Nets Asset List

With NBA trade season upon us, here is a list of the Nets salary cap situation and assets. This list does not provide any opinions or thoughts and is merely intended to provide the facts, only.

Where players are listed by position, their salary is in parentheses.

Where players are listed as free agents, their cap hold is in parentheses.

A cap hold is a placeholder value for a free agent wherein, if the player is not renounced, the placeholder figure counts against the salary cap, until the player is resigned or signs elsewhere including a RFA like Russell signing an offer sheet (or until the player is renounced).  If the player is resigned, their new contract replaces the hold.  And, because of the cap hold, the Nets can exceed the cap to resign the player.  If the player is renounced, the Nets still can resign the player – however, they cannot exceed the cap to sign the player.  It is as if the player is the free agent of another team.

With that explanation of cap holds, on to the data.

  1. 2018-2019: the Nets are over the cap.
    1. PG: Russell ($7,019,698), Dinwiddie ($1,656,092), Napier ($1,942,422)
    2. SG: LeVert ($1,702,800), Crabbe ($18,500,000), Graham ($1,512,601), Pinson (two-way)
    3. SF: Harris ($8,333,333), Carroll ($15,400,000), Musa ($1,632,240)
    4. PF: Hollis-Jefferson ($2,470,357), Kurucs ($1,618,320), Dudley ($9,530,000)
    5. C: Allen ($2,034,120), Davis ($4,449,000), Faried ($13,764,045), Williams (two-way)
    6. Salary Cap: $101,869,000 cap. $115,959,540 in commitments.

What this means: the Nets, with their roster at this point, are over the cap, but under the luxury tax of $123.7 million.  This means that, in trades where they receive under $6.53 million, they can receive 175% of any outgoing salary + $100,000.  In trades where they receive $6.53-$19.6 million, they can receive any outgoing salary + $5,000,000. In trades where they receive $19.6 million plus, they can receive $125% of any outgoing salary + $100,000.

Finally, all Nets can presently be traded except Joe Harris, who can be traded as of January 15, and Spencer Dinwiddie, who can be traded as of June 13.

 

  1. 2019-2020: 6 guys, 11 free agents. $65,802,560 in space.
    1. PG: Dinwiddie ($10,605,600)
    2. SG: LeVert ($2,625,718)
    3. SF: Harris ($7,666,667), Musa ($1,911,600)
    4. PF: Kurucs ($1,699,236)
    5. C: Allen ($2,376,840)
    6. Total Salaries: $26,885,661
    7. Dead Money: $5,474,787 (Deron Williams stretch)
    8. Draft Pick Holds: 7 + 29 ($7,248,360)
    9. Incomplete Roster Charges: $897,158 per spot, four spots ($3,588,632)
    10. Salary Cap: $109,000,000 projected cap. $43,197,440 in commitments. $65,802,560 in space.
    11. Free Agents: Russell ($21,059,095), Davis ($5,388,800), Crabbe ($18,500,000 player option), Hollis-Jefferson ($7,411,071), Dudley ($14,295,000), Carroll ($23,100,000), Napier ($1,845,301 nonguaranteed), Graham ($1,645,357 nonguaranteed), Faried ($20,646,068), Williams, Pinson

What does this all mean? A lot.

First off, the Nets have six players under contract (together with the dead Deron money — that money cannot be moved).  From there, the Nets presently have two first round picks: their own pick, and Denver’s, if it lands from 13-30 (if it lands 1-12, the pick does not convey, and rolls into 2020).  Unlike second round picks, there is a cap hold for first round picks, at 120% of the rookie scale. Like player salaries and dead money commitments, the rookie cap holds are on the ledger, and eat into cap space. The pick hold can rise or fall, as the higher a pick is, the higher the rookie scale salary is.

As a result, the Nets have eight players on the cap – the signed six, and the two picks, if they choose to renounce ALL of their free agents.  If they do, since players on the cap, including cap holds, fall short of 12, the league assigns an incomplete roster charge for all shortfall spots below twelve — in this case four charges.

The above chart assumes the most space possible, which only occurs if Crabbe opts out, and the Nets renounce every free agent they have. That result would yield $65,802,560 in space, including the rookie holds and four incomplete roster charges.

Manipulating cap holds will create for interesting scenarios. For example, even if the Nets want Dudley back, we can all agree he is not worth $14,295,000.  Consequently, the Nets will almost definitely renounce him.  Remember — they can still resign him after renouncing him.  All it does is remove his hold from the salary cap.

