Category Archives: Analytics

The Playoffs: What Would They Mean?

Sitting at 40-40, the Nets are presented with a very simple playoff scenario. Win one of their last two games, and they make the playoffs.  They can make the playoffs as well if they lose both games, although that would require all sorts of help, from a variety of other teams.

Clearly, the Nets are THIS close to a playoff berth.

It begs the question. What does it all mean?

It means a lot.

In life, it is good to have short term goals and long term goals.  You need long term goals because, at the end of a particular cycle, you need something to aspire to (whether the cycle is your life, the next five years, or otherwise).  And it is true that the Nets, playoffs or not, have not yet accomplished Sean Marks’ long term goal.  Marks long term goal? Building a sustainable championship contender in Brooklyn.  The type of team that makes the playoffs without doubt and, when folks bring up title contenders, is typically mentioned by all or by many.  Certainly, the Nets are not quite there yet.  They would agree with that.  And I suspect you, the reader, would too. It is, for this reason, that I would not declare the Nets rebuild, as a whole, a success – the picture has not yet been painted.

However, in life, you also need short term goals.  If all you have are long term goals, reaching them can become overwhelming.  You may, for example, want sufficient bank account funds to retire at 65.  That is an overwhelming goal at say, 25, if you do not have short term goals along the way to keep you on task.  Maybe your short term goal is smaller – you just want enough money to eat a dinner out this month.

Making the playoffs? That would be an excellent short term goal for these Nets.

It should be noted that, playoffs or not, the Nets have substantially improved this season – and have done so without mortgaging future flexibility.  In fact, with adding draft selections, a slew of one year signings, and unloading Mozgov, the Nets actually improved by 12-14 wins this year (two games left), while accruing MORE future flexibility than they had entering the offseason. Forget mortgaging the future – the Nets firmed up their future this past summer, yet improved on the court. That makes for a tremendously successful season — this short term snapshot of the rebuild, IS a success.

Nevertheless, making the playoffs — while not required to cement what I just said, would be important for many reasons.

For starters, one’s perception of their standing is in some ways more important than their standing. D’Angelo Russell had a great year. Caris LeVert had a very good one, when healthy. You can go on down the line. The Nets should all should hold their heads high, feel good about where they are headed, and use that as motivation for doing more.  But doing that will certainly be easier for them if they make the playoffs.  They will all feel much better about where they are as a core — even if they should feel that way regardless.  Making the playoffs provides validation — partially internal, and partially external.

The benefits to the roster go further than that.  There is no experience quite like playoff basketball.  My own experience, as an athlete but not a professional, is certainly not identical, but I draw from it.  I recall, as a junior tennis player, playing well in local tournaments, and then making national tournaments against better competition. I was ranked between 100-200 in the country, playing other players in that range.  I felt good about where I was. I felt confident.

But what happened in nationals? I played players ranked top 50 in the country. Top 20. Top 10. The competition ratcheted up – from pretty good, to the best of the best.

It was a great experience for me.  That I earned making these events motivated me to do more.  What also motivated me?  The humbling experience of getting beat by these much better players.  Losing to players like that, seeing the difference in level, was in some ways a wake up call; I saw that, THAT is what it’s like, against the best of the best.  That motivated me when I got back home to work harder – work smarter – to get better.

That’s an experience I want for Russell. For LeVert. For Dinwiddie and Allen, and the rest. I want D’Angelo to see what it’s like when a playoff defense schemes for him over the course of two weeks. I want LeVert to see what happens when teams go under every screen and bait him to shoot threes. That certainly motivated LeBron to improve his jumper after the 2007 finals. I want that experience, for this group. I want them, after a series against Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Boston, to see what the gap between pretty good and great is — and to be motivated by that.

Another benefit?  If the Nets build a perennial contender, they already have some playoff experience and are not starting from scratch in that regard (like say, Denver is this year).

The playoffs also mean Kenny being tested as a coach in a good way.  Coaching in the regular season, with games against different opponents coming a mile a minute, is mostly about sticking to your principles (we force midrange jumpers, we ice the pick and roll, etc).  Coaching in the playoffs is a different beast – you tailor schemes to your opponent and adjust to the opponent as a series goes on, much more than you do in the regular season. When opponents solve D’Angelo, go under on LeVert, and etc, how does Kenny adjust? When his first adjustment is countered, what’s the next adjustment? Atkinson has shown that, for purposes of a rebuild, he is a quality coach.  But to be a great coach, you have to win at the highest levels (50+ win seasons, playoff series wins, etc).  How does Kenny handle the higher stakes moments?  If we make the playoffs, we get to start learning about that (we likely do not get answers this year, not with the talent gap the Nets would face in the playoffs).

