Report Card Grades for Brooklyn Nets' 2014 Offseason so Far
The Brooklyn Nets have got another thing coming if they think they’ll be able to elude grading just because we’re in the heart of summer.
School may be out, but it’s time for a report card assessing Brooklyn’s 2014 offseason so far.
This summer hasn’t been kind to the Nets, though it hasn’t all been entirely bad.
Still, after a disappointing 2013-14 campaign, Brooklyn needed a really strong offseason to bolster its title chances for next season.
Thus far, general manager Billy King and the rest of the front office have been relatively weak.
The emphasis there is on thus far. Keep in mind that the summer is far from over, and the Nets can still improve their roster before the first tipoff of 2014-15.
We can’t see into the future and evaluate transactions that have yet to be made. So for now, let’s slap a letter grade on each major move and non-move that Brooklyn made this summer.
Losing Shaun Livingston to Free Agency
It’s very difficult to fault the Nets for losing Shaun Livingston.
After all, they didn’t want to watch one of their best players sign with another team. But it happened.
And as such, it warrants a grade.
After a breakout campaign in Brooklyn last season, Livingston cashed in with the Golden State Warriors. Can you blame him? This is a guy who lost the prime years of his basketball career to a sickening knee injury.
“He literally had to learn how to walk again,” Livingston’s father, Reggie, told NJ.com’s Dave D’Alessandro back in April. “You can only guess what that’s like for a professional athlete. He’s been through hell and back.”
At the time, Reggie noted that “the Nets helped save his career, and Shaun is a very loyal kid.” Livingston said prior to the playoffs that “this year’s been everything I could have asked for.”
All of that sounded great. But a big raise sounded even better to Livingston, who earned just over $1 million last season.
Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News wrote:
The Nets could offer him only a $10 million deal and were holding out hope that his very positive season in Brooklyn would be enough for a discount. But as Livingston — whose career was nearly finished by a devastating knee injury in 2007 — told the Daily News during the season, he understands better than most that 'the next contract could be your last.'
The Warriors offered three years and $16 million—$13 million of which will be fully guaranteed. Livingston wisely took the deal.
It’s inspirational to see how Livingston has returned from an injury that could have ended his career.
But the Nets aren't thinking about that. Instead, they're thinking about how painful his loss will be.
Signing Lionel Hollins After Fallout with Jason Kidd
Kidd wanted more say in the organization, more money and, most of all, more power. Per Bontemps:
A league source told The Post Kidd recently approached ownership with a series of demands, including the role of overseeing the Nets’ basketball operations department in addition to his head-coaching responsibilities. The source said Kidd didn’t want general manager Billy King to be dismissed, but wanted to be given a title and placed above him in the organizational hierarchy.
Ownership declined to grant Kidd that kind of power, which is rare for any coach in the league to have. The source said ownership felt Kidd wasn’t ready for that kind of responsibility after having only one year of coaching experience — the team finished his first season on the bench with a 44-38 record, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference — and allowed Kidd to seek other opportunities.
After Brooklyn's brass permitted a meeting, the Milwaukee Bucks handed Kidd his second NBA head coaching job, with speculation being that he’ll take over the team's basketball operations in coming years.
As compensation for Brooklyn’s loss—if you could even call it that—Milwaukee sent over two future second-round picks, which will certainly come in handy for the draft-deprived Nets.
Two days after the exchange, the Nets brought veteran coach Lionel Hollins aboard the ship. He has more experience and a better track record than Kidd and will presumably provide a stronger and steadier voice for Brooklyn’s veteran roster.
In losing Kidd, the Nets gained future draft stock and a better coach—pretty sweet deal, huh?
Trading for Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev
The 27-year-old Thornton proved to be a sound investment for Brooklyn. He averaged 12.3 points on 41.4 percent shooting in 26 games with the team.
The Nets made the move as part of a three-team trade that included the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were paving the way for LeBron James’ epic return, and the Boston Celtics, who received Thornton, Tyler Zeller and a protected 2016 first-round pick.
Thornton’s scoring punch will be missed, but Jack can make up for it with his undying effort on both ends of the floor.