What about Russell?  Obviously, that is a much harder question. But, suppose the Nets and Russell agree to a deal starting at $14 million in year 1.  If they do, since his new contract would be smaller than his hold, it would make sense to have him sign the deal QUICKLY – the Nets would gain cap space by replacing the hold with the smaller contract value. The opposite was true last summer with Joe Harris — he was receiving a raise from his hold, so it made sense to sign other players first to eat cap space, then use early bird rights to sign Joe at a figure over the cap.

Another potential incentive to sign Russell quickly, if the plan is to sign him? Avoiding an offer sheet in excess of the hold.

But remember: if the Nets keep a player’s cap hold on their books, they must work around the hold.  For example, if they do not renounce Russell, his $21,059,095 cap hold will count against their cap space.  The Nets would deduct that figure from the $65M plus figure (but, since one incomplete roster charge would go away, there would be a tiny offset).

Ultimately, Marks will endeavor to use as much of the cap space as possible on good players.

As for the draft picks and stashes, the Nets’ picture is as follows:

  1. 2019: Nets first; Nuggets first (top 12 protected each through 2024, if it never conveys, it becomes 2024 + 2025 seconds); Knicks second; Pacers second (45-60 protected each year through 2022, if it never conveys it becomes a 2023 second)
  2. 2020: Nets first; Nuggets second; Blazers second (31-55 protected, if not conveyed in 2020, it extinguishes)
  3. 2021: Nets first and Suns second (31-35 protected, if not conveyed in 2021, it extinguishes)
  4. 2022: Nets first and second
  5. 2023: Nets first; Least favorable of Nets, Hawks, Hornets second
  6. 2024: Nets first and second
  7. 2025: Nets first
  8. 2026 and beyond: Nets first and second
  9. Stashes: Vaulet, Vezenkov, Cordinier

 

Happy trade season and summer!

 

 

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So, can the Nets make a trade? Part I

This article starts a series of articles considering potential trades the Nets can make around the league.  Going in alphabetical order by city, this article only lists trades with Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, and Cleveland — other cities will come in later articles.

Before diving into the trades, here is a brief note on the Nets players, as it pertains to their trade value

LeVert and Allen are most definitely staying put, as the two best two way players on the team. Same goes for Kurucs and Musa. The Nets are not at a stage where they will look to deal young, cheap talent for veteran upgrades. Lastly, Dinwiddie cannot be dealt by CBA rules before June 13, due to signing his extension.

Russell is a good player, but with the way the Nets prioritize Dinwiddie in fourth quarters, the Nets clearly are not sold on him as a cornerstone.  For the right deal, I think Nets would deal him.  With that said, a team set at point guard will not want Russell for obvious reasons (think Damian Lillard).  Nor will a team grooming a kid as the starter, as the presence of Russell would be a source of pressure for the kid.  This limits the market.

Harris is a solid player.  He fits on nearly any team because of his elite shooting.  And unlike Russell, his presence is not going to be a source of pressure on a young kid being groomed as the starter because he does not have the same magnitude.  There should be a market for Harris, but the Nets should have a high price point. Especially when he can be aggregated with Dinwiddie in packages next summer and year, for legitimate players making near $20 million.

Davis likely has some value, although likely not a first rounder.  Two second rounders likely causes the Nets to bite. If the market is only one second rounder, I am not sure the Nets value that over the ability to bring Davis back next summer.

the rest of the roster: for the rest, the Nets might not be able to fetch anything.  As Oubre’s minimal value reflected, and Payton’s did last year, impending RFA’s hold barely any trade value. RHJ is worse than both players; it is hard to see him having real value.  As for the others (remember: Carroll’s shooting has been poor, he is far worse than say, Trevor Ariza), one must remember that Tyson Chandler, Andrew Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova, and Marco Belinelli have been added by teams the last two years on a buyout market, for free. Why, as another team, would you pay in assets to add pieces like Carroll or Dudley, when such players are available for free?  From their remaining players, fans should expect the Nets to get nothing, and be pleasantly surprised if the Nets get anything.