The playoffs also xould mean a lot in free agency and the summer. Sure, the Nets would only win 1-2 more games as a playoff team, than a lottery team. In theory, that should not mean much to free agents; and maybe it will not. But players are not following the Nets as closely as we all are. Seeing them on a playoff stage against the best of the best being feisty, perhaps losing but making it a pain for their opponent, could move the needle with big time free agents.  It certainly moved the needle for Al Horford when he saw how hard the 2016 Celtics fought in a first round loss. It definitely moved the needle for David West when he saw how scrappy the 2011 Pacers were in another first round loss.

And last, but certainly not least, the playoffs mean a lot to the Nets fanbase – the fans deserve a playoff run.  For nearly a decade now, the Nets have been snakebitten, in more ways than one.  Bottoming out in 2010 did not culminate in winning the lottery. Deron Williams fell off in a way no reasonable person could have foreseen.  The Nets top three protected a lottery selection to acquire Gerald Wallace.  Right on the cusp of retaining the pick, the ping pong balls fell the wrong way.  The Boston trade? All risks accounted for, the risks manifested in a more severe manner than any objective person anticipated.  The 2016-2017 goal of Jeremy Lin stabilizing the Nets?  His hamstring did not comply.  The 2017-2018 goal of a Lin-Russell tandem? Russell played 48 games and had knee surgery. Lin played three QUARTERS. Even this season, after a fun Caris LeVert start, nearly appeared completely ruined because of a horrific looking leg injury in the fourteenth game of the season.

I probably missed some examples of how snakebitten the Nets have been.  But through it all, a loyal set of fans – completely blameless in the series of unfortunate events – has stuck with the team.  Enduring year after year in the hopes of better days.

The fans deserve a playoff berth.  All of them. All of us.

Yes, the playoffs as a low seed is not the ultimate goal for Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson.

But it is an excellent short term goal and would help this rebuild moving forward, on many levels.

 

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Rapid reaction: trade deadline

The trade deadline has come and gone, with the Nets doing very little. They traded $110,000 in cash to Toronto for their 2021 second rounder, and Greg Monroe, whom they immediately waived. In addition, since they needed to open a roster spot to add Monroe before making the deal, they waived Mitch Creek to do just that, leaving them with one roster spot as of now.

As for the trade itself, the reasoning was simple. The Nets only had $243,000 in cash to trade until June 30, and instead of sitting on it, bought a pick. The money does not count against the cap, so instead of Prokhorov saving money for himself, it gets invested in the team. Can’t complain about that. Monroe does not fit what the Nets are doing and waiving him made sense. The nets prefer playing rim running 5’s who defend well, next to stretch 4’s. Monroe does neither. For Toronto, rather than cutting Monroe for buyout candidates and paying his salary, they save money by shifting that burden to Brooklyn – with the price being the pick.

The pick, it must be noted, could have real value if Leonard leaves this summer, as that could spiral Toronto into a rebuild. Rodions Kurucs was picked 40 – every asset matters.

With that said, it is fair to say the Nets did very little at the deadline – their roster is the same minus Mitch Creek, and if the resign him, which they could, their roster will be identical.

Without a doubt, the Nets could have upgraded their 4 position, or upgraded in general, if so inclined. The Pelicans did not get a first for Mirotic. The Bulls got Otto Porter for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker. A young big in Skal Labissiere was dealt cheaply. James Ennis was moved for virtually nothing. Even the price for Marc Gasol was not exacting.

When you consider the low market price for these pieces, the Nets, if they wanted to, could have been involved. They were not.

Should they have been? You can argue this both ways, and that is the million dollar question that will be answered this summer. I do tend to agree with the Nets approach. But you can make the strong argument that they should have made an upgrade, and you might wind up right after the summer.

On one hand, upgrade the roster, and the Nets in theory increase their chances at making the playoffs (that is no guarantee given the brutal upcoming schedule), and not getting destroyed once there (the east’s top 4, on paper, are brutal). In theory, that, in turn, makes the Nets a better sell to big targets this summer. And while you could retort, “wait for the buyout market,” typically, bought out veterans target ring chasing. The Nets do not offer that. They have to hope a bought out veteran looking to win is ok joining a team fighting for a low playoff seed, which is not common.

