It was always a fragile premise to put the ball in Jarrett Jack’s hands and let him run the show as the coach on the floor. Jack has always been more suited for the off-guard role where he can maneuver off the dribble, pull up and shoot, dribble, crossover and get space. He’s never been an innate point, a coach on the floor, a running the team 24-7 player. But the Nets were willing to try, desperate and money poor as they were.
The end results were ghastly. The only team worse than the 76ers in the East were the Nets. The Nets are holders of the third worst record in the NBA. Night in and night out, the Nets compete. But they don’t make threes. They don’t score enough points. They don’t protect the rim. They don’t have a pure playmaker so they turn the ball over way too much. They lose.
Welcome to the lottery, Brooklyn Nets.
Or not. The Nets, courtesy of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade, don’t have a first round draft pick until 2018. The Nets rebuild will have to come courtesy of the free agent market and there is a bit of good timing there in that the salary cap is going to rise to a ridiculous amount, estimated to be in the $90 million are-you-kidding-me range. The bad news is that everyone is going to benefit from the rise in the cap, not just the Nets, so they will have competition for free agents.
With that in mind, now is the time to have a plan ala Pat Riley. Riley cleared the deck for LeBron James and Chris Bosh by getting rid of all of his high priced talent. While Brooklyn isn’t Miami, it is an attractive destination. If the Nets made themselves fiscally compeitive, they could bring in a two or three free agent class that would totally change around their fortunes.
Joe Johnson is coming off the books. If the Nets traded Brook Lopez for Dwight Howard who is supposed to opt out, the Nets then would have around $50 million to work with this summer. If they convinced Howard to stay by adding another max level player like small forward, 23-year old Harrison Barnes who the Warriors are not going to be able to give the max to with Curry’s max coming up, and add Kent Bazemore (46%, 42% from three) as their shooting guard, it’s possible to become a 45 win team.
Or, pitch Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Mike Conley.
Acquiring assets and using those assets to make you a better team is the NBA blueprint. Not so long ago, the Golden State Warriors had Monta Ellis. He was their best player and their most popular with fans and in the community. The Warriors traded him for Andrew Bogut which put the fans in revolt mode. Curry was always injured. Ellis never was. In the lottery that year, the Warriors selected Harrison Barnes. Draymond Green was lingering in the second round, a man without a country, so they snatched him up too.
Without a first round pick, the Nets have to be very creative in how they rebuild their team and it can happen relatively fast. Draft picks take 3-4 years to mature. Steph Curry was drafted in 2009. He won a title in 2015. It was the 6 year rule. The Nets can avoid that long learning curve and jump to the front of the line by bringing in top of the line free agents who want to win in New York.
There is another benefit to clearing the roster and that has to do with Mikhail Prokhorov. If he plans to sell the team, he’ll want as many buyers as possible to outbid one another in the way Steve Ballmer did for the Clippers. Buyers are scared off by voluminous assets which translate into liabilities they don’t want saddled around their financial neck. A low payroll once you jettison Lopez make the Nets more attractive to those billionaires wanting a piece of the NBA money pie.
Jarrett Jack’s injury was a twist of bad luck for the Nets, one of many bad turns that has happened to the Nets since they gave Deron Williams a max deal he couldn’t earn. A lot of what has happened to them, if you want to be real about it, were a bunch of self-inflicted wounds. But, here’s the beauty of wounds. They heal. They scab. They fade. You hardly notice them after the fact.
The Deron Williams mistake and the Joe Johnson mistake and the Brook Lopez $21 million dollar payday can clear the way for the Nets scorched earth to build something better, longer lasting and competitive in the Eastern Conference. But, only if they have a plan.
photo via llananba