With that, on to the potential trades (listed in significance order)

 

NETS AND HAWKS:

-Nets get: Taurean Prince

-Hawks get: the Nuggets’ 2019 first round pick

Prince is an interesting wing under cost control through 2020, and the Nets need more talented young wings.  You need a lot of talented two way wings to have success today.  The Nets’ best wing is Joe Harris — he simply cannot be the best wing on a good team.  Prince’s per 36 numbers are good.  And he was a very good defender as a rookie despite falling off since; maybe Atkinson can restore him to what he was defensively.  Prince is likely worth more than the Nuggets’ pick, which should fall in the 20’s.  For Atlanta, however, they are at the early juncture of a rebuild where cost controlled young players matters above all else.  This pick gives them one through 2023, as opposed to paying Prince in 2020.  And if wait to act on a Prince deal next year — as noted above with Payton, RHJ, and Oubre — they will get less than this.

The Hawks may want more for Prince.  But this is a realistic shot by the Nets at a talented, still cheap wing.

 

NETS AND CAVS:

-Nets get: Alec Burke and Rodney Hood

-Cavs get: Allen Crabbe, Nets 2019 second rounder (via NYK), and Nets 2020 second rounder (via DEN)

This trade could not occur until January 28, 2019, the first date on which Burke can be aggregated in a deal with other players.  For the Cavs the logic is simple: rent cap space next year, with the charge being assets (Burke and Hood expire).  The Cavs could want a first rounder, but that is where the Nets likely would and should balk.  In a potential counter, the Cavs could request that instead of Burke, the Nets take on John Henson’s $10.5 million cap hit next year.  I do not anticipate Dellavedova to be dealt in this manner because the Cavs seem to be bringing back the 2016 band as a rallying cry for their fans.

I would not do a deal like this – dumping assets to offload Crabbe – unless a big free agency strike is on deck, and I need Crabbe off the books to get it done.  Otherwise, the Nets would, in effect, be dealing picks for nothing.

But if substantial free agency scenarios come about which require Crabbe to be offloaded this type of trade is in the toolbox.

 

NETS AND HORNETS:

-Nets get: Bismack Biyombo and a 2019 first round pick

-Hornets get: Allen Crabbe

This is another way the Nets can use Crabbe — take on an even worse contract in exchange for an asset.

The Hornets are hellbent on making the playoffs, to sell Kemba Walker on Charlotte.  They need to win to do that.  In addition, the Hornets, if Biyombo, Marvin Williams, and MKG opt in, do not have cap space next summer, with Kemba’s cap hold.  Their only real shot an an upgrade, now or in the summer, is the trade market.  And while the Hornets want to, apparently (per Woj on the Woj Lowe show from Saturday) improve, and avoid taking back money, and while they likely want to keep their first in case Kemba leaves, at some point, something has to give.

Biyombo is buried on Charlotte’s bench.  Yes, Crabbe is not good.  But he provides SOME value on the court; Biyombo provides none, and they’ll be hard pressed to turn Biyombo into a better player.

As for the first?  That is the charge for the Nets replacing someone who can play a little with someone who cannot play at all (and only makes $1.5 million less. The Hornets might propose two seconds instead, but Biyombo is so awful that the Nets should hold strong.

I think the Hornets balk at dealing their first round pick.  But the Nets need to be in the market for picks, and Charlotte, in desperate win now mode, is a team that might part with some.

 

NETS AND HORNETS, PART TWO:

-Nets get: Tony Parker, Dwayne Bacon, and a 2019 first round pick

-Hornets get: Joe Harris

The logic here is similar to the above.  Taking advantage of Charlotte’s desperation to improve by snagging their first round pick.  Harris is a solid player.  He would help Kemba tremendously this year and going forward.

Harris is a nice player.  But if the Nets can turn him into a mid round first, given the work they did with LeVert and Allen in the mid to late first round, the upside of the pick warrants doing the deal.  The Nets need cornerstones, more cheap talent, and more young talent with explosive potential.  Harris, while solid, does not fit any of those bills.

The Nets do not HAVE to capitalize on player development by paying the players they develop. If the Nets do this deal, it means they signed Harris as a minimum player from the scrap bin, and, through player development, turned the minimum exception into a first round pick.  That represents capitalizing on development — increasing the value of assets, then flipping them at the increased value.

I think the Hornets reject this deal, but it is worth trying to pry their first round pick.

 

NETS AND BULLS: 

-Nets get: Jabari Parker and a 2020 second round pick

-Bulls get: Allen Crabbe

No need to belabor this one.  The Bulls removed Parker from their rotation and want him gone.  This offers the get out of jail card they apparently feel they need.

Really, in this type of deal, the Bulls, NOT the Nets, should be getting an asset.  So if the Bulls are normal, there is nothing here.