On the other hand, there is nothing the Nets could have done at the deadline that was going to get them past the top 4 in the east. The Nets, if they make the playoffs, will be a massive round 1 underdog – small upgrade or not. And through 57 games, the Nets have the league’s 18th best net rating – 12th during the 20-6 streak. The data reflects that the Nets are something like a 28-29 or 29-28 team – not far off their 30-27 record.

Nothing the Nets could have added would make them a contender. And at all levels, the cost must be considered.

The Nets could have added small fry type pieces, like say, Anthony Tolliver for a second round pick. Pieces like that are simply not moving the needle. And then there is the asset cost. You lose a second round pick. Using that pick in the draft could breed a higher upside piece, like Kurucs. Keeping that pick keeps in asset in the coffers for a BIG trade in the future – a 2024 second rounder just helped Toronto deal for Marc Gasol. Wouldn’t you rather use many trade chips on a big addition, then burn a few heat and there on small fry types?

The Nets level of player the Nets could have added? Mirotic. Given the optics of first round picks, the way to get him was probably putting their Denver first on the table. But the same principle as to asset wasting applies. If Mirotic leaves in the summer, you just wasted a first rounder on a first round losing noncontender. If he stays, the big salary figure to keep him cuts into their flexibility to add the thing they actually need – a tentpole Star.

Perhaps the Nets could have looked at Gasol or Porter. But at their salary figures, you are killing your flexibility going forward – again for pieces whom I do not believe make the Nets a contender right now. The Gasol deal works for a contender like Toronto – go all in to maximize said contender. The Nets aren’t there yet (nor is Chicago – I dislike the Porter deal for them).

Marks could have even done something like what Sacramento did for Barnes. Using flexibility and assets to get a player who definitely would make the Nets better, and is on their timeline. He chose not to do that.

Still, I like all of this because it harkens back to a comment Zach Lowe made that was critical of the Wizards short term building strategy — http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/25187751/zach-lowe-john-wall-bradley-beal-washington-wizards-nba — he said that sometimes, if you keep making these small B-/C+ additions, the loss of flexibility coalesces into a collective D in the end.

Putting all of this together, it at least appears Marks has big ambitions for this summer. He mentioned the summer of 2019 last summer when recapping his moves. Zach Lowe, in his deadline recap, noted that the Nets are ambitious right now and may have reason to be – clearly, his assessment of their inactivity was that they are maximizing flexibility for the summer. Plenty of tea leaves tend to indicate this. His moves indicate that he has placed collecting cap room and draft picks at a premium.

The Nets deadline can be recapped simply. They passed on good B (Barnes and Porter) C (Mirotic) and D (Tolliver type) level upgrades, because they did not want to mortgage any future flexibility that they can use on an “A” level upgrade. Marks felt fortifying an at best scrappy round 1 loser did not warrant that cost.

All of this means Marks faces a critical summer. For the first time, the Nets actually enter a summer under him with the ability to be a major player. Nobody wants to play for 54+ loss franchises, which effectively required Marks to settle, in each of his three summers, on a combination of money dumps for picks, short term veterans for culture purposes, and swings at RFA’s.

Marks is going to take swings this summer. And the fan base will expect him to connect. The advantage of not hedging against your future with pieces like Barnes and Porter is a clear runway to shoot for better. The disadvantage is that your shot at better might not work out the way you want it to.

If it doesn’t work out the way Marks wants it to, Marks is going to need to get creative. The Nets’ future flexibility will not last forever because his young players – Russell LeVert Allen Dinwiddie Kurucs and Harris – are not going to remain cheap forever. Marks either needs to get a star before those guys get paid, or, in what would be a gut punch, trade those guys for picks and rotate the wheel back to square one.

None of the deadlines for those events are coming in 2019. But they are coming.

For the moment, Marks’ choice to prioritize flexibility at the deadline over any upgrades to the roster is a defensible one.

But the next step – turning that flexibility into a team that can compete for a championship – will be much harder.

Nets Trade Deadline: What Will They Do?

We are six days before the NBA trade deadline. Six. That’s less than one week. That’s less time than it takes a package to arrive when you send a gift to a relative.

