Sunday, July 13, 2014

After costly season and flurry of change, Brooklyn Nets rebuild at somewhat lesser cost. The Boston legacy is down to (maybe) Garnett

Always remember: basketball, like the other pro sports so many people put their hearts into, is a business.

So this advertisement from last year, featuring the three players--two of them aging stars--the Brooklyn Nets got from the Boston Celtics, is already way out of date.

Jason Terry, on the right, got traded last February, after an ineffective few months. Kevin Garnett, in the center, is the oldest, and it's not clear if he's returning after a season in which he struggled beyond shorter stints.

And Paul Pierce, on the left, after a strong year, decided to join the Washington Wizards when the Nets decided to be more conservative about spending.  A tweet from NetsDaily's Bob Windrem (aka NetIncome):
As the New York Post's Tim Bontemps reported, in Here’s the Truth: Paul Pierce signs with Wizards:
Paul Pierce agreed to sign a two-year deal with the Wizards worth $11 million, league sources confirmed to The Post.
...The Nets had the chance to match the offer to Pierce, sources said, but passed, determining the luxury tax burden — which would have been in excess of $20 million — too steep a price to pay after the franchise shelled out roughly $193 million in combined payroll and luxury tax commitments for the 2013-14 season...
The move means the Nets, once they complete the expected signings of 2011 second round pick Bojan Bogdanovic and Markel Brown — the first of the team’s three second round picks in last month’s draft — will have committed more than $120 million in payroll and luxury tax commitments to 13 players for their 2014-15 roster.
...Pierce’s decision caps a crazy two weeks for the franchise, which began when The Post first reported Jason Kidd had been granted permission to speak with the Milwaukee Bucks about becoming their head coach after a failed power play to be placed over general manager Billy King atop the team’s basketball operations department.
Since then, Kidd has left for Milwaukee and the Nets have hired Lionel Hollins to replace him, traded for Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev, will soon have officially agreed to terms with Bogdanovic and now have seen Pierce move on.
And that means, according to NetsDaily's quotation of announcer Ian Eagle: Brooklyn Nets may be headed back to a "core" of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson.

It's about money

The Nets are also saving money, at least compared to last year. And the team--principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov, along with his brain trust--spent big on a gamble at short term success.

In What NBA teams spent the most money per win this season?, the Brooklyn Game's Devin Kharpertian described the Nets as the least cost-effective team in the league, with the San Antonio Spurs the most:
With the latest luxury tax information, we've learned that the Brooklyn Nets spent a ridiculous amount of money this season, and it added up to 44 wins and a second-round exit. But just how much were those wins -- and that payroll -- worth?
The Nets spent nearly $4 million per win with the playoffs included.

Of course the value of the team continues to skyrocket, so in the long run the spending may matter less.

New perspective

Wrote Kharpertian:
So signing Pierce to a deal worth $5 million would've actually cost them about $22 million this season, or about the same salary LeBron James is getting from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then it would've put them in definite repeater tax territory in the next year. Given that LeBron is a four-time MVP and dropped 49 points on Pierce's head in the playoffs, that's not smart spending no matter how you look at it.
But that fact right there -- that it's smart spending for the Nets not to make the deal -- is kind of the point. This is a telling moment in Nets history: the days of spending for the sake of spending are over. The mantra of "spend if it adds talent, regardless of cost" did not apply.
...But Pierce is gone, and ultimately [GM] Billy King will be judged on what it cost to bring him here in the first place for just one season. The facts won't go away no matter how many times you try to bury them with the BrooklyKnight: the Nets traded away three future unprotected(!) first-round picks, plus the option to swap a fourth first-round pick, for the luxury of adding Pierce for one year and a rapidly aging Garnett for two, falsely presuming they would keep Pierce around. That's an incredible amount of assets gone on the rickety chance that they could develop a championship team around those two guys, an idea that died in the second round of the playoffs and was buried for good today. 

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