Karasev, on the other hand, will be a long-term project but one with incredible upside. The athletic, smooth-stroking southpaw could be one of Brooklyn’s top players just a few years from now.
Throw the financial aspect out the window on this one—even with Jack’s heavy annual salary of $6.3 million and the fact that he’s coming off what might go down as the worst year of his career.
The Nets desperately needed depth and scoring in the backcourt after losing Livingston in the fray of free agency. Of the team’s realistic targets, Jack was the cream of the crop.
Brooklyn has made some questionable trades in recent years, but this one looks to be one of the shrewdest.
Letting Paul Pierce Walk
This one will keep you tossing and turning at night, Nets fans.
While Brooklyn had Paul Pierce’s early Bird rights, meaning it could pay him more than any other team, he just wasn’t worth it.
Since when are the Nets into saving money?
Well, consider this: Along with the tax repercussions, keeping Pierce would have essentially cost Brooklyn what LeBron James cost the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In some other galaxy, perhaps one full of clover leafs and egregiously faux injuries, Pierce’s value might come close to that of James. But in this galaxy, Pierce is light-years away from equating to LBJ.
On the other hand, though, the Nets put out the most expensive roster in NBA history last year. Team owner Mikhail Prokhorov has more money than the Earth has oxygen, and the decision to suddenly adopt financial prudence is rather confusing.
Money aside, losing Pierce is a punch in the gut for a team that relied on his veteran leadership and one-on-one scoring last season. But money makes the world go round, and that’s what this decision keeps coming back to.
Here’s how Newsday’s Roderick Boone analyzed the Nets’ newfound frugality:
They are done spending millions as if they were playing with Monopoly money. Even though they surrendered three first-round picks to acquire Pierce and Kevin Garnett, they weren't about to spend all that money to bring back a player who turns 37 in October and whose skills are in decline.
Apparently, the Nets' hierarchy found reason to pause after nearly $200 million in payroll, luxury tax and amnesty payments bought five playoff wins and a second-round exit. The franchise reportedly lost upward of $144 million last season, and even for billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, that can't sit too well.
From a basketball standpoint, letting Pierce go was a poor decision.
But turning the organization away from mindlessly throwing money around is a step in the right direction.
Basketball grade: F
Organizational grade: C+
Re-Signing Alan Anderson
Though it completely flew under the radar, Alan Anderson put together a solid campaign for Brooklyn last year.
The five-year veteran averaged 7.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 22.7 minutes per game a season ago. Double-A knocked down open jumpers and locked up on defense from the opening tip to closing buzzer each night.
Brooklyn re-signed the 31-year-old to a two-year deal on July 14. Anderson will earn slightly less than $3 million over that span, and the contract also includes a player option after next season.
With Pierce out the door and Livingston drinking in that California sun, it was important for the Nets to bring back Anderson. Double-A was one of the team’s steadiest performers last year and will thrive under the no-nonsense Hollins.
Anderson got a healthy dose of playing time in 2013-14 and could be looking at a starting role at small forward next year. He put up an average of 8.4 points and 2.8 boards as a starter last season.
Re-signing Anderson isn’t a flashy or headline-grabbing move, but it will pay off as the season unfolds.
Overall Grade for 2013-14 Offseason
This has been a weird offseason for the Nets.
Between Kidd’s abrupt exit, Hollins’ quick arrival, Livingston and Pierce's departure, the Jack-Karasev trade and the return of Anderson, fans’ heads must be spinning.
Livingston and Pierce were the most important offseason storylines, which means that those grades carry more weight than, say, Anderson’s new deal—a good move in itself but not as crucial as the departures.
Here’s the best way to determine an overall grade for Brooklyn’s offseason thus far: Are the Nets better now than they were when the summer began?
With two of their best players now on different teams, the answer has to be a resounding no.
That’s not to take anything away from adding Hollins, Jack, Karasev and Anderson—those moves could be enough to keep Brooklyn in the 2014-15 playoff picture.
But all in all, this has been a tough summer for the Nets. And if the ball continues to roll in that direction, the regular season will be even more painful.
Final grade: C-
All stats are courtesy of Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.