And that means it’s right here, and it’s time to talk about it.

There are a lot of balls up in the air for the Nets at this deadline. At 28-25, in the sixth seed, and armed with the goal of selling free agents on Brooklyn, there is value to upgrading the roster and making the playoffs.  The playoffs would provide invaluable experience to the young core.  They would provide management with information on how good teams will scheme against these players going forward, which will be revealing as to how invaluable, or less valuable, some of them are.  And the more the Nets win, the better their pitch to free agents in the summer.

For all of these reasons, Brian Windhorst reported that the Nets are looking to be buyers at the deadline.

On the other hand, the Nets learned the hard way that the worst thing you can do in a rebuild is to kill your flexibility with win now moves that do not make you a contender.  There is nothing the Nets can do this week, that will make the Nets a title contender during the 2019 playoffs; the roster simply is not there, yet.  The worst thing the Nets can do is ruin the future flexibility they have built, in the name of short term – or even long term, upgrades, who help them win more games, but lock them into a middling playoff team for the foreseeable future.

Adding say, Nikola Mirotic, makes the Nets better – he’s a good player.  But if the Nets pay him, Russell, Dinwiddie, LeVert, Allen, and Kurucs going forward, and the roster is basically those guys plus their mid to late firsts over the next four years, that roster does not contend for a title. That mortgaging of flexibility for a slightly better chance in 2019 (a non contention year) is just not worth it.

This piece will not look at EVERY trade the Nets can make – there is no way to do that.  It will look at players on the roster, broken into tiers, and the types of scenarios we may or may not see.  The trades listed are representative of the types of deals we could see.

 

Tier 1: Cannot be Traded by CBA Rule: Dinwiddie

This will be fast. Dinwiddie, due to signing an extension, is not trade eligible prior to June 13, 2019 – the six month anniversary of the contract.

 

Tier 2: If it’s not Anthony Davis like, what are we doing: Caris LeVert, D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs

Representative Trade: 2 of the above pieces, 2 first round picks, and CBA matching filler for Anthony Davis

Chance they are moved: UNLIKELY

Nobody is untouchable, and for that reason, I do not value the Nets’ core pieces as such.  How can I? The Nets as constructed are not a contender, and also lack a tentpole star — a guy who, by the simple virtue of having him, makes you competitive by himself.  There are maybe 15 of those guys in the entire league, and it would be irresponsible for the Nets not to continue searching for one — even in deals for pieces like this.

By the same token, this quartet of pieces, together with Dinwiddie, represents the backbone of what the Nets have built to date, and all have upside to continue improving.  It would be reckless for the Nets to deal any of these pieces, absent the delivery of a tentpole star. As such, barring a trade for a superstar, I do not expect this group of pieces to go anywhere.

All of this is why I listed the Davis deal.  The Nets should not deal pieces of this caliber for non superstars, but make no mistake, they likely have kicked the tires on deals like this.  They already shopped Russell for Butler, per Michael Scotto and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (in a deal I am frankly glad did not happen).

Should the Nets deal for Davis? I tend to be too risk averse to go down that road, but there are arguments for and against it.

On the for it side, the Nets need a tentpole star, and it is nearly impossible to get these guys – especially when you are too good to draft in the lottery.  Free agency is their best bet, but what if Durant and Leonard say no?  And once the Nets pay Russell, LeVert, Kurucs, and Allen on their second contracts (over a period of a few summers) their flexibility to add to the core, with those guys on long term deals, will be lost.

Essentially, the Nets have a finite window of time to add a star to this core while this core is cheap.  It is for this precise reason, in a similar situation, the Sixers dealt for Jimmy Butler this year — once they pay Simmons on his second contract, their flexibility to get a third star would have become lost.  Now, that guy is in the door.

Put all of this together, and there is a compelling case for dealing for Davis, and trusting that the culture built here, the pieces retained after a deal to surround Davis, and the acquisitions this summer using Davis as a carrot (they can structure a deal such that they have cap room this summer), all cause Davis to stay.

The flip side of this equation is the obvious: Davis can leave in July 2020. If he does, the Nets will be back at square one — where they were when Marks got the job — because they would have traded a hoard of players and assets for Davis, just for him to walk.