My take is simple: if the Bulls want an asset to take Crabbe on, the Nets should not do a deal unless — as with Biyombo above — the Nets have a strike lined up in free agency.  Parker is useless, just like Biyombo.

However, if the Bulls are dumb enough to sacrifice a small asset to offload Parker for Crabbe, the Nets should jump on it.  And they just might be.  The Bulls, under GarPax, are obsessed with winning the PR battle at all costs.  They also do not value second round picks, often throwing them away to save money or to win PR battles.  The Bulls likely think that they HAVE to get rid of Parker now, to shut up the talk about him being buried on their bench.  They just might be dumb enough to swap Parker for Crabbe, and grease the skids by attaching a second round pick.  The Bulls would see it as winning the headline by ending the Parker talk, and the second round pick not mattering because second round picks do not matter to them.

I would love it.

 

NETS AND CELTICS:

-Nets get: Dan Theis and Brad Wanamaker

-Celtics get: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

 

The RHJ market is likely thin, if if even exists.  The Nets might look to trade him because they simply cannot pay too many players going forward and have the flexibility they need to import high end talent (something they need to do — they do not have the talent in house that is necessary to build a winner).

Theis is a big who can shoot the ball, and fits the Nets better than RHJ. Wanamaker? He is only here to match salaries for CBA compliance.

The Nets would likely prefer a second round pick for RHJ for the cost control.  And I think the Celtics reject this deal, although RHJ provides another wing to throw at Kawhi LeBron and Giannis deep in the playoffs.  But this is something.

 

 

 

 

Dinwiddie Extension: What does it mean?

The Nets and Spencer Dinwiddie have agreed to a three year, $34.3 million extension, with year 3 (2021-2022) being a player option.  Per @KeithSmithNBA (applying standard 8% raises), Dinwiddie will make $10,605,600; $11,454,048; and $12,302,496 over the life of the contract.

This is a major transaction and will possibly constitute the biggest Nets news of the season, until the NBA Draft.

So what does it all mean?

For starters, this is a good deal for Dinwiddie, and for the Nets. For Dinwiddie, yes, he could have made more money if he waited for July 1, to cash in as a UFA.  But that carried the risk of a catastrophic injury destroying his value.  By signing an extension, he mitigates that risk with the certainty of guaranteed money right now (to be paid later).  In addition, in signing a three year deal, with year three being a player option, he used his leverage of being an impending UFA to garner a strong mix of security, in the form of three guaranteed years, and flexibility to get a second big contract, in the form of an opt out after year two, as a 28 year old.  Does he cash in as effectively at 30, if he took a four year deal? Does he risk too much guaranteed cash, on a two year deal without a player option?

For the Nets, they sign Dinwiddie at a lower number than he would have commanded on the open market in July. That alone makes this a win.  Unless they traded him this season (now, they cannot), they needed to extend him.  Not extending him, just to sign him for more money in July, would have been a bad outcome. Letting him walk also would have been a bad outcome. This a good outcome.

Dinwiddie has been a good Net.  He gets downhill to beat switches and make plays late in games — something we constantly see and Atkinson constantly praises.  He can torch opponents when hot, and run the offense competently even when not making his shot.  He has been an elite reserve, and can function as a low end starter.  Even if he does not get a drop better, he will outperform the value of this contract.

Not only will Dinwiddie play well for the Nets under this contract, but he will be a valuable trade chip.  The Covington trade for Butler (with Saric) is illustrative. The Celtics keeping Marcus Smart to have a mid size deal of value also is.  When teams make large trades, they often need a good player on a mid size contract to move to get the deal done. Quality players on $8-$18 million deals are hard to come by.  The Nets now have their man. Dinwiddie should hold substantial trade value on this contract.

Do the Nets lose a touch over $9 million in cap room next summer?  Sure.  But what is the risk, given the unlikely nature of a major free agency strike?  Plus, the Nets could have nearly $50 million in space, if they renounce all of their free agents — if a great player does want to be a Net, the Nets and the player will make it work.  If not, the extra space does not amount to anything.  Faced with the risks of Dinwiddie walking, or forcing the Nets in July to pay more than they did today, this was the correct play for the Nets.

