Losing 111-87 against the Atlanta Hawks in the Brooklyn Nets opening and only playoff series not only ended their season, but forecasted the irony of what will be their most hopeful offseason in many years, but that’s not saying much.
Possessing a draft pick this year allows the Nets to add some talent, but only some. In typical Nets General Manager Billy King style his aggressive pursuit of then All-Star, now mediocre Joe Johnson lacked the foresight to deny Atlanta the pick swap they asked for. King’s approval of such request cost 14 spots in the draft and subsequently a higher chance at a quality player.
ESPN’s Chad Ford predicts holding pick 15 that the Nets earned would have given them the chance at R.J Hunter, Sam Dekker, Kelly Oubre or even Stanley Johnson. Instead the team will settle for pick 29 and possibly player’s of Justin Anderson or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s calibre, but probably only the like of Terry Rozier are viable. Given the circumstances Ford suggests King drafts the best player available.
Although it’s unlikely with their current pick King will still aim to acquire quality from the draft. “I will say that we’re trying to move up in the draft. We’ll explore options to get higher,” he said.
Failing to ascend positions won’t define the offseason. Both Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young have player options for next season and with their production exceeding that of Johnson and Deron Williams for a cheaper cost the importance of maintaining them heightens. “We’ve got to retain those guys. They say they want to be here, we want them here because then you can build around them and build with them,” King said.
The ambiguous “we” was not just the royal one. “I want [Lopez] back, [coach] Lionel [Hollins] wants him back, ownership wants him back,” King said.
Another offseason project revolves around removing Johnson and Williams and more importantly their nearly $25 million for next year and almost $45 million for the next two years contracts from the team.
Johnson averaged under 15 points, four assists and five rebounds per game. Though that production is steep for his price King still has options, so thinks NBA columnist David Aldridge. “For one year, even at that price, Johnson would have suitors,” Aldridge said. If there are suitors, the Nets need to jump on them.
With two years left on his deal Williams is a more difficult case. His expense demands too much for a trade, especially when the Nets have few other assets to give a trade partner. If the team is determined to not have Williams it will have to be through releasing him, an unlikely solution – if that’s what you would call it – to the situation. “A buyout of Williams, while potentially saving the Nets millions of dollars via the “stretch” provision, is not in the cards,” Aldridge said. “The Nets are not interested in giving Williams $43 million to not play.”
Last season Brooklyn did discuss a deal with the Sacramento Kings surrounding Williams but Brooklyn’s reluctance to include Mason Plumlee caused the talks to die.
Last season Williams averaged 13 points, six assists and three rebounds, but suffered in the playoffs failing to score more than five points in three games, although, to be fair, he scored 35 points in one game (a point less than his combined output in all of the other games that series).
High spending Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov remains content with spending money, if the production matches the cost. “We need a championship team, and I’m very committed to continue to do all the best for the team… if we need to pay a little bit more than any other teams, it’s not an obstacle,” Prokhorov said.
Despite the multiple obstacles King created for the franchise Grantland’s Zack Lowe believes he may receive a contract extension. After July 1 King can talk to free agents, namely Lopez and Young.