It is true that since he gave the Pelicans 1.5 years notice, Woj has reported that teams may rent Davis this year, then launch a bidding war this summer if he does not commit.  It all sounds so smooth.  But unlike say, the Raptors, the Nets would likely not be a contender immediately upon getting Davis, due to the price to get him and status of the roster as of now.  And the closer Davis gets to July 2020, the less you get back for him.  Even a deal in July 2019 would not recoup what the Nets would trade now.  And if the Nets wait it out with Davis after the summer, they will likely be forced into sacrificing more of the future to surround Davis with pieces, which would be further damaging if he left.

Lastly, there is the Rich Paul LeBron James element — Davis and LeBron share an agent, in Lebron’s friend from high school, and what LeBron and Paul want, they get.  Davis, if hellbent on being with LeBron, will get there — and it is not clear if Paul’s word on his potential commitment should carry any weight with the Nets. Really, with Paul (and implicitly, LeBron) at the controls, you get the sense that a Davis rental sets the renting team up for a trap.

Putting all of this together, I do not have it in me to rent Davis.  Marks, knowing that losing him could be a fireable offense (for any GM), may not either.

But short of a player of his caliber, why deal from the Nets core quartet?

 

Tier 3: The key piece to move for the future: Crabbe

Representative Deals: Crabbe and Knicks second for Jabari Parker; Crabbe and Knicks second for Jon Leuer and expiring salary filler

Chance he is moved: 50/50

Crabbe will opt into his 2019-2020 deal because he will be comically overpaid at $18.5 million, and that figure will hamstring the Nets this summer. There is no way around it. Which begs the question: must they deal him?

On one hand, removing his number from the cap takes the Nets from nearly $30-$48 million in cap space (these are estimates).  The Nets cannot open max room without unloading Crabbe or renouncing Russell, thereby effectively letting Russell go — and I do not need to tell you which scenario is better. As a result, it is tempting to say that the Nets should unload Crabbe — now — to get that cap space.

There is another side to this.  Maybe the Nets do not hit on key targets such that the difference between $30-$48 million in space has any real value (if they are signing string alone one year mediocre vets with the overage, what is the net gain?).  Can the Nets relinquish picks, today, for a hypothetical tomorrow that may never come to pass.  And doesn’t Crabbe in theory have more value in the summer, when he is owed less than today?

Still, there is yet another side to this — it is going to be DIFFICULT to unload Crabbe, and do so in time for a free agency strike, and if the Nets find a team willing to take him on at a relatively low price, they may need to take advantage while they can.

Most replies to this school of thought are along the lines of “they unloaded Mozgov last year.” But the analysis is incomplete. The Hornets were over the luxury tax before eating Mozgov’s deal.  By sending the Nets Dwight — who makes more annually than Mozgov — the Hornets evaded the tax with the deal.  So yes, the Nets “only” forked two second round picks over, but the pick price was reduced by the real carrot in the deal — the Hornets evading the tax.

Can the Nets help someone similarly this go round?  The only expirings who earn MORE than Crabbe are Klay, and three Knicks: Kanter, Wes Matthews, and DeAndre Jordan.  The Warriors are obviously not dumping Klay for Crabbe, and the Knicks are trying to maximize their cap space for this summer — they will not take Crabbe off Brooklyn’s hands.  The “get someone out of the tax” option with Charlotte, to unload Mozgov, is not as obvious this go round.

The other issue with waiting for July? The timing could cause them to miss out on a big target.  Regarding the timing, star free agents typically lock into deals the first week of July, but salary dumps do not happen until week 2 — the Nets ate the Carroll and Faried deals on July 9 and 13, respectively, the last two years.  That is because those were plan B options for them, not plan A’s — recall the Nets chasing Otto Porter in 2017 and settling for the salary dump.  The same will likely be true this summer — bad teams like Atlanta may swing on talented RFA’s or the like, before settling on something like eating Crabbe’s deal for a pick. Can the Nets afford to wait for July, at the risk of free agents coming off the board while they look for a taker for Crabbe?

Put all this together, and unloading Crabbe is difficult.  It requires the perfect sweet spot of a team that needs draft assets, does not see itself as a free agency player, and maybe has a player (like Dwight) it wants to unload.  Even the examples I gave are flawed.  The Bulls value cap space and devalue seconds — are they relinquishing space for Crabbe and seconds?  And the Leuer example makes the Pistons more expensive, and only partially washes Crabbe off the books.