With all this, one question must be asked:  what does this mean for D’Angelo Russell?  Both Dinwiddie and Russell have played good basketball this year at times.  But neither has shown they are a definitive answer at point guard, a clear top 15 player at the position.  On a contract this small, Dinwiddie does not have to be.  But Russell, as a RFA, will command significantly more on the market, and will likely get paid like a franchise player or close.  The Nets continually lean on Dinwiddie over Russell in fourth quarters, through a combination of benching Russell late in games and running offense through Dinwiddie when both share the floor late in games.  Can they really pay Russell like a franchise player when they signed Dinwiddie, and seem legitimately scared to rely on Russell late in games?  Is it better to deal Russell for draft picks and assets than to commit to him?

After all, if the Nets’ roster next year is essentially this year’s team plus their draft picks, is that really a good result?  With the flexibility the Nets have, their sights — whether in the draft or in free agency — should be higher.

Sure, the Nets could deal Dinwiddie before the summer; by doing the deal now, they can deal him starting June 13.  But while the Nets have that option, it seems unlikely that their PLAN, is to make sure they deal Dinwiddie in a two week window before free agency.  They likely expect Dinwiddie to be on the roster next year.

Lastly on Russell, his reaction to this will be interesting.  Yes, from the objective business perspective, locking Dinwiddie in before he becomes more expensive as a UFA, and not locking Russell in because the RFA process gives the Nets leverage, makes sense.  But will Russell see it that way? Or will he see this as, “I didn’t get my deal, and Dinwiddie plays my position, but he got his deal.”  That natural, very human reaction, cannot be ruled out.

If the Nets do not deal Dinwiddie between June 13-30, they will effectively face the choice of losing Russell for nothing, paying both point guards long term when neither is elite, or getting assets for Russell.  The latter may simply be the best choice.

Finally, this is a great story, and it feels GOOD. It is super awesome to see a player in Dinwiddie, so close to losing everything, getting perhaps a last chance in Brooklyn, working to beat out the other players at his position, and turning the opportunity into this contract.  These types of stories make sports fun.  Still, let’s not lose site of the fact that the NBA is a business, and this was a business transaction, not Dinwiddie giving the Nets a hometown discount. The Nets did this deal to avoid paying Dinwiddie more later, and made sure the deal was tradeable.  As for Dinwiddie, by making sure he got a player option, he was sure to balance security, as he has three years of guaranteed cash, with leverage, as he can hit the market again at 28 and get another big contract.  This was a business transaction on both ends of the table.

With a $34.3 million extension in hand, Spencer Dinwiddie figures to be a Brooklyn Net next year. Will D’Angelo Russell join him?

LeBron Became a Laker: Does That Free Agency Strategy Help the Nets?

For anyone who follows me, you know I believe “big markets” do not dictate free agency.

The reasoning is simple.  The classic paradigm of stars choose big markets in free agency was as follows.  Big cities mean greater exposure, which mean larger shoe deals, endorsement profiles, and the like.  And in the 1990’s, that genuinely made sense.  However, the proliferation of the internet and social media has eroded those differences.  With streaming, tweeting, and a constant lens on athletes online, everyone gets exposure, everywhere, all the time.  Remember the concept of a “Friday at 5 news dump”?  It is no longer viable — news spreads constantly.  With that exposure comes marketing opportunities — a large city is not necessary for that.  Russell Westbrook and Paul George are huge product advertisers; Damian Lillard had the league’s largest shoe deal at one point; and LeBron James became a billionaire without playing outside Cleveland or Miami (his last contract put him over the edge, but Cleveland could have and would have offered the same $).

In response to this, when LeBron James left Cleveland on July 8, 2010, he started a new era — gone were the days of market size affecting star moves.  Rather, guys decided to go wherever they could team up with other stars, in order to win.  In two consecutive free agent moves, LeBron chose Miami and Cleveland.  Sure, Miami was bigger than Cleveland.  But LeBron ignored LA, NY, and Chicago to go there to be with Wade and Bosh — the decision was transparently a basketball one, to maximize the chance of winning.  And certainly, he did not go to Cleveland to be in a big city — but they did have Kyrie Irving and the draft’s top pick to go get Kevin Love.

Other stars followed suit. Sure, Paul George, Kevin Love, and LaMarcus Aldridge forced their ways out of Indiana, Minnesota, and Portland.  But they committed their primes to Oklahoma, Cleveland, and San Antonio — the reasons were not market based, but roster based.

Paul Millsap? He chose Denver!

Kevin Durant.  Sure, Oakland is bigger than Oklahoma.  But Durant would not even MEET with Los Angeles and New York, before committing.  His decision was nakedly about joining a better team to win more, not markets.

