Trying to answer six of the biggest questions for the Nets following the 2015 NBA Draft:
1) What’s the plan here?
The Nets have spent the better part of the last three seasons promising a “now” to their fanbase. Hello, We’re In. We’re Here. We Are.
But Thursday night, perhaps unintentionally, brought on a new idea: Okay, So Maybe We Weren’t. But We’ll Try To Be Soon.
Since the team moved to Brooklyn, almost every move has been made with some sort of seniority in mind. The Nets brought on veterans like Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry in the hopes of competing. They drafted four-year seniors Mason Plumlee, Tyshawn Taylor, Markel Brown, and Cory Jefferson, eschewing youthful potential for a more immediate impact.
It almost went that way again. The Nets reportedly targeted some of the draft’s senior point guards, and many of their workouts included four-year seniors in their range. That still would’ve qualified as a “youth movement,” but it would’ve been with competing now in mind.
But instead, the Nets went with two 20-year-old projects, one of whom might not be ready to play next season, and a 19-year-old Argentinian who gets recognition from Manu Ginobili but is otherwise a mystery. With the image of contention clearly in the rearview — and still smoldering — the team elected to go young, picking players with upside that might not have an immediate impact.
What this would indicate is that the team’s looking towards competing down the road, rather than using these picks as a stop-gap to try to sneak into the playoffs next year.
2) Will Chris McCullough play next year?
That’s anyone’s guess. In his post-draft grades (Insider), ESPN’s Chad Ford casually dropped the idea that McCullough was ruled out for the entire season. But McCullough himself targeted November as his return to basketball-related activities. Billy King said it was unclear yet if he’d play next season.
3) Is Rondae Hollis-Jefferson going to help right away?
In some ways. Liken him right now to a taller, less athletic Markel Brown. He needs serious work on his jump shot, but the good news for the Nets is that it’s a lot easier to develop a jump shot than a vertical leap. He’s not going to be an All-Star right away, but he’s starting off with a pretty nice set of tools.
On the trade front, having a 6’7″ wing also makes it just a bit easier for the Nets to explore the market for Joe Johnson, and perhaps Bojan Bogdanovic — though the latter is likely staying in Brooklyn.
4) What does this mean for Brook Lopez?
After weeks of rumors, the Nets finally dealt away backup center and American Hero Mason Plumlee, the 22nd overall pick in 2013, for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the 23rd overall pick in 2015. That leaves just one true center on Brooklyn’s books: one Brook Lopez, who’s expected to opt out of the last year of his deal.
First and foremost: it doesn’t change the needle much financially. The will likely offer Lopez a max contract whether or not they kept Plumlee around.[note]When asked last week if Lopez was a max player, King declined to answer on the record.)[/note]
If anything, it only makes it more important that the Nets re-sign Lopez, who is now the only “true” center on the roster. That’s the big risk; if Lopez decides to bolt, they’ll be left without a center on the roster, and without the cap space needed to sign a capable starter.
By dealing Plumlee, it shows the Nets are brazenly confident that they’ll bring Lopez back. But — and it can’t be stressed enough — it’s all in his hands.
5) What does this mean for Deron Williams?
The Nets entered the draft with the thought that they could add a point guard. They did — just not the way they expected.
In the other part of the Hollis-Jefferson deal, the Nets acquired backup point guard Steve Blake from the Trail Blazers, who’s on the last year of a deal worth approximately $2 million.
Blake is hardly a replacement for either Williams or Jarrett Jack — the 35-year-old sported an assist-to-turnover ratio close to 3:1 last season and shot 35.2% on mostly open three-pointers, but offers little beyond that, particularly on the defensive end.
He also does not make Jack or Williams more expendable, in that both were expendable already. The Nets could, and should, still look to upgrade their point guard position, particularly after missing out on point guards in the draft.[note]Though King wouldn’t mention any players specifically, he did note that “there were a couple of players that we targeted before that we missed out on,” presumably senior point guards like Jerian Grant and Delon Wright.[/note]
But at the very least, they now have emergency insurance that makes it a bit easier to deal Jack.
6) Will I ever see Juan Vaulet in a Nets uniform? Was he worth two future second-round picks?
If you watch Summer League, yes. Vaulet is expected to join the team in Orlando for their first round of Summer League in early July. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.
Vaulet, a 19-year-old Argentinian, is a bit of a mystery. He’s an athletic 6’6″ forward who’s played regularly for the U17 and U19 Argentinian national teams, including some big games against lower-level competition. He’s not expected to join the Nets this season.
But as far as the cost goes, it’s not prohibitive — teams buy and sell second-round picks all the time. If King & his personnel believe in Vaulet’s talent, a couple of future second-rounders isn’t a big price to pay.
Let’s close this with a video. I’ll just say: wait for it.