Put it all together, and I believe the Nets should pounce on the first available opportunity to unload Crabbe. 

 

Tier 4: the valuable key pieces: Harris and Davis

Representative deals: Harris or Davis anywhere for lottery protected firsts

Chance they are moved: UNLIKELY

I would not place Harris and Davis quite at the “core” level of Russell, LeVert, Allen, Kurucs, and Dinwiddie, but they are clearly extremely important to this team.

With that, do not expect the Nets to deal them for something like a haul of second rounders.  They add on court value, locker room value, and value for the future as the Nets try to build a winner.  They are too good to toss away in that fashion.

Still, they are not untouchable. David Griffin, on Sirius Radio, mentioned the Nets likely having an asset price on Harris, for example. The Nets need a tentpole star, and as many high upside pieces as possible.  If either of these players can get the Nets a first rounder, that is too hard to pass up, considering, again, that the 2019 Nets are not a contender.

Still, I do not see that as likely — firsts are too valuable to move for Harris or Davis.

The other side of this coin?  If the Nets do indeed move on a tentpole star, like Davis, if they have a deal they like, and if the sticking point is Harris or Davis, the Nets cannot balk at that.

Again, however, I see this as unlikely.

 

Tier 5: Large salary hard to move vets: Carroll and Dudley

Representative deals: Either and a first for Mirotic, with CBA filler to match money

Chance for a deal: unlikely

Carroll and Dudley are very tough to move because you have to match salaries in deals.  So a team taking either in has to send around $15.4 million or $9.5 million out respectively in salaries for either guy, yet feel like it has moved its program forward.  The exemplar trade itself is unlikely – Mirotic likely has more value.

Carroll and Dudley provide the Nets with on court value due to their ability to space the floor, and their gravity pulling defenders to the arc.  Neither is worth a first round pick, and neither is worth the Nets losing for a second round pick — remember, a playoff push has free agent salesmanship value, in and of itself.  So the Nets likely do not deal unless they upgrade their roster in the process.

But the only likely way to upgrade the roster in a deal involving either, is to move a pick. The piece coming back? Not likely to be a star.  Do the Nets want to deal a pick for an upgrade, if they do not want to waste flexibility this summer on the upgrade? That hurts the future for this year, which is not ideal.

Put this all together, and a mutually beneficial Carroll/Dudley deal is unlikely.  But as with the other pieces on this list, if either is needed as CBA filler to make a bigger deal work, the Nets would jump at it.

 

Tier 6: Cheap contributors or pieces the Nets will not shop – Napier, Graham, Pinson, Musa, and Williams 

Representative deals: small deals for second rounders 

Chance for a deal: unlikely

Let’s start with Napier and Graham. There is no reason for the Nets to shop them.  Both produce at a level above their tiny, under $2 million deals, and the Nets have tiny team options to retain both next year.  In the short term, the Nets, given their tiny deals, are unlikely to deal them for on court upgrades.  And in Napier’s case, with Dinwiddie and LeVert out, you see the value of depth at point guard.   If the long term, if the Nets hit it big on free agent signings, they will be flexibility strapped to round out their roster around their new stars, and will need to use minimum signings to add talent — having Napier and Graham in the fold this cheap has substantial value in that regard.

Turning to Pinson, Musa, and Williams, all three, essentially, have no real trade value.  The Nets are better off seeing if they develop into something, rather than tossing them away for scrap parts whom are so low down the food chain, that they are not even in the NBA right now.

With all of this said, as with Harris and Davis, clearly, if any of these pieces are needed as filler to make a large deal work, you bite that bullet.  But independent of that, there is really nothing to be gained for dealing them in 1:1 fashion for another small part.

 

Tier 7: Get Something for a piece who is out of the picture?: Rondae

Exemplar deal: Rondae for a second round pick

Chance for a deal: 50/50

Unfortunately for Rondae, he simply is not a fit for the Nets – and will struggle to fit in a NBA rotation in general.  Wings who cannot shoot, and are not shot creators for others, must be elite defenders to even be rotational.  Rondae is a pretty good defender — he’s not close to elite.  That package together makes him a suboptimal player for a rotation – defenses can use his man, and often do, as a free safety to zone up to prevent drives from players like Russell, and his defense does not compensate.