Gordon Hayward? He limited his free agent meetings to Boston and Miami, two very successful franchises, and chose a loaded Celtics team.  If he was deciding based on markets, he would have actually met with bigger cities.

Chris Paul? He wanted out of New Orleans because they were a NBA owned disaster. Sure, he wound up in Los Angeles, but the goal was to win and he chose to be there because they had Blake Griffin – star number two.  He eventually left Los Angeles, thinking he could win more in Houston — you do not leave LA if the goal is being in a big market.

Dwight Howard? He left Orlando because he felt he needed star 2.  When he was shuttled against his will to Los Angeles, he was miserable, and eventually forced his way out, to be with James Harden. Another naked basketball decision.

Carmelo Anthony, surely, chose New York.  But the reasons he left Denver were well chronicled.  He signed a five year deal when LeBron Wade and Bosh only went three years.  He came to regret it when the big 3 formed, and was resolute in forming his own with Amare.

With all of this evidence, the lack of big market meaning in these decisions has been clear. 

In 2018, LeBron did something that just might be a little different — he went to the Lakers.  Surely, the “easy” logic — rooted in 1990’s themes — is he went to the big city.  But dig even a little below the surface, and you find a different tale.

Every project LeBron is working on either started when he was in Cleveland, or was in the works then.  LeBron starred in Trainwreck in 2015, as a Cav. He became a billionaire without Los Angeles.  Some note the convenience of shooting movies.  But here’s the thing. LeBron had a summer house there and would go out there in the summer to get that stuff done.  As Maverick Carter told Rich Eisen last year, he does not have the time to shoot movies during the regular season anyway — he can only do that in the summer because of his basketball commitments.  So he gained nothing, market wise, by moving to LA.

There have been plenty of murmurs — through sources to media and from LeBron himself – implying his wife and kids prefer LA.

And there is another thing — the possible birth of a new free agency tenet: being somewhere well you can build (or continue building) your legacy (and legacies, it should be noted, do not require a large market – LeBron was in GOAT conversations as a Cav, Durant likely becomes a top 20 guy ever in OKC, and plenty of all time greats played in small markets).

By joining Los Angeles, LeBron adds a new chapter to his legacy.  He has the hometown kid chapter, all wrapped up.  Once he brought a title home to a since starving since 1964, against all odds as a heavy underdog, he achieved something he really could never top in Cleveland. Just like, once he won two in Miami to prove the first was no fluke, there was nothing left to prove there. Now, LeBron, by playing for a storied franchise, gets to add another element to his legacy: being apart of a classic franchise (in the same vein that a player like Derek Jeter does earn legacy points for being a Yankee).

We could be seeing signs of this new trend — legacy plays — due to what is happening with Durant in Golden State.  Durant went to Golden State for validation — people did not respect what he brought to the table in the same way LeBron and Curry were respected in 2016.  He wanted to win, and earn that respect.

He won, all right — two titles, and two finals MVP’s. But much unlike LeBron, Durant did not receive the validation he sought.  He is blasted, by fans, media, and former players, for the decision he made to join Golden State.  Those stains wore off by this point in LeBron’s Miami tenure — but they did not for Durant.

Yes, part of that is what he joined in Golden State was 73-9 without him. But part of that has to do with the new “microwave” culture of quick takes that we live in today (as Avery Johnson used to say). Everything is dissected.  And unlike in the past, when rings were seen as the measure to evaluate players, suddenly titles, today, are weighed.  Being the guy, carrying a team and putting up numbers, has transplated winning as what drives positive perceptions of players.

That’s why Russell Westbrook is so popular since Durant left.  In the old days, the talk would be he has not won a playoff series — today, the talk is triple doubles.  In that same past, the talk would have been that Durant is a champion.  Now, he is criticized for how he won his championships.

And with that, we have seen a wandering eye from Durant.  His massive blowout with Draymond Green? The smoke around Golden State? The threat of Durant leaving no longer seems driven by folks wanting them to fail — it seems real.

LeBron’s move to LA may have been a legacy play.  If Durant leaves Golden State, it most likely will be one.  He will be seeking to validate that he can win, without a ready made situation like the one in Oakland in 2016.  Surely, nobody can claim it would be a basketball decision to leave the Warriors. And with the Warriors moving into San Francisco — a new arena in the heart of Silicon Valley — even if he goes to LA or New York, it would be hard to claim that the move is driven by the need to be in a big market.  He would be leaving a mega market — and near assured titles in said market.

