As I explored earlier this season, the Brooklyn Nets would be in much better shape these days if the franchise had simply elected to hold on to their draft picks instead of constantly dealing them away for aging stars. Although the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers both have worse records than the Nets at this point, in many ways it’s the Nets who have the bleakest organizational outlook of any NBA team. They have a bloated payroll way above the cap, and they don’t have control of their first-round draft picks for the next three seasons: 2016 and 2018 are owed to the Boston Celtics without protection, and the Celtics have the right to swap with the Nets in 2017.
I actually think that the Nets took responsible steps in rebuilding themselves this past offseasona��their lack of tangible progress to date is a sign of how deep a hole the team dug for themselves in previous seasons, not in the summer of 2015. In free agency, they re-signed Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, which are not typical moves that a rebuilding team would make. However, without control of their immediate draft picks, the Nets also have no incentive to tank. Establishing a veteran backbone in Lopez and Young isn’t necessarily inspiring as far as moves go, but kudos to the Nets for retaining those players when they were already with the team.
I also think Brooklyn’s performance in the 2015 Draft was actually pretty savvy. With the 23rd overall pick, the team selected Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, an incredibly optimistic and energetic personality who quickly established himself in the starting lineup:
Hollis-Jefferson has only appeared in 19 games so far due to a broken ankle, so while he won’t receive any Rookie of the Year votes or anything, it looks like he was a great value pick from deep in the first round.
With Brooklyn’s two other picks, they took big risks on high-ceiling young players. When picking so deep in the draft, I think these are exactly the type of risks that a team like Brooklyn should be taking. At No. 29 overall, the Nets selected Chris McCullough, who has yet to play in the NBA after tearing his ACL just 16 games into his collegiate career:
I even like the move that the Nets made in the second round, dealing two future second-rounders (2018 and 2019) to the Charlotte Hornets for the rights to Juan Pablo Vaulet. At just 19 years old, Vaulet is still playing in relative obscurity in his native Argentina. Gambling on a raw, stashable prospect like Vaulet is, again, exactly the sort of risk that the Nets should be taking.
Although DraftExpress predicted that Vaulet would be drafted No. 55 overall instead of Vaulet’s actual No. 39 selection, DraftExpress predicted that the Spurs would be taking Vaulet at that selection, in which case everybody would be convinced of the wisdom of the pick:
So, how to get the Nets more draft picks as soon as possible? I think the only answer is to a�?purchase” them. That is: thanks to Brooklyn’s considerable financial largesse, the team should be willing take on salary albatrosses from other franchises, with picks also being sent to Brooklyn to balance out the financial commitment. Here are some players that I would be calling on if I were the Nets:
Greivis Vasquez, Milwaukee Bucks
After being traded from the Toronto Raptors in the offseason, Vasquez’s tenure in Milwaukee has gone awry, playing 16 sub-par games before having surgery to remove bone spurs, which will keep him out for much of the season. His $6.6 million salary will be off the books this summera��a small commitment that would probably only earn the Nets a second-round pick. A roadblock to this trade would probably be that the Bucks are shaping up to be sellers, not buyers, in the upcoming trade market.
Jason Thompson, Golden State Warriors
After seven straight seasons with the Sacramento Kings, Thompson was traded twice this summer, first to the Philadelphia 76ers, and then to the Golden State Warriors. In both cases, Thompson was being moved for salary reasons, and not his on-court prowess: the Kings wanted to have more money to pursue free agents, and the Sixers were more than willing to take on Thompson for future picks. The Warriors, meanwhile, made a sequence of moves to give themselves more cap space, going from David Lee (earning $15.4 million in 2015-16), to Gerald Wallace ($10.1 million), to Thompson ($6.4 million this season and $6.8 million in 2016-17).
Every inch of cap space will be precious to the Warriors this offseason, as the team will no doubt try to retain two restricted free agents in Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli. Would it be worth a first-round pick to the Warriors to unload Thompson’s deal on somebody else? Considering that Golden State would predict that their pick would land around 28-30 in the first round anyways, it just might.
Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns
It has been a long time before any one player and one team wanted to get rid of each other so badly. The situation in Phoenix has deteriorated so completely, and so publicly, that the Suns may very well be willing to trade Morris at a clear loss. While there is the danger that Morris would poison Brooklyn’s developing young team, they should only be willing to make this move if they would be comfortable cutting Morrisa��who is starting a four-year, $32 million deala��and simply reaping whatever future benefits are there for them in the deal.
A�mer AAYA�k initially made this list, as Nets coach Lionel Hollins’ best coaching days came with the rugged Memphis Grizzliesa��thus suggesting he’d know how to better utilize hima��but Hollins was fired earlier this afternoon.