The second round of the playoffs is underway and with only eight teams remaining, it means another eight have been eliminated from title contention. The offseason is the time for these teams to retool to prepare for deeper runs next season. The Brooklyn Nets finished the year with a 49-33 record, good enough for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. However, their first-round opponent, the Chicago Bulls, surprisingly beat them at home in a Game 7.
The Nets season didn’t start off too well: Avery Johnson was fired after just 28 games, Deron Williams looked and played like a shell of himself, $12-million-a-year-man Kris Humphries lost the starting job, and it was all documented on NBA TV’s The Association.
With their season now over, Brooklyn let interim coach P.J. Carlesimo go and head into the offseason without a coaching staff in place. This summer will be vital to the Nets not only for next season but for their future success as well.
For the remainder of the post I will assume the role of Nets GM Billy King. I will give my suggestions and analysis on who the Nets should keep, who they should lose, players to target in free agency and the draft, and which coaching candidates to look at as well.
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KEEP: Andray Blatche, C.J. Watson
The Nets will have four free agents in total from their current roster: Blatche, Watson (player option that he will probably opt out of), Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse. Blatche and Watson are the two main contributors off the Brooklyn bench; Stackhouse and Bogans are expendable veterans.
Watson cemented himself as the Nets sixth man thanks to his tremendous play off the bench all season. Watson also showed the ability to play alongside D-Will and allow the Nets to have a very potent small-ball lineup. This is far from a fluke season for Watson. During his time with the Warriors and the Bulls, he was a valuable contributor off the bench.
Blatche was a wild card going into this season. Everyone knew he was talented, but his attitude and immaturity had held him back during his first seven years in the league with the Washington Wizards. Accepting a lesser role, Blatche became a critical member of the Nets second unit and was a reliable backup in the spot minutes he played behind Brook Lopez. Brooklyn definitely needs Blatche back and to be the same player he was this season. If Blatche can give them 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game again, it will only help Brooklyn.
LOSE: Keith Bogans, Jerry Stackhouse and Gerald Wallace
As I mentioned above, Bogans and Stackhouse are pretty much dead weight in Brooklyn. With the exception of the occasional corner, three neither of them gave the Nets much of anything.
Wallace is the biggest name on this list and while he didn’t have his best year, he had moments where he was definitely helpful to the team (most recently Game 7 against Chicago). However, at just more than $10 million a year over the next three seasons, Wallace is severely overpaid. He is no longer “Crash,” the athlete that flew around the court and was one of the NBA’s better wing defenders. The best option for Brooklyn would be to try and find a team willing to take on Wallace’s contract — maybe a player like MarShon Brooks could sweeten the deal. Still, it is highly unlikely that the Nets will get much in return for Wallace at this point in his career. They might not even find a team willing to take on over $30 million in salary for a rapidly-declining forward who is turning 31 this summer.
Free Agent Targets: J.J. Redick, Stephen Jackson and Shawn Marion (early termination option)
Redick should be one of the first calls King and the Nets make on July 1. An elite shooter like Redick paired up with Lopez, Williams and Joe Johnson will give Brooklyn the floor spacing they lacked this season. As a team, the Nets shot 31 percent last season. For his career, Redick shoots 39 percent from deep.
Captain Jack was a very valuable piece for the San Antonio Spurs during their postseason run last year. Yet in an unforeseen turn of events, Jackson was let go by San Antonio just a week before the playoffs began. With the rest of the season off to rest and workout, Jackson should be in top form when the basketballs are rolled out next season. While he may not be the shooter that Redick is, Jackson can definitely have an effect from the three-point line in his own right. Jackson would not only bring veteran leadership to Brooklyn, but championship experience as well.
The Matrix is another veteran player that would work well in Brooklyn, if he were to be deemed expendable by Dallas (what their plan is, like every summer, is hard to tell right now). If the Nets were to find a way to deal Gerald Wallace (again, not likely), Marion could step right in and fill the void left by Crash. Even though it wouldn’t bring youth to a roster in need of it, it would bring a dependable, hard-working, hard-nosed player to the team (something the Nets desperately missed in their series against the Bulls). Reggie Evans is the same type of player and he has carved out a niche for himself with the Nets.
HONORABLE MENTION: Earl Clark, Malcolm Thomas
Draft Targets: Glen Rice Jr., Jamaal Franklin and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Glen Rice Jr. might not be a name that every casual NBA fan knows, but GMs and scouts don’t get paid big money to find the players that everyone knows. Rice was dismissed from Georgia Tech after his junior season and found a home for himself in the NBA D-League. All he did there was average 13 points, 6.2 rebounds and get named to the All-Rookie Second Team. Being dominant in college is one thing, but dominating the D-League is an entirely different animal. Fans might look down at it, but the talent is arguably better in there than in the NCAA. Rice showed this year he possesses the talent to be a contributor in the NBA and whichever team drafts him is getting a steal.
Jamaal Franklin was Mr. Everything for San Diego State this past year. He led the team in points, rebounds, steals and assists per game. At 6-5, Franklin played taller than his height and was a constant presence in the paint for the Aztecs during his thee years there. Franklin can evolve into a role similar to that of Gerald Wallace’s (tell me if you’ve noticed a theme here yet) and provide a quick influx of youth and energy to Brooklyn. His only problem? He can’t shoot, and Brooklyn needs shooters.
Caldwell-Pope was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school. Rivals ranked him No. 12 in his class while ESPN had him listed at No. 24. However, Caldwell-Pope decided to remain close to home and attend the University of Georgia. At Georgia, he wasn’t surrounded by teammates who possessed talent that matched him and it allowed teams to key in on shutting him down. With all of this defensive attention coming his way it’s amazing that he still pumped in 15.8 points a night for his career. KCP is a deadly shooter and would provide instant offense for Brooklyn as a rookie.
HONORABLE MENTION: Steven Adams, Tony Mitchell
Coaching Targets: Jerry Sloan, Stan Van Gundy and Brian Shaw
The most successful coach to never win a Coach of the Year award, Jerry Sloan is not working. And it kind of seems like he wants to work. He left the Jazz abruptly in February of 2011 and has been linked to a couple of teams since. Whether his old, stodgy philosophy is a good fit with any of the teams looking is a huge question; how he deals with new environments and a lack of comfort is another mystery. But the man’s record speaks for itself. Deron Williams has also expressed interest on being reunited with Sloan.
After unceremoniously parting ways with the Magic, Stan Van Gundy has his picking of options for his next landing spot in the NBA. Though the Nets were actively chasing Dwight Howard last offseason, it looks very unlikely — especially after the All-Star play of Brook Lopez this year — so a reunion between those two in Brooklyn is highly unlikely. Van Gundy has proven that he can take a lesser-talented team deep in the playoffs (’09 Magic) and this Nets roster is much more talented than some will admit.
The man who was screwed out of the L.A. Lakers’ job a year ago has sat patiently behind Frank Vogel as a sort of elevated top assistant. It’s almost as if Indiana framed it so that Vogel was head coach 1A and Shaw served as head coach 1B. Someone is going to solve that problem soon for Indiana and it could be Brooklyn. Shaw is thought to come with the renowned Triangle Offense and with stars like D-Will, Joe Johnson and Lopez, it could work very well for the Nets. Shaw has patiently awaited his chance in both L.A. and Indiana, and he may be the most ready coach-in-waiting in the whole NBA.
HONORABLE MENTION: Nate McMillan, Mike Malone and Jeff Van Gundy
What should the Nets do this summer?
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