Ranking the Brooklyn Nets' Offseason Acquisitions
Quite a few doors were slammed in the face of the Brooklyn Nets this summer.
The Golden State Warriors pried Shaun Livingston away by giving him $6 million more than Brooklyn could. Paul Pierce shocked everyone and signed with the up-and-coming Washington Wizards instead of returning to the Nets.
And in the most surprising move of all, Jason Kidd, whose No. 5 jersey was retired and raised into the rafters of Barclays Center last year, ditched Brooklyn for the Milwaukee Bucks after a failed front office takeover.
Those were three enormous losses for the Nets. But, as the saying goes, some doors were opened this offseason, too.
General manager Billy King, who makes moves as often as James Harden plays terrible defense, stayed busy this summer despite losing three of last year's biggest pieces.
In the long haul, Brooklyn will probably be better off. The team got younger and more disciplined through King's additions—especially in the signing of accomplished coach Lionel Hollins—and the summer of 2016 was kept relatively free of heavy salaries.
The rankings on the following slides are based on how each new addition will impact the Nets this season.
While some of the newcomers are unlikely to be as impactful as Pierce or Livingston would’ve been, they will cumulatively help a Nets team carried by Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez push toward the playoffs in 2014-15.
6. Sergey Karasev
The pair was dealt to the Nets by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team deal as Cleveland freed up cap space for the return of LeBron James. The Boston Celtics also wound up with a future first-round pick, Tyler Zeller and Marcus Thornton.
Landing Karasev is nothing to throw a party over, as Jack was the real prize of the deal. But the 20-year-old forward has a ton of room to grow and could turn out to be a decent player a few years from now.
Cleveland drafted the Russian swingman with the 19th overall pick in 2013. If it weren’t for Anthony Bennett’s horrendous rookie season, Karasev would’ve taken some serious heat for his poor first-year performance.
In 22 games, the 6’7” forward gave Cleveland just 1.7 points per game in 7.1 minutes of playing time. He shot 21.1 percent from three-point land and failed to make a legitimate impact in any aspect of the game.
When the Cavs sent him down to the NBA D-League, Karasev appeared to be more at home. During his stint with the Canton Charge, he put up 13.5 points nightly, grabbing 5.0 rebounds and shooting 41.6 percent from downtown along the way.
Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt given the level of competition. But Karasev’s D-League performance indicates that he does, in fact, have some game.
One big plus for Brooklyn is that the team is owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and features Andrei Kirilenko, one of the best Russian players ever.
Here’s what Karasev, playing with the Russian national team this summer, said about his move to Brooklyn, per Nets Daily: "I want to prove to everyone that I just don't happen to be in the league. I loved Cleveland, but the move to Brooklyn, I believe, is a positive step. Andrei Kirilenko plays there. There's Mikhail Prokhorov and a lot of Russians. I'm sure I will be comfortable."
Karasev isn’t likely to make a serious impact this season. But if he continues to develop, Brooklyn could have a versatile forward at its disposal in a couple years.
5. Cory Jefferson
After getting shelled on the boards night after night, the Nets finished last season 29th in team rebounding.
Cory Jefferson could help stop the bleeding.
A 6’9” forward out of Baylor, Jefferson got drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the final pick of the 2014 draft but was acquired by the Nets for cash later that night.
That will be money well spent for Brooklyn, a team that desperately needs someone willing to do the dirty work on both ends.
The hard-nosed Hollins will probably take a liking to Jefferson, who plays with intensity and has proved to be a hard worker.
The 23-year-old improved his scoring and rebounding numbers in each of his four years at Baylor, eventually finishing his senior year with 13.7 points and 8.2 rebounds a night.
Jefferson has a smooth mid-range stroke and can extend his jumper out to the perimeter. He’s also got a ton of athleticism, as evidenced by a 37.5-inch max vertical that ranked second to Aaron Gordon for power forwards in the draft class.
Only $75,000 of Jefferson’s deal is guaranteed, but he’ll earn the full $507,000 for this year if he’s on the roster by the first week in January.
Expect Jefferson to make that money and also make a real impact on the Nets in his rookie season.
He might not be a stat-sheet monster, but consistent rebounding and hustle plays should help Jefferson carve out a home in Brooklyn.
4. Markel Brown
The Nets bought their way into the 2014 draft and took Markel Brown out of Oklahoma State with the 44th overall pick.
He's a real good guy. Someone who gave me a lot of advice, someone who pretty much had the same role as me in college. He played with Darren Collison and Kevin Love [at UCLA], and he didn't really stand out as much in front of those guys. But [he is] someone who transitioned in the NBA and became a superstar.
Brown, whose 43.5-inch leap tied for the highest vertical jump at the 2014 combine, can give Brooklyn some serious athleticism and perimeter defense off the bench.
He lacks Westbrook’s polished offensive game, but the explosiveness and quickness are there.
In his senior year as a Cowboy, the 6'3" Brown averaged 17.2 points, 5.3 assists and 2.9 assists per per game.
Livingston’s departure could open up playing time for the rookie, especially if he can knock down consistent shots from beyond the arc.
Managing to nab the 22-year-old will prove to be a huge move by Brooklyn, both this season and down the road as Brown continues to improve his game.