Durant would be leaving to attain something he cannot in Golden State — the validation that he does not need that collection of players to get the job done.

If there is a new free agency push, in response to backlash, to make legacy plays over the precise best winning situation — that COULD help the Nets. Under the paradigm that has existed from 2010-2018, the Nets, if it continues, would be very very hard pressed in 2019, and perhaps even 2020, to get big free agents.  With due respect to the roster as constructed, if players are electing to team up with other stars, the Nets do not offer that to free agents — especially if they remain on track for 50 losses.

But if free agents DO start making legacy plays, suddenly the Nets could be back int he saddle. With the wreckage that was left behind by Billy King, the Nets, truly, have had a herculean climb, in their endeavor back to relevance.  This is truly the type of situation where, if a star wins big, it could be huge for his legacy.  The talk would be “the Nets were a rudderless mess, dead to rights after the Billy King trade … until that guy came along.”

Do I believe this is likely? Unfortunately, I do not. I do believe stars are more likely to continue the 2010-2018 trend of choosing the beast readymade situation to win.

But with that said, we must adjust when we learn new information.

LeBron’s move to LA could be, may be, the start of free agents making legacy plays. 

And it would be quite the legacy play to win a championship with these Brooklyn Nets.

 

 

Are the Nets rebuilding through the middle? And can it work?

Nets fans, almost universally, are looking forward to the summer of 2019. With Sean Marks finally unshackled from the limits imposed on him by the Nets-Celtics trade of 2013 (made before his tenure), the summer will represent his first opportunity to truly remake the Nets in his image.

Nets fans – like all fans – have different thoughts on how to do that. And quite candidly, if it were me, I would humbly suggest that the Nets tank, sell parts off for as many picks as possible, and launch a Sam Hinkie like rebuild in 2019.

Some, of course, think the Nets are doing just that. I believe they are not. They tried to add Otto Porter for $106 million, added Allen Crabbe for $75 million, and added D’Angelo Russell two years before free agency rather than more cost controlled assets in the Brook Lopez trade. To me, these sort of win now talent adds are simply not the work or a organization out to lose.

What do I think the Nets are doing? Rebuilding through the middle.

So, what is rebuilding through the middle? And can Markinson pull it off?

Rebuilding through the middle is making the decision that, rather than tank, steps to 50+ wins can be taken from the 30-40 win region. We saw the Rockets do it before getting James Harden. We are seeing the Pacers, and Clippers (these aren’t star laden title contenders), attempt it right now.

So let’s talk more about rebuilding through the middle. Why do it, what are the rules, and can the Nets succeed at it?

Why do it?

Many reasons. On a simple level, with the NBA changing the odds that the worst teams earn the top draft picks, or the point of tanking, the expected value of tanking has gone down. While the odds of getting a top pick are still greater if you are awful, the extent to which the odds are greater has decreased significantly.

Second, and more complex, is star movement in free agency – building through the middle opens that door, while tanking closes it. Whether it was LeBron and Bosh to Miami (and LBJ to Cleveland), George to Oklahoma and Russ staying in OKC, Aldridge to San Antonio, David West to Indiana, Love ok-ing a deal to and extending with Cleveland, Millsap to Denver, Durant to Oakland at the expense of LA and New York, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard deliberately leaving LA, and Hayward choosing a loaded Boston team, we have seen a theme in free agency since LeBron’s 2010 foray — stars and big time players want to win, and are putting that over “the big city” in free agency.

With this being the case, if you want to be a factor in free agency, it is imperative that your team is good enough, in the present, for free agents to say, “they have something good going on and I can be that missing piece.” That simply will NOT happen if you tank – stars don’t want to join 55+ loss franchises. While fans drool about what prospects will be at the next level, stars have seen hyped prospects flame out at all levels of their journeys – they do not see them the way fans do, but as unprovens not to gamble their primes on.

Third, and even more complex than that, is star movement in trades – the “star demands trade” market enhances the value of building through the middle, while decreasing the value of tanking.

How is that? Owners have responded to stars leaving in free agency by dealing them to try to get something. And stars – both to get where they want to be sooner, and to ensure they can get a supermax with their new team (only your incumbent can give you one), are starting to force trades more and more often.

How does this benefit builders through the middle? Because when a star demands a deal, he has leverage to control the destination. This helps builders through the middle – teams who are decent and have a core for the star to join – and hurts tankers.

