- Tobias Harris would be a sensible free agent target for the Nets, especially if he continues playing the way he did Saturday, writes Bryan Fonseca of NetsDaily. The Clippers forward and Long Island native lit up Brooklyn for 27 points and eight rebounds, showing that he would make a nice addition to the Nets’ lineup. “I’m just focused on the team that I put a jersey on every single night for,” he said when asked about the possibility of coming to Brooklyn. “I think it wouldn’t be fair if I had my mind somewhere else at this time. I’m just focused on helping this team and let’s see how far we can go.”
- Someone will be pulled from the Nets‘ rotation when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson returns from his ankle injury, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Lewis adds that coach Kenny Atkinson doesn’t want to give regular minutes to more than 10 players per night.
Former Nets general manager Billy King is primarily known these days as the man who pulled the trigger on the infamous trade that resulted in the Celtics owning Brooklyn’s first-round picks for several years, allowing Boston to secure franchise cornerstones like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. In a conversation with Chris Mannix of SI.com, King was willing to revisit that deal, but said he hopes it’s not the only thing he’s remembered for.
“I don’t want that to define my overall basketball career,” King said of the deal that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. “A lot of good things happened during my time in the NBA. Things like [the trade] overshadow everything else. I know I have a lot more to give. People call to ask about players I have had on my teams. It does motivate me [to get back], not that I want to erase what happened in Brooklyn, but I want to help.”
As Mannix relays, King doesn’t expect to return to a GM role and get another chance to run a franchise. However, he believes he “could help just giving advice,” given his experience with managing personalities, managing a locker room, and managing a coaching staff. He’s not sure if he’ll get that shot from an NBA team.
“I don’t know,” King told Mannix. “I would hope to believe yes, but you never know. People get back in. I know my passion is there, the work ethic is there, the knowledge is there. … Coaches get hired after unbelievably bad runs with a team, they bounce back and do a great job. Mike D’Antoni coached in Denver, was fired, went to Phoenix and was terrific. I think from a coaching standpoint, [owners] look at track record. They don’t look at GM’s draft record, what did the team do that they helped build.”
King, who took over as the Nets’ general manager after a 12-70 season in 2010, helped build a roster that made three straight playoff appearances from 2013 to 2015, earning a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2014. However, the deal with Boston left the franchise bereft of assets — Brooklyn hasn’t been back to the postseason or won more than 28 games in a season since 2015.
For more comments from King on his time in Philadelphia, his plans for the future, and – of course – what he’d do differently if he could revisit those negotiations with the Celtics, be sure to check out Mannix’s full article.
- Nets training camp invitee Mitch Creek is continuing to pursue his dream of becoming an NBA player, as relayed by NetsDaily. Creek, 26, called the Nets “an elite program everywhere you go” and praised the coaching staff, performance team and others. He currently plays for the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate.
Nets swingman Caris LeVert, who underwent tests on Tuesday after leaving Monday’s game with a gruesome leg injury, has been diagnosed with a subtalar dislocation of the right foot, the team announced today in a press release. It’s good news for LeVert, who didn’t break any bones and hasn’t been ruled out for the entire 2018/19 season.
“Fortunately, tests performed this morning revealed that there are no fractures and only moderate ligament damage,” Nets orthopedist Dr. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “While the optics of this injury may have appeared to be more severe, surgery will not be required. Caris will begin a period of rehabilitation with the Nets’ performance staff, following which he is expected to return to full strength and resume all basketball activities without any limitations this season.”
LeVert, who has dealt with foot injuries in the past, appeared to be in the midst of a breakout season until Monday’s injury. In 14 games, he had averaged 18.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 3.7 APG, putting him in position to receive early consideration for this season’s Most Improved Player award.
LeVert almost certainly won’t be in the running for that honor anymore, since his latest foot injury will sideline him for a good chunk of the season. However, the fact that the Nets expect him to return to the court by the spring is great news, considering the injury initially looked like a sure bet to end his season. The 24-year-old remains a long-term building block for the franchise, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe details in an excellent piece today.
LeVert’s injury could open up the door for players like D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to pick up some extra minutes, depending on how the Nets structure their lineups in his absence.
Nets forward Caris LeVert was stretchered off the court at Target Center with an apparent right leg injury and taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minnesota, YES Network’s Michael Grady reports.
“Caris LeVert sustained a right leg injury during the second quarter of tonight’s game at Minnesota,” the Nets said in an update. “LeVert is being taken to a local Minneapolis hospital where he will undergo a full evaluation. Further updates will be issued as available.”
Just seconds before halftime, LeVert went for a block and landed awkwardly on his right ankle. Several Nets players were visibly crying while Timberwolves players huddled together in prayer for the Brooklyn swingman. LeVert posted 10 points, five rebounds and four assists before the injury.
