Time to Move On? Sasha Vujacic

In addition to building their roster through free agency and trades, the Nets also have to consider bringing back some of their own guys this summer. The NAS takes a look at the team’s current crop of free agents and determines who stays and who goes.

You Got to Go: It’s worth considering, the Los Angeles Lakers, a team coming off back-to-back NBA titles, was so eager to dump Sasha Vujacic, they traded him and their first-rounder for a warm body in Joe Smith. The Machine may have made some clutch plays for the Lakers during their past title runs, but let me repeat: An organization that doesn’t have issues making money was more than willing to dump his $5 million owed AND a draft pick for some financial flexibility. And while the Lakers went on to crash and burn in the playoffs, I never once heard someone say, “Man, if they only had Sasha.”

As to his actual performance with the Nets – Vujacic was who he always was, just with a scoring average boost that comes with increased playing time. His points per 40 minutes was in line with what he had been averaging off the Lakers bench the past few seasons, while his True Shooting percentage – something that’s vital for an offensive minded player who’s only strategy is is to shoot 3s and long 2s – was the lowest it has been in 5 seasons. While he could be described as “pesky” defensively, he struggled against bigger and stronger opponents, most notably SFs who put up a PER of 17.9 while he was on the floor (league average is 15).

I Guess You Can Stay: While Sasha may shoot (and miss) too much for my liking, he at least hit some pretty huge shots this past season. That includes a game-winner against the Bulls and a game-tying three agains the Raptors during the London series towards the end of one of the OTs. He was one of the few players who was able to move without the ball on offense to try and create an open shot. As for personality, while some of his teammates in LA reportedly were happy to be rid of him, Sasha was an excellent teammate in New Jersey, bringing a lot of enthusiasm to the bench. And you can’t overlook  his championship experience, which does matter for an organization expecting to make a playoff run next season.

Final Verdict: He should go. After the trade, Sasha had a perfectly acceptable season with the Nets, but like a lot of these situations in sports, you got to know when to bid adieu with a player who might have been playing a bit over his head during the early part of his tenure with the team. As Vujacic’s role increased with mounting injuries, he became more exposed. Idealistically, the Nets will bring in a starting-caliber SG in the off-season, moving Anthony Morrow to the bench. Unless Morrow is part of a trade, paying an “energy” guy like Sasha is useless because he will likely get squeezed out of a rotation. While people will point to Mikhail Prokhorov’s deep pockets, the Nets can’t keep parsing out a few million here, a few million there for back of the bench depth and expect to retain any long-term flexibility for higher profile players, especially if there’s a hard salary cap next season. Sasha needs to latch on to an organization that has lower expectations for next year, so he can prove his second half wasn’t a fluke and he’s not the shoot-first ask questions later “Machine” he’s been labeled as throughout the NBA for years now.