds himself on the bench behind Jason Terry. Shooting 33.6%, he’s flat out bad right now. And the longer his poor play lasts, at 28 going on 29 and heavily reliant on speed, the more concern builds that he will never again be the dynamic player he was two years ago.
Still, if the Nets can get him cheaply, he is worth a look. He may even be worth dealing Bogdanovic, given his established pedigree as a rotation player, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s emergence as a starting wing, and the reality that Bojan is unlikely to start for the 2016-2017 Nets, if they target a wing in free agency.
However, there are multiple obstacles to making a deal involving Bogdanovic and Lawson happen:
Fitting Lawson’s Contract on the Nets’ Books
Lawson makes approximately $12.4 million this season, and the CBA requires that roughly equivalent money be exchanged in deals. Were Lawson for Bogdanovic offered straight up, the Nets would need to send a touch over $8 million more in player salary money to get a deal done. Bogdanovic is the Nets’ fifth highest paid player, so unless the Rockets were to take on 6 players making less than him (a remote possibility), the Nets would have to deal Lopez or Thad (which makes no sense), Joe Johnson, or Jarrett Jack, to facilitate the deal. Given the size of Joe’s salary, taking him on would require Houston to part with Corey Brewer or Trevor Ariza, and a young player or two of their own, which makes little sense for them.
That leaves the Nets with dealing Jack and a smaller deal (perhaps Karasev) to get the deal done, but that exposes other issues. First, Jack has been better than Lawson this season — that is how far Lawson has fallen. Second, the Rockets are intense applicants of advanced stats principles, and those principles hate inefficient, high volume guards who prefer shooting in the midrange — in other words, Jack. Jack is literally the antithesis of what the Rockets are building, so acquiring Lawson would likely necessitate involving a third team.
Perhaps something like this, regarding multiple teams, would work, but whenever you involve multiple teams, deals can get complicated – http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=oxpvxg5
Lawson’s Contract Creates No Reason For Houston to Sell Low
Given Lawson’s struggles it is tempting to wonder if the Rockets will sell low on his services. But here is the thing: they planned for this scenario. As part of the Rockets acquiring Lawson, they convinced him to agree to waive his $13.2 player option for 2016-2017, and convert it into a team option. By doing that the Rockets covered themselves for the exact scenario they are in, as they can cut bait on Lawson this summer assuming things continue to go south. With that, there is no reason for the Rockets to undersell on Lawson or give up any picks or kids to shed him — their best shot is to hope his game resurges, and then just cut him in the summer if hit does not. That complicates Brooklyn’s potential pursuit of Ty.
Lawson’s 2016-2017 Salary
Lawson may have already played himself out of the $13.2 million team option on the books for next season. Regardless, given his pedigree and the rising cap, if he were to be dealt to the Nets and return to form, he will likely earn a $10-12 million payday, and perhaps more. Bojan, however, will make less than one third of Lawson, maybe less than one quarter, at $3.6 million per. Is Lawson a player that justifies that difference in payment? If the Nets decide he is not and choose not to keep him, then they lost a potential rotation player for nothing.
The Nets should not deal for Lawson unless they truly believe they want to pay him in the 3 year, $30 million to 4 year, $50 million range.
Should the Nets do that?