Offseason In Review: Brooklyn Nets

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Extensions

  • None

Trades

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • Markel Brown (Round 2, 44th overall). Signed via minimum-salary exception for two years. Second year is non-guaranteed.
  • Xavier Thames (Round 2, 59th overall). Playing in Spain.
  • Cory Jefferson (Round 2, 60th overall). Signed via minimum-salary exception for two years. First year is $75K guaranteed. Second year is non-guaranteed.

Camp Invitees

  • Willie Reed

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

When the Nets hired Jason Kidd as head coach in the summer of 2013, many wondered how quickly he could make himself comfortable in his new role immediately after finishing his playing career.  One year later, Kidd made a power play and when ownership wouldn’t give him control over basketball operations, he forced a trade to Milwaukee.  His attempted coup came soon after he tried to convince Billy King & Co. to trade Brook Lopez and Mirza Teletovic to the Bucks for Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova. It’s safe to say that he figured out this coaching thing pretty quickly.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Phoenix SunsKidd has since been replaced with savvy veteran coach Lionel Hollins, and that was far from the only major change for Brooklyn this summer. The Kidd saga may have been the most shocking storyline of the offseason, but Brooklyn’s biggest loss on the court was the departure of Paul Pierce.  Losing the 37-year-old stings not just because of the sticker price the Nets paid for him (and Kevin Garnett) in June of 2013, but because of what he brought to the court, even at his advanced age.  The Nets, as you’ll recall, actually took off after Lopez’s unfortunate season-ending injury and that was thanks to their small-ball lineup with Pierce at the four.  Pierce was in the midst of a wonderful second act to his career in black-and-white, but he was as surprised as the rest of us to see it all abruptly come to an end.

It just happened so fast,” Pierce told reporters about a month ago. “I had a chance to talk to [Kidd] and he has his reasons, the way things went down. But like I said, the business — you’ve got to understand the business aspect of it. He moved on. The Nets moved on and people went their different directions. You see that a lot in this business.”

Pierce wound up signing with the Wizards on a two-year, $10.849MM contract and The Truth swears that the Nets let him go without a real fight or even an offer.  Pierce says the Nets conveyed to him that they didn’t feel that they could contend in 2014/15 and wanted to cut costs.  That’s a sad reality for Nets fans who expected that the money would never stop flowing from their free-spending, heli-skiing billionaire owner.  Looking back on the way the rest of the offseason played out, it’s hard to doubt the veracity of Pierce’s claims.

Shaun Livingston was another wonderful revelation for the Nets in 2013/14.  There’s simply no way the Nets could have survived missing Deron Williams for a quarter of the season (he really wasn’t all that sharp when he was on the floor, either) without the brilliant play of the former No. 4 overall pick.  Teams circled the wagons around Livingston as he was poised to hit the open market and while the Nets considered the guard to be their No. 1 priority heading into the summer, they were too outmatched and fiscally handcuffed to retain him.  Holding only Livingston’s Non-Bird rights, the Nets couldn’t do better than using their taxpayer’s mid-level exception, which would allow for a starting salary of $3.278MM and a total of nearly $10.3MM over the course of a three-year deal.  Instead, Livingston returned to California by signing a three-year deal with a starting salary at the full $5.305MM mid-level exception with the Warriors.  When considering the considerable pay difference, the Nets’ outlook for this season, and the blustery weather in Brooklyn, it’s hard to blame him.

Andray Blatche, who looked to be having a resurgence with the Nets not long ago, will also be out of the picture this season.  Despite his size, athleticism, and metrics that still cast him as an eminently worthwhile reserve player, there was little interest from the Nets or the NBA’s other 29 teams.  Blatche will take his talents (and his poor conditioning and his off-court issues) overseas this year to China.  We can expect to see him back after the CBA season is finished, but it would be a surprise to see him pull a Colin Quinn and go back to Brooklyn.

So, who’s replacing these guys?  This year, the Nets are finally welcoming draft-and-stash prospect Bojan Bogdanovic.  Brooklyn inked the swingman to a three-year, $10.1MM pact a year after they failed to shake him loose from his Turkish team, Fenerbahce Ulker, for a similar deal.  It’s (very) early in the season, but Bogdanovic has been one of the most impressive rookies so far in 2014/15, and that’s saying a lot given the hype surrounding this year’s class.

Meanwhile, to fill the void left by Livingston’s departure, the Nets completed a three-team deal with the Cavs and the Celtics to land guard Jarrett Jack.  It wasn’t easy to give up Marcus Thornton, who had some strong performances for the Nets after his midseason arrival, but Livingston’s play from last season underscored the importance of having a strong backcourt option both alongside and in support of Williams.  The swap also brought forward Sergey Karasev to the Nets’ second unit.  Of course, the C’s picked up some nice assets from the deal and the trade gave the Cavs enough cap flexibility to bring LeBron James back home.

Andrei Kirilenko, who raised suspicions with his bargain signing last season, exercised his player option for $3.3MM this season. The Nets rounded out their roster with a few other moves, like re-signing Alan Anderson to a two-year, $2.61MM deal, adding big man Jerome Jordan on a minimum salary pact, and buying their way into the later part of the draft.  The Nets had no picks heading into draft night, but they wound up acquiring three second-round choices that became Markel Brown (No. 44), Xavier Thames (No. 59), and Cory Jefferson (No. 60).  Thames will get some seasoning in Europe, but both Brown and Jefferson are with the team for 2014/15.

Reporters spent a great deal of ink discussing whether Garnett would return to the Nets for the final season of his deal or retire, but the 38-year-old confirmed the general assumption that he would be back when he showed up at camp for his 20th NBA season.  While KG’s best years are behind him, it always seemed as though KG was the key to retaining Pierce.  As it turns out, the Nets let Pierce walk and wound up on the hook for Garnett’s $12MM this season.  The Nets insist that Garnett can still be a contributor on limited minutes, but it remains to be seen how he’ll hold up between now and April, or possibly beyond.

Ultimately, much of the Nets’ success this season will come down to the health of stars Williams and Lopez.  Williams spent a large chunk of the offseason recovering from double ankle surgery and Lopez had to bounce back from the fracture in his foot that cost him all but 17 games last year.  The Nets played well despite Williams much of the time last season and as a whole were at their best without the services of Lopez, but the play of these two high-priced assets will dictate how far the Nets can go.  They won’t be in the contender conversation this season, but there’s no reason why they can’t be in the playoff mix.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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