The Brooklyn Nets must upgrade at the power forward position and improve their depth at small forward and center before the 2013-14 season.
The Nets finished 49-33 last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
But gradual progress isn’t what owner Mikhail Prokhorov was looking for when he spent $330 million on new contracts last summer. Brooklyn has five players ready to earn at least $10 million next year, and four of those players have three years left on their contracts.
Now, with the team well over the salary cap and deep in the luxury tax, Prokhorov and general manager Billy King must find a more resourceful way to turn the Nets into a championship contender.
Power forward was an area of weakness for the Nets last season.
Reggie Evans is a great rebounder. He led the NBA in rebounds per 48 minutes and in 20-rebound games, but he’s an average-at-best defender and averaged just 4.5 points in 2012-13.
Kris Humphries, who signed a two-year, $24 million contract last summer, was a major disappointment. He averaged 5.8 points in 18.3 minutes and spent a large portion of the season on the bench.
Humphries' expiring contract will be the Nets' best bargaining chip entering free agency, and Evans probably isn’t the long-term answer because he’s such an offensive liability.
King could look to trade for a more offensively polished power forward like Carlos Boozer or David Lee. He could also choose to target a player like Paul Millsap or Carl Landry in free agency.
After acquiring a more offensively skilled power forward, the Nets would be able to relegate Evans to a bench role—where he is better suited.
The Nets inked Gerald Wallace to four-year, $40 million contract in 2012, and he responded with one of the most disappointing seasons of his career.
Wallace averaged just 7.7 points and shot a woeful 28 percent from beyond the arc in his first season in Brooklyn. He dealt with confidence issues throughout the year and didn’t perform like the player the Nets thought they were getting last offseason.
King will have to hope Wallace returns to form next season.
With Keith Bogans set to become a free agent, the Nets must find a player to provide depth at small forward. Bogans’ one-year contract expires this offseason, and it’s unclear if the Nets will choose to bring him back.
Sources told Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com that the Nets have been working to bring over Croatian sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic, who was acquired by the Nets in a draft night trade with the Miami Heat in 2011, currently plays for Fenerbahce in Istanbul, Turkey.
The 6’8” European averaged 15.5 points and shot 40.5 percent from three-point range in 21 games with Fenerbahce during 2012-13.
If King is unable to sign Bogdanovic to a minimum salary or mid-level exception, he could target a small forward in the draft. The Nets own the 22nd pick in the 2013 NBA draft, and a player like Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State could be on the board at that point.
Thomas averaged 19.8 points on 44.5 percent shooting during his final year in college. He would be a welcome addition to a Nets’ team whose starting forwards averaged a combined 12.2 points per game last season.
The Nets could also stand to bolster their depth at center and find a serviceable backup for All-Star Brook Lopez.
Former Washington Wizards power forward Andray Blatche was used as the backup center last season, but he’s too talented to be playing 19 minutes per game. Blatche (10.6 PPG) was Brooklyn’s leading bench scorer in 2012-13 and could be inserted into the starting lineup next season if King can find a center in free agency or the draft.
Some free-agent centers that Brooklyn might look at signing include Timofey Mozgov, Nazr Mohammed and Ryan Hollins, among others.
Withey and Dieng were both dominant defensive players in college and are projected to be late first-round picks.
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