3. Bojan Bogdanovic
But for three years, he never came.
For the past three seasons, the Croatian forward has been playing with Fenerbahce, a professional team in Turkey.
Bogdanovic has put up scoring lines of 13.0, 15.9 and 14.8 during his past three years with Fenerbahce, leading the team to championships in the Turkish Basketball League and the Turkish Supercup. He nearly came to the NBA in the summer of 2013, but the Nets couldn’t manage to buy him out.
Brooklyn’s taxpayer mid-level exception, a three-year deal worth about $10 million, opened up when Livingston bolted. Bogdanovic initially believed he would again play with Fenerbahce, but when the NBA came calling, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
“They drafted me three years ago, and every summer I thought they would bring me over,” Bogdanovic said of the Nets, per Andrewof The New York Times on July 28. “This time, it finally came, and I’m very happy and proud about it.”
Bogdanovic has been stellar for Croatia’s national team this summer, averaging 21 points, five rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
“First of all, I’m a shooter,” he told the Times. “Last year, I improved a lot with my game with the ball, pick-and-roll. I think I’m good enough for one-on-one. I think I am ready.”
The Nets hope he’s ready, too. Pierce’s scoring will be desperately missed, and Bogdanovic will be counted on to put up numbers from the shooting guard and small forward positions.
If Bogdanovic is the real deal—and it would appear that he is—Brooklyn is going to be rewarded for its patience in a big way throughout the 2014-15 season.
2. Jarrett Jack
This year, Williams could halt his decline and revert back to his days as a superstar point guard.
Poor health, specifically in the ankle department, has really slowed D-Will in recent years. But he underwent surgery on both ankles this summer and is expected to be ready to go before training camp, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
It’s not crazy to think that Williams could re-emerge as the star that the Nets traded for four years ago.
But he's not Hercules. A banged-up 30-year-old can't single-handedly shoulder all of Brooklyn's ball-handling and point guard responsibilities.
Thinking about Williams' health might keep the Nets up at night, but the team can sleep a little bit easier knowing that he's got a capable backup in Jack.
Granted, Jack is coming off one of his worst years as a pro. After averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 assists on 45.3 percent shooting from 2011 to 2013, Jack gave Cleveland 9.5 points and 4.1 assists per game in 2013-14.
As relayed by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York, Jack explained that his role with the Cavs was the reason for the statistical decline.
“You know, in certain situations you’re asked to do certain things, and in other situations you aren’t,” he said. “I was more of a facilitator and had less scoring punch than I was accustomed to being and I think that was more so the cause of it than anything.”
Jack went on to talk about how he’ll help Williams, who thrived as a 2-guard when Livingston ran the point at times last year.
“I think I can be someone who can kind of relieve Deron at times, you know the ball-handling responsibilities,” Jack said. “A person that is trying to create opportunities for myself or for my teammates.”
Jack will go down as Brooklyn’s biggest player acquisition for this summer. He’s a capable point guard who can take a lot of weight off Williams’ shoulders, both as a sub and as someone who can line up alongside No. 8.
He's a much better outside shooter than Livingston and has proved that he can get it done in the postseason—during the Warriors' 2012-13 playoff run, Jack erupted for 17.2 points, 4.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds on 50.6 percent shooting.
Brooklyn will love the fire that Jack plays with on both ends of the floor, too. He’ll become a fan favorite as well as one of the team’s most important pieces this year.
1. Lionel Hollins
Last season, Kidd experienced skyscraping highs and painful lows in his first year as a head coach. The Nets started terribly out of the gate, eventually hitting rock bottom at 10-21.
The team kept fighting, though, and eventually knocked off the Atlantic champion Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. From where the Nets were coming from, that was a win.
But this was the most expensive basketball team ever assembled. One playoff series didn't justify the record amount of money that was poured into its construction.
Were all of Brooklyn's struggled Kidd’s fault? Certainly not—injuries played a large role in Brooklyn’s early struggles. But his departure is a blessing in disguise.
The Nets received two future second-round picks as compensation from the Bucks, and less than a week after Kidd had been gone, Brooklyn agreed to a deal with Hollins.
Kidd will probably become a pretty good coach at some point. But in Hollins, the Nets have a guy who has won playoff series, has created defensive-minded cultures and has left no source of talent untapped.
Hollins’ Memphis Grizzlies won 56 games and reached the Western Conference Finals in 2012-2013 before he was inexplicably let go from the team. That year, Memphis allowed a league-low 89.3 points per game.
With the Nets, Hollins will provide a stronger voice than Kidd ever could as such an inexperienced coach.
“When I look at this team, I look at some veteran players that can score, some new guys that need to be developed,” Hollins said at his introductory press conference, via the YES Network.
“I want to play at a little quicker pace than we did in Memphis. But I don’t want to run up and down the court and jack up shots,” he went on. “I want to be aggressive. I want to be tough defensively. I want to be tough mentally.”
The veteran coach is a great signing for the Nets, a team that has gone through quite a catalog of coaches in recent years.
Hollins will institute a culture of basketball that's going to breed success in Brooklyn. And it starts in 2014-15.