The injury looked similar to the gruesome left leg injury Celtics’ forward Gordon Hayward suffered last October. Just minutes into Boston’s season opener, Hayward landed awkwardly on his left leg and suffered a dislocated and fractured left tibia. Hayward underwent surgery and missed the entire 2017/18 NBA season.
LeVert, 24, has developed into a potent two-way threat for Brooklyn this season. In 14 games this season, the Michigan product has averaged 18.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 3.7 APG for the Nets while shooting 47.3% from the floor. The first-round pick (20th overall) from the 2016 NBA draft has developed into a key piece of the Nets’ future.
LeVert does have a history of foot injuries. He suffered a stress fracture in his left foot during his stint at the University of Michigan in May 2014. LeVert re-injured the same foot in January 2015 and missed the remainder of that collegiate season. He had been expected to be a top pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
The 6’7″, 200-pound forward once again suffered a left leg injury in his final season at Michigan, missing parts of three months and eventually undergoing his third surgical procedure in 22 months. The string of left leg injuries dropped LeVert’s draft stock, but he did end up being selected in the first round by the Pacers and being sent to the Nets in a trade for Thaddeus Young.
Although the Nets internally view Jimmy Butler as a top-10 or top-15 player in the NBA, the team resolved not to give up any of its prime assets for him once he became available, writes Michael Scotto of The Athletic. When Brooklyn briefly discussed the possibility of acquiring Butler in a trade, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and the team’s first-round pick were off-limits.
As Scotto details, general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson have talked throughout their tenures about not “skipping steps” in the Nets’ rebuilding process. Sacrificing one or two of the club’s top young players or draft picks would have meant going for a quick fix, with no assurances that Butler would have stuck around beyond 2019.
Here’s more out of Brooklyn:
- The Nets did kick the tires on Butler before the Timberwolves sent him to Philadelphia, having discussed a deal involving D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and salary filler, league sources tell Scotto. However, those talks didn’t gain any traction.
- Scotto identifies Nikola Mirotic and Tobias Harris as two veteran forwards who may receive interest from the Nets during the summer of 2019. Brooklyn has long coveted a reliable stretch four, and Mirotic and Harris, who will both be unrestricted free agents next year, are capable of playing that role.
- As he approaches restricted free agency, D’Angelo Russell is showing a little more consistency, particularly on the defensive end, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “His maturity, his consistency, that’s what we’re starting to see,” Kenny Atkinson said. “That’s the challenge for him. It’s not on-again, off-again. We need more on from him, and I think he’s starting to get over that hurdle. He looked really good physically, too, against Denver (on Friday). He really got after it.”
- Veteran forward Jared Dudley has been a pleasant surprise on and off the court for the Nets, Chris Milholen of Nets Daily writes. Dudley, acquired from the Suns in an offseason deal, has posted modest numbers but he’s started every game and he’s served as a mentor to the team’s younger players. “He’s doing it in the locker room and he’s also doing it with his play, because he doesn’t need the ball in his hands,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. Dudley’s $9.53MM salary comes off the books at the end of the season.
The Raptors, Nuggets, Bucks, Grizzlies, and Kings are among the NBA teams that have made the strongest impression in the first month of the 2018/19 season, outperforming expectations early in the year. On the other end of the spectrum, the Cavaliers and Mavericks have been among the league’s worst teams, underperforming expectations that weren’t all that high to begin with.
These teams all have something in common — they’ve traded away their 2019 first-round picks, often with protections on them. We still have about 70 games to go in ’18/19, so it’s way too early to determine exactly where those picks will fall, or even whether or not they’ll changes hands in many cases. However, based on what we’ve seen from those teams so far, we have a better idea of what to expect the rest of the way than we did a month ago.
Let’s take a look at how some of those early-season trades may affect 2019’s traded first round picks…
Toronto Raptors (11-1)
First-round pick traded to Spurs (top-20 protected)
Even with top-20 protection, this pick looks like a very safe bet to change hands. If the season ended today, it would be No. 30, since Toronto has the NBA’s best record.
Denver Nuggets (9-2)
First-round pick traded to Nets (top-12 protected)
After a season in which the Nuggets narrowly missed the playoffs, it wasn’t unreasonable for Brooklyn to hope this pick would fall in the mid-teens. Instead, with Denver looking like one of the Western Conference’s best teams so far, it may land well into the 20s.
Milwaukee Bucks (9-2)
First-round pick traded to Suns (top-3 protected; 17-30 protected)
The unusual protections on this pick will likely to prevent it from changing hands for a second consecutive year, since it projects to fall in the 17-30 range. If Milwaukee’s 2019 first-rounder doesn’t convey, the Bucks would owe the Suns their 2020 first-rounder, with top-7 protection.
