If I Were GM of…The New Jersey Nets

Didn’t the Nets seem so trendy and up-and-coming a while back? Mikhail Prokhorov, Jay-Z, Brooklyn, swagger, dirty blood money? Well after a year, they’re still a lottery team. A better lottery team, but a lottery team nonetheless. In this week’s episode, I’ll switch places with Billy Queen, Nets GM.

Intangibles: Queen, I’m still not sure why you still get to make decisions about anything, let alone help decide the fate of a basketball franchise. In the summer of 2003, you gave Kenny Freaking Thomas $50 million over 7 years. That worked out so well for the 76ers that some of you have no idea who I’m talking about. (KFT certainly doesn’t pass the Erin Kobash test.) Yet somehow, the billionaire owner decided he wanted you to help lead the Nets into Brooklyn. Well, first things first:

You gotta learn Russian, bro. Put it this way, Queen, couldn’t you see this scenario happening any day now?

(Queen walks into a meeting with Prohkorov. In attendance are three men: Prohkorov, Queen, and Prokhorov’s bodyguard, who is decked out in fatigues.)
Prokhorov to bodyguard: This guy couldn’t get me Melo. Now I’m worried he might sign Travis Outlaw for $28 million.
Bodyguard to Prokhorov: Boss, he already did that last summer.
Prokhorov: (puzzled) Will America let me eliminate him if I fire him before next season? I’ve got sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. They’re in the next room.

Got news for you, Billy Queen. They’re not gonna be saying that mess in English. If you became fluent in Russian, you’d be one step ahead.

Coaching Staff: Avery Johnson is a former Coach of the Year. He’s actually just “eh” in my book, but the Nets aren’t going anywhere soon. Might as well keep him on board and save some cash.

Talent: Yikes. Take Deron, Brook Lopez, and Kris Humphries Kardashian off this team and I’d be fairly confident that a squad of ragtag D-Leaguers could run with them. Some of these dudes may work hard, but the talent just isn’t there. For example, Brook Lopez has tons of range for a big man, but he can’t get a rebound to save his life. Even the biggest Nets fans would probably admit being a tad disappointed. And Sasha Vujacic entertains me, but not necessarily in a good way. He’s still worth a roster spot, however, because Prokhorov digs the wifey. Most importantly, while Deron may be the best point guard in the league, what exactly did he do in Utah? His Jazz mates were far more talented than his current bros, so why should the Nets make any noise now?

Projected 2011-12 roster:

Deron 16.4M, 1 year player option for 2012-13
Anthony Morrow 8M, 2 years
Outlaw 21M, 3 years
Humphries Free Agent
Lopez 3.1M, 1 year hits restricted free agency in 2012-13

Damion James 1.2M, 1 year team options for 2012-13 and 13-14
Jordan Farmar 8.3M, 2 years
Johan Petro 6.8M, 2 years

1. Sign Kris Humphries if it’s financially feasible
The guy worked his ass off for me, and as long as he’s willing to accept his market value, I would reward my own guys. If he wants more money, I’ll let him walk. The guy grabs a ton of boards, but those numbers are slightly inflated due to Brook Lopez’s fear of jumping.

2. Hope that David West exercises his player option to stay with New Orleans for one more year
This could go two ways. With the free agent market pretty thin, West could take advantage of teams who still have needs (the Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon plan). To do so, he would have to opt-out of his Hornets contract. Then, because Queen has struck out on every free agent in the Western Hemisphere, I would be forced to give West a multiyear deal, regardless of the fact that West may be hopping around on a pegleg for all I know.

On the other hand, West could also look at the imminent threat of a lockout, and combined with his injury, choose to exercise his 1-year option. This would give him a chance to prove himself worthy of an even bigger deal next summer. The Nets need to hope this happens, because David West is not the type of player to whom I want to throw max money.

3. Sign Wilson Chandler to an offer sheet
The Nets will be approximately $20 mil under the cap, but there isn’t a marquee free agent worthy of spending all of that money. However, if I sign a B-level free agent, this will leave me with enough space to offer Deron a max deal the following year. As of now, the Nets are set (relatively speaking) at point guard and center, and I guess power forward with Humphries. Chandler is the best swingman on the market. It’s not saying much, but I have to make lemonade at this point.

I am definitely not saving my cap space for a 2nd max player after the 2012 season. This is simply because a 2nd max player won’t come to the Nets, even if they’re in Brooklyn. LeBron, Wade, and Melo knew the Nets were going to Brooklyn, and they still didn’t give a crap. Also, as good as Deron is on the court, he’s not the best recruiter. He’ll be the first to admit that he tried to get players to come to Utah, but to no avail. Making matters worse, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard would choose the Knicks and Lakers, respectively, before signing 4-7 years of their life to waste away in Nets Universe. Therefore, the #1 goal is to win NEXT YEAR. I’m gonna put the best foot forward and pray that we’re relevant enough to keep Deron beyond next year.

Oh, and remember that billboard the Nets draped right across from Madison Square Garden? Remember how the Nets leveraged the Knicks into paying more for Melo? They’re clearly not above sticking it to the Knicks whenever possible. Who better to add to the fray than a scorned ex-Knick who begged to stay? Wilson Chandler is my boy, and he’s my #1 free agent target. Denver can match, and maybe they will, but I’m gonna take my chances anyway.

4. Pick the best available player with the #27 pick
I’ve detailed in this space before about how the draft class is super weak. Since that time, Harrison Barnes has announced that he’ll return to Carolina. With the lockout looming, some predict that more players will follow suit. I’ll just grab a dude and be happy here.

5. Fill out the rest of the roster with D-Leaguers
Seriously, don’t underestimate an athlete hungry for a job. Energy sells.

I don’t see the Nyets challenging for a title anytime soon, but a full season of Deron Williams in the Eastern Conference makes them a playoff contender. If Brook Lopez provides better returns on the investment…if the Nets sign a vengeful Wilson Chandler…if D-Will resigns…who knows?

See you at Barclays.

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