His lack of gravity — or how close teams guard you off the ball — makes him the worst forward on the Nets.  When Graham, Dudley, or Carroll play, teams do not leave them on the perimeter. As a result, with that defender accounting for the shooter, Russell and Dinwiddie have room to get into the paint.  Allen has space in the paint, to rim run. But with Rondae, teams stick his defender in the paint, or as a ball watcher on pick and rolls.  It compromises the offense significantly.

For these reasons, Rondae has lost his starting job. And soon, may lose his roster spot via trade.

 

Tier 8: Buyout market

Example deal: signing a piece like Kanter (this year), Belinelli (last year), or Bogut (2017) to a contract after the deadline.

Chance for a deal: unlikely

The Nets will have an internal conversation this deadline — should we deal a small asset for a tiny upgrade, when similar caliber players might be on the buyout market?  Why deal a pick for say, Anthony Tolliver, when Ersan Ilyasova was a buyout pickup last year for free.

The risk in this however is obvious.  Buyout candidates typically look to latch on with a title contender in the short term.  The Nets will not be a prime destination for buyout pieces, whom will likely prefer teams like Golden State, Toronto, and Milwaukee.

With that, if the Nets like a deal, they should do it. Do not rely on a buyout market that likely is not really there.

The Nets cap space and assets in one place

The following is a list of nets assets this summer.  Where players are listed by position, their salary is in parentheses.  Where players are listed as free agents, their cap hold is in parentheses.  Critically, for your information, a cap hold is a placeholder value for a free agent that counts against the salary cap, unless the Nets resign the player (the new contract replaces the hold), or renounce the player.  For a restricted free agent (DLO and RHJ), if the Nets renounce the player, the player becomes unrestricted – thus, you do not renounce a RFA unless you are letting them go.  For an unrestricted free agent, renouncing them means that you still can keep them, but must use cap space to do so (you lose bird rights).  Furthermore, cap holds are placed on the cap for first round picks (not second rounders). Finally, to the extent players on the cap, unrenounced free agents, and first rounders with cap holds total less than 12, for each player under 12, there is one incomplete roster charge assessed to the cap.

This article will have some analysis, but will mostly focus on the facts as to the Nets assets.

Starting with 2018, the Nets, with Faried’s complete salary in the fold, are $14.1 million over the cap. This means that a buyout does not change their asset outlook, as a buyout cannot get them under the cap (nor would a buyout change how much player money they can trade in or out).

As to the summer of 2019, two assumptions must be made, because they are obvious:

1: Allen Crabbe, due to being drastically overpaid, will opt into his contract.

2: the Nets will not renounce DLO, because they want to keep him.

In short, this means that the Nets, as of now, have $30,350,781 in space next summer, when accounting for Russell’s over $21 million cap hold, as follows: 

  1. 2019-2020 roster 
    1. PG: Dinwiddie ($10,605,600)
    2. SG: LeVert ($2,625,718), Crabbe ($18,500,000)
    3. SF: Harris ($7,666,667), Musa ($1,911,600)
    4. PF: Kurucs ($1,699,236)
    5. C: Allen ($2,376,840)
    6. Draft Pick Holds: 17 + 27 ($4,935,360)
    7. Russell’s accounted for cap hold: ($21,059,095)
    8. Incomplete Roster Charges: $897,158 per spot, three spots ($3,588,632)
    9. Dead Money: $5,474,787 (Deron Williams stretch)
    10. Salary Cap: $109,000,000 projected cap. $78,649,219 in commitments. $30,350,781 in space. 
    11. Non Russell Free Agents, with cap holds in parentheses: Davis ($5,388,800), Hollis-Jefferson ($7,411,071), Dudley ($14,295,000), Carroll ($23,100,000), Napier ($1,845,301 nonguaranteed), Graham ($1,645,357 nonguaranteed), Williams + Pinson (no cap holds for two ways)

For starters, it should be noted that due to the rookie scale, the Nets cap space figure will depend partially on where they pick, and where Denver picks.  Conservatively, the Nets may pick anywhere from 6-20, while the Nuggets may pick anywhere from 20-30.  That means the Nets can have anywhere from $26,901,141–$30,773,301 in cap space, depending on how high or low both picks fall.

Either number means the Nets lack max cap space as of now.  The max for a 7-9 year experience player (Kawhi Leonard) is $32,700,000, while the max for a 10 year experience player (Kevin Durant) is $38,150,000.

