In looking at every option to improve, can the Nets look to poach some Detroit Pistons? In short, the Nets should think about smaller roster pieces, look at Tobias Harris, pass on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and hope that their first rounder is for sale.
The Pistons’ season cannot be sugarcoated: 37-45 and a lottery trip was a massive disappointment. The Pistons broke through in 2016 with a 44 win year, and while the Cavs swept them in round 1, the belief of most was that the season represented a stepping stone, that the Pistons would improve within Stan Van Gundy’s offense to take the next step.
Needless to say, that did not happen. The Pistons went backwards, and are quietly mired in salary cap hell with a dual role GM-Coach that is likely not there to initiate a rebuild.
So, how can the Nets take advantage?
First, let’s address the elephant in the room – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Nets should not sign him. He is poised to earn over $20 million per season. That figure will kill the Nets’ flexibility, unless they deal Lopez. But if you are essentially swapping Lopez for KCP, what is the point. KCP is solid but unspectacular, and it should be noted that her Per 36 numbers largely plateaud since 2014-2015. The Nets are not far enough along in their development to begin nuking their cap with big ticket signings like this.
Tobias Harris is a piece the Nets should look at given his more friendly 2 year deal at this point.
On one hand with Harris, there are concerns in regard to chasing him. Unlike Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson the Pistons like Harris and thus may be reluctant to deal him and his fair deal. On the other hand, the Pistons essentially have no flexibility, with nine players taking up over $94 million in guaranteed contracts not including KCP (who I believe they will retain). They may feel they need to deal from their nucleus to open flexibility to add talent, and may see dealing Harris as a way to do that. That Henry Ellenson has thrived in his young career enhances this likelihood.
Harris still struggles from beyond the arc, which is an issue in a motion offense like Brooklyn’s. However, he turns just 25 in July, and is clearly a good talent. His essentially 2year, $31 million contract is also affordable.
The issue for the Nets is what Harris is worth, if the Pistons choose to deal (they likely will not). Brook and Caris would have to be non starters in a negotiation. Lin likely should be a non starter as well. Would a package headlined by RHJ get this done? It feels unlikely but is worth a phone call if the Pistons feel an urge to make a move.
Beyond Pope and Harris, the Nets should look into Boban Marjanovic and Ellensen. Would it make sense for the Pistons to deal either? No. But much of what the Pistons have done under Van Gundy has made no sense. Maybe the Pistons would bite on dealing both players for Lin, in an effort to shore up their disastrous point guard position. That would give the Nets two younger (Boban is 28 but just came over) players to enter their program, and a mid first from last year in Ellenson. Both will be cheaper than Lin going forward, with more room to improve. The Nets would add a point guard later in their life cycle to shore up Lin’s loss – and would avoid Lin’s payday while recouping value.
There are more gems to unearth in Detroit. Reggie Bullock, at age 26, is another piece to look at for the Nets on the wing. He shoots the ball extremely well, and has real potential. He is a restricted free agent so Detroit can match, but the Pistons gave him little playing time this year, and he may fall by the wayside in their summer plans with KCP’s free agency and more complicated issues with Drummond and Jackson.
Darrun Hilliard may be worth a similar look if the Pistons do not exercise his guarantee, although Bullock has far more tangible upside.
Beyond the available players, the Nets should see if the Pistons, slotted to pick 12 before the lottery takes place, would deal their first rounder if the Nets dangle the 22 pick. The Pistons would be unwise to take such a gamble but may be desperate and, as a result, stupid this summer. Would Jeremy Lin and the 22 earn the 12 for the Nets? Even if the Nets have to take money like Ish Smith on to get that done, they certainly should. A deal would be unlikely but is worth exploration.
The buck stops there, however. Drummond and Jackson are not options for the Nets with any practical import. Drummond cannot score outside of laying the ball in as a roll man, and his defense last season was flatly poor. If the Nets are to deal Brook Lopez, a deal for an even higher paid center who cannot score yet does not dominate defensively makes no sense; a deal for picks and kids is what makes sense. Jackson was brutal last year, the Pistons despised his attitude, and he is on an awful contract. No thank you there.
The same goes for Jon Leuer on his rather large contract. And Aron Baynes is likely another piece to stay away from. If he opts out of his player option he will seek a payday. Ish Smith also does not make sense given the Nets multiple young point guards; the same goes for Beno Udrih. Marcus Morris is on an extremely cap friendly contract, as is Stanley Johnson – both are strongly likely to stay put. Michael Gbinije is not worth any investment.