Memphis Grizzlies (6-4)
First-round pick traded to Celtics (top-8 protected)
After finishing last season with a 22-60 record, the Grizzlies were no lock to take a major step forward in 2018/19. In the early going though, the club looks like a legitimate playoff contender. Assuming Memphis can remain in the postseason mix, even if it’s just on the outskirts, this pick should stay out of the top eight and get sent to Boston.
Sacramento Kings (6-5)
First-round pick traded to Sixers (if it’s No. 1 overall or if it’s less favorable than Sixers’ pick) or Celtics (if it’s more favorable than Sixers’ pick and isn’t No. 1 overall)
The Kings, who were expected to be one of the NBA’s worst teams entering the season, would generate some fascinating drama between the Sixers and Celtics if their pick ends up in play for No. 1 overall. However, Sacramento’s young roster has created more problems than anticipated for opponents so far, with the team occupying a playoff spot for now.
Despite the Kings’ hot start, a finish in the lottery still seems likely, but if Sacramento keeps exceeding expectations, the team’s first-round pick will almost certainly end up in Boston instead of Philadelphia, avoiding that No. 1 spot.
Los Angeles Clippers (6-5)
First-round pick traded to Celtics (top-14 protected)
This could be one to watch all season long — the Clippers currently hold a playoff spot in the West by one game, but teams like the Jazz, Lakers, Pelicans, and Rockets are right on their tail. If the Clips eventually fall out of the top eight in the West, they’ll keep their 2019 pick and would owe Boston their top-14 protected 2020 first-rounder. If L.A. keeps winning, the Celtics have a real shot at ending up with four first-rounders next spring.
Dallas Mavericks (3-8)
First-round pick traded to Hawks (top-5 protected)
After drafting NBA-ready prospect Luka Doncic and signing DeAndre Jordan, the Mavericks hoped to contend for the postseason and expected to lose this pick. Given the way Dallas has struggled so far, that no longer looks like a sure thing. I don’t view the Mavs as a bottom-five team in the NBA, but if they don’t turn things around soon, an aggressive second-half tank is a possibility. The Hawks would love for this pick to land in the back half of the top 10.
Cleveland Cavaliers (1-10)
First-round pick traded to Hawks (top-10 protected)
While Atlanta may luck out with the Mavs’ pick, the Hawks will probably have to wait at least one more year to get anything from the Cavaliers, who have the NBA’s worst record so far and aren’t exactly in position to turn things around. If the Cavs keep their 2019 first-rounder, they’ll owe the Hawks their top-10 protected 2020 pick.
The Nets were one of the NBA’s most aggressive teams in free agency in 2016 and 2017, handing out a total of four offer sheets to Allen Crabbe, Tyler Johnson, Donatas Motiejunas, and Otto Porter during that time. All four of those offers were matched, which probably ended up being a good thing in retrospect for Brooklyn, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
While Crabbe ended up on the Nets eventually as a result of a trade, he has struggled with his consistency, as has Johnson. Meanwhile, Motiejunas is no longer in the NBA and Porter is off to a bad start for the 2-8 Wizards this season.
If most or all of those players had landed in Brooklyn as a result of those offer sheets, the Nets almost certainly wouldn’t be in position to make a splash in the 2019 free agent period — instead, their cap would be weighed down with lucrative multiyear deals for players who haven’t necessarily emerged as impact players. So while GM Sean Marks deserves some credit for making the most of a bad situation during the first few years of his tenure, he has also benefited from some good luck in restricted free agency.
Here’s more on the Nets:
- Before the Nets defeated the Suns on Tuesday, Devin Booker told Greg Logan of Newsday that he’d “love to play” with Brooklyn guard D’Angelo Russell someday, adding that Russell “makes people around him better.” A union between the two players is unlikely to happen in Brooklyn anytime in the next few years, since Booker’s five-year extension with the Suns begins next season. But perhaps Russell, who will be a restricted free agent in 2019, will draw interest from Phoenix.
- After being buried in Denver’s rotation last season, Kenneth Faried finds himself in a similar situation in a contract year with the Nets. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes, head coach Kenny Atkinson praised Faried’s play in practice, but said there’s simply “no room” in the lineup for him at this point. “I can’t say, ‘Oh, he’s played bad,’ or ‘Oh, he’s not playing well.’ I can’t say that. Some guys, I can,” Atkinson said. “I’m telling you the honest truth, it’s a situational thing. And the other guys have got to start playing badly for him to get a chance.”
- In another article for The New York Post, Lewis explores how Caris LeVert has evolved from a risky, injured draft pick to a crucial long-term piece for the Nets.