There are two big things the Nets can do to pry open max cap space.  The first is trading their only non friendly contract — Allen Crabbe.  If his money is entirely gone, the Nets will have ten year experience max space (read: Durant).  If the Nets eliminate approximately two thirds of his salary, they should have Durant like space.  If the Nets eliminate about half of Crabbe’s salary, they should have Leonard like space.

The other way to pry room open, quietly, is D’Angelo Russell. No, the answer is NOT to renounce him – that would be stupid.  The answer is to see if he is agreeable to an extension at which his starting salary would be less than his cap hold. If you assume, for argument purposes, that Russell’s year 1 salary on his next contract is $16,059,095, or $5 million less than his hold, then, by signing him to the contract, the Nets would open $5 million in space.  It would thus behoove the Nets to sign him ASAP — in essentially the opposite scenario as they used to sign Joe Harris last, in 2018 (since his new salary substantially exceeded his tiny cap hold).

As for the other Nets with cap holds, Davis is valuable, but as a reserve, their max pursuits should not be impeded by his hold if they are in the game for some excellent free agents.  The other holds essentially should be renounced, at how large they are.

Happy trade season and summer!

 

This article represents part 3 of my series of Nets trades. The suitors here? Indiana, both Los Angeles teams, Memphis, and Miami.

On to the trades!

 

NETS AND PACERS

Nets get: Aaron Holiday, Cory Joseph, 2019 Pacers first

Pacers get: D’Angelo Russell

The Nets have an interesting dilemma with Russell. On one hand he’s clearly worth a contract going forward. On the other, Kenny Atkinson’s fourth quarter benchings of Russell are a tell that they do not trust him to close games.  As a result, they simply cannot max him and make him their anchor.  So if the max is what he is worth, a trade could be the best option.

Indiana, like many small markets (although I disagree), often takes the tact that it cannot lure free agents, and thus should use the trade market to obtain players, essentially doing free agent shopping that way.  This trade would in effect represent shopping for Russell.  Holiday is a solid young player, and the 2019 first makes the deal even better.  Joseph is a decent piece here to match salaries (and help a little in the short term).

 

NETS AND LAKERS (with the Kings)

Nets get: Kosta Koufos, 2019 and 2020 second rounders from Sacramento or Los Angeles

Lakers get: DeMarre Carroll

Kings get: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

This trade would constitute a success in one Nets approach we may see at the deadline: seeing if they can turn Carroll into future assets.  The deal would be about the picks; Koufos is only there to match salaries.

As for the Lakers, they would be dealing Caldwell-Pope, who they are apparently looking to move, and getting a contributor for this season.

The Lakers could balk – they seem hellbent on not surrendering any assets, except for a star.  And KCP has veto power on a deal; unless he accepts a deal to Sacramento, this deal cannot happen (although at this stage, he should prioritize playing time over destination or winning, since he needs to get paid going forward).

Still, this is the outline of a fair deal to get value for Carroll.

 

NETS AND CLIPPERS

Nets get: Milos Teodosic and Boban Marjonovic

Clippers get: DeMarre Carroll

This is a swap of expiring deals.  Perhaps the Clippers think Carroll could help them on the wing off the bench (or at the 4) in a playoff run, and with this deal they get him without dealing pieces who play major minutes.

Boban is cult popular with fans, but the real purpose of this deal would be snagging Milos, a player the Markinson regime really liked. Milos can pass, and would fit in the Nets’ motion offense.

This deal likely only makes sense if Russell is dealt separately.  But perhaps Milos can be a piece for the Nets going forward.

 

NETS AND CLIPPERS

Nets get: Mike Scott, and 2019 and 2021 second round picks

Clippers get: Ed Davis

I doubt the Nets do this.  I think they will value Davis over what he is worth on the market — barring the surprise of someone offering a first, or similar player value.

But this is an example of a deal where they turn Davis into value, and add a player in Scott who, as a stretch four, fits the system in the short term.

 

NETS AND GRIZZLIES

Nets get: Marshon Brooks, 2020 and 2022 second round picks

Grizzlies get: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

This is a simple deal – the Nets are turning RHJ into some future value in the way of picks, rather than paying him.  And Brooks returns to Brooklyn!

 

NETS AND HEAT

Nets get: Derrick Robinson and 2024 second round pick

Heat get: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

I would not even do this deal.  But the Heat have nothing I want except Josh Richardson, who I cannot get.  So I had to come up with something.