Builders through the middle have even another edge in star trades – more varied trade assets. When teams trade stars, the common school of thought is “get picks and kids.” But these trades often do not proceed by the common school of thought. Rather, every team dealing a star has a different priority. Some want picks to rebuild. Some want players to remain competitive. Some want young veterans to say they got good young players. Accordingly, the best way to trade for a star is NOT to have just a stash of picks, but to have all types of assets – if you have every type of asset and friendly contract you maximize your chances of having the package teams want. This includes those mid sized, team friendly, Robert Covington like contracts as talented filler in deals. If you have nothing but your core kids and bad contracts you took on to get those kids, you lack this type of asset.

The fourth reason, yet again relates to star movement. The old school NBA featured a lot of big time players staying where they were drafted. As a result, you saw a lot of long playoff and title contention windows – once you got to that 50 win level, your players stayed put, and you won for a while.

Star movement, however, is shortening title windows. LeBron gave the Heat and Cavs four years each. Durant might only give Golden State three. While Indy had George for 7 years, take away is uber young development and injury and that comes to more like five years. As a result of all this movement, the windows to contend are shrinking as players move around.

With contention windows shrinking, we simply might see less long scale tanking projects. It’s one thing to take 4-5 years to build a core you will have for a decade. But if the payoff is only 3-5 years long, can you take 5 years to build up to it?

Ok, so that tells us WHAT rebuilding through the middle entails. But what are the rules of making it successful?

Rule 1: you need to win some.

This is the main key to building through the middle. If you are winning 25-35 games a year, your core likely is not good enough to attract star talent via this method.

Rule 2: you need to be flexible.

This is where the Miami Heat have failed. Rebuilding through the middle can work if you have the flexibility to add big talent to the roster. If you’re capped out with mediocre, however, you will be “stuck in the middle.” But you’re not stuck in the middle if you have cap space and movable contracts to chase stars.

So, we know what it is and we know the rules. Can the Nets pull it off?

Frankly, I believe they will need to win more. At 8-12, they are on pace to win 32.8 games this year. I do not believe their core, at the moment, is quite good enough to lure free agents, and render the Nets a trade destination. One concern I have: they need to pick it up, but per ESPN Rankings they have had the fourth easiest schedule as of Thanksgiving (a figure the 7-11 Wolves would not boost much).

This Nets core needs to prove me wrong to succeed. It needs to fight to the wire for a playoff spot, to show big names that it is attractive. That will require better basketball than the first 20 games revealed.

If it DOES work in 2019, money allocation will be key. Obviously, if the Nets sign a superstar, they will contend immediately. If they don’t, however, they need to retain the flexibility to add a superstar in 2020. With due respect to say, Tobias Harris, he makes the Nets BETTER, but not a contender, as a Kevin Durant would.

Let’s play with some numbers. Assume the Nets were to sign Harris this summer to a 4 year $100 million deal, extend Russell at 4/$60, and extend Dinwiddie at 4/$40, They could conceivably enter the summer of 2020 with between $29-$39 million in cap space, depending on their decision on Joe Harris’ cap hold, as follows (assuming a $116 million cap)

PG: Russell ($14,464,286), Dinwiddie ($9,642,857)

SG: 2019 first ($5,098,560), 2019 NYK second (1,581,500, assuming a “Kurucs” like deal)

SF: Musa ($2,002,800), 2019 DEN first ($2,495,520),

PF: Harris ($24,107,143), Kurucs ($1,780,152),

C: Allen ($3,909,902)

Cap holds of import: LeVert ($7,877,154), 2020 first rounder ($4,143,000 if slotted at 12), J. Harris ($9,966,667)

Of course, so much of this relies on a measure of guesswork as to who they keep from this year, the cap going forward as set by the league, and nailing the Harris signing.

With that said, the Nets are in a position where if they fail to add a superstar, they can add very good players, and still enter 2020 with a ton of cap room.

In light of all this, I believe Marks and Atkinson deserve to keep their jobs for a little while longer. They have set the Nets up, asset and player development wise, such that they are in position to make some potential large strikes. Whether by building through the middle – or by tanking. The Nets contracts are movable enough that, if Marks wants to tank, he has an escape hatch.

With that said, if the Nets, after the summer of 2020, still have not added a big time player, by the draft free agency or trade, then that set up will have gone for naught. That would mean that Marks, while capable of setting the table, is not capable of making Thanksgiving dinner.

So, are the Nets rebuilding through the middle? And is Marks the man to execute the plan?

Let’s cross our fingers.