Thursday's NBA draft wasn't exactly a captivating event for the Brooklyn Nets. While other teams acquired the league's next batch of stars, Brooklyn was only able to trade into the second round after having entered the night without any picks.
The draft is only the beginning of an offseason with many possibilities for the Nets, though. Brooklyn may not have a top-tier rookie to show off in October, but it will have a talented, reloaded squad if it pulls the right strings this summer.
Here are three moves the team should execute in the coming weeks.
Re-sign Paul Pierce
Brooklyn should try to convince forward Paul Pierce to re-sign with the team.
Pierce can't carry an offense anymore and probably can only provide 20 to 25 minutes of court time per game at 36 years old. He's still a wily scorer, though, with an accurate perimeter game and enough pump fakes and long strides to attack the basket.
With Pierce on the court, opposing defenses can't concentrate their efforts entirely on Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.
Plus, Pierce is one of the few potential signings that wouldn't hinder the Nets financially. Brooklyn owns Pierce's Bird rights, which means it can sign him to a larger contract than anyone else.
This stipulation could lead to Brooklyn overpaying for the declining Pierce, but that possibility is not too worrisome given the Nets' financial context.
Pierce would sign at most a two-year contract, putting him in a Nets uniform for a period during which the team is already handcuffed by the big money being paid to Deron Williams, Johnson and Lopez. Thus, worrying about paying Pierce's next contract is akin to fretting over a paper cut on a broken arm—Brooklyn is overtaxed, with or without the Truth.
At this point in his career, Pierce is chasing rings. The Nets, perhaps to the surprise of some, represent a good option for him in that respect. Pierce should avoid the run-and-gun Western Conference, where title contenders are everywhere and his age would quickly show.
This is a Nets team that played that Miami squad very tough in the conference semifinals and ended up on the wrong side of some close games. If Pierce wants to be playing basketball into May of next season, Brooklyn is one of his best options.
Replace Shaun Livingston with Jarrett Jack
Brooklyn will have a considerable hole in its backcourt once Shaun Livingston, in all likelihood, finds a new team this summer. The Nets can only offer Livingston at most $10 million over three years thanks to their salary-cap woes.
Livingston, who is coming off a strong year (8.3 PPG, 3.2 APG, 3.2 RPG), can probably fetch twice as much on a per-year basis if he signs with the highest bidder. Two teams with more cap space than Brooklyn and a need for a veteran guard, the Sacramento Kings and the Minnesota Timberwolves, could be in the running for Livingston's services.
In the beginning of the summer, it was believed that Livingston might re-sign with Brooklyn simply out of loyalty to head coach Jason Kidd. Under Kidd's tutelage and generous minutes, Livingston put his injury-riddled past behind him and experienced a rare basketball renaissance, finishing the season as perhaps the Nets' most important player.
But with Adrian Wojnarowski reporting on an attempted mutiny by Kidd in the Nets' front office, which may lead to his departure to the Milwaukee Bucks, the single factor that might have kept Livingston in Brooklyn has evaporated.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, Brooklyn has already played with plans to replace Livingston, eyeing the Cleveland Cavaliers' Jarrett Jack. The Nets kept Marcus Thornton through draft day, even though he was a tradable asset, likely meaning Thornton is available to be swapped for Jack.
Thornton's explosive bench presence would be missed, and the convenience of his expiring contract would leave with him. But Jack ($6.3 million) makes a few million less than Thornton ($8.6 million) a year and is a better distributor.
He can't play the same pesky defense as Livingston and has much less of a post presence. Jack shoots better, though, which would allow him to create space for Brooklyn's slashers, such as Johnson, in a way Livingston can't.
The loss of Livingston will hurt, presuming it does in fact transpire. The Nets can limit the damage by acquiring Jack, a proven NBA weapon.
Find a Big Man
Even though the Nets have a future Hall of Famer, an All-Star and an up-and-comer manning their frontcourt next season, the team still needs to look for a big man in free agency.
Kevin Garnett is likely to return for a final season—would you turn down $12 million?—but his production and health are declining in tandem. Garnett still defends pretty well, especially for a 38-year-old, but he won't be able to offer more than 20 minutes a game. Plus, a significant injury and an early retirement are always possibilities.
Brook Lopez is looking to return to full strength next season. His dynamic offensive skill set should give the Nets a boost, and Lopez proved in his limited action early last season that he'd worked on his defense over the previous summer.
However, Lopez has had two season-ending injuries in the past three years, and there's no guarantee that he can stay on the court this upcoming campaign. Lopez's health issues were in his foot last winter, which is never a good sign for centers. Lingering foot injuries have felled many an NBA giant.
Mason Plumlee proved to be an adequate defender and a great finisher at the rim in his rookie season, but he can't hold down the fort by himself if Garnett and Lopez are sidelined. Therefore, the Nets should sign another big man this summer.
If Brooklyn does pursue a power forward or center, it should focus on finding a defensive-minded player who can rebound. Brooklyn will have enough scoring options in Williams, Johnson and (hopefully) Pierce. On the other hand, its interior defense and rebounding are less certain.
Poor performances on the glass and in the paint almost knocked Brooklyn out of the playoffs in the first round.
With these intentions in mind, the Nets should consider Jordan Hill, a member of the Los Angeles Lakers last season. Hill, 26, is a young, physical power forward who is an excellent rebounder. He grabbed 12.8 rebounds per 36 minutes in 2013-14, more than four rebounds better than any Net besides Garnett. Plus, he's a capable scorer with a decent mid-range game.
Unfortunately, Hill might end up being too expensive for Brooklyn. In a weak market for big men, Hill will garner attention from teams with deeper pockets. If Brooklyn can't move some money around, it'll likely fall out of the Hill sweepstakes.
In that case, the Nets should go hunting in the bargain bin.
Two workable options are Jeff Adrien and Glen Davis. Adrien doesn't put the ball in the basket very often, but he's powerful and aggressive inside. Davis has struggled with attitude issues his entire career, but he's strong as an ox and somewhat creative on offense. Both would help Brooklyn's rebounding problem.
Brooklyn won't be at the center of the offseason frenzy this summer. While the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony tantalize the league with their impending free-agency decisions, the Nets have much smaller decisions to make.
Yet seemingly marginal roster moves can have disproportionate results. Keep an eye on the Nets this summer. They may tinker their way into becoming an Eastern Conference powerhouse.
All statistics from Basketball-Reference.com
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