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State of the Cap: New Jersey Nets

Fri, 09/16/2011 - 8:01am

2011/12 Payroll: $39.8 million
2011/12 (Projected) NBA Salary Cap: $54 million
Roughly: $14.2 million under cap


Deron WilliamsDeron WilliamsHighlights: Despite some awful basketball ever since Jason Kidd left town, the Nets finally have three reasons to be optimistic: the team’s upcoming move to Brooklyn, cap space, and Deron Williams (at least for now.)

Deron Williams gives the Nets a true star for the first time in years. Unfortunately for the club, he’s not locked up beyond this season. More unfortunately for the club, there might not be a season (and at the very least they’ll be an abbreviated one.) That means he might not have much time to really feel connected to the franchise and the team won’t have a full season to sell Williams on their changing team culture. While he has a player option for 2012-13, but the chances he exercises that fall somewhere between 0 and -5%. The Nets took a big gamble trading for a star on such a short contract, essentially giving up almost every attractive commodity they had outside of Brook Lopez. The longer the lockout continues, the greater chance Williams flees town next summer and the Nets are left in a hopeless situation.

The Nets have cap room and Mikhail Prokhorov is primed to spend what it takes to win. The Nets are in a position similar to what many well positioned teams had set up going into the 2009 free agency bonanza – enough cap room to land two of the marquee stars. In this case the big fish are the two marquee PGs (Williams and Chris Paul) along with Dwight Howard. Now by no means are they a sure thing to get two of them (or even one), but they’re in the position to do so, which most teams are not. If they can’t land Howard and a PG, the team can use the extra cap space to build a complete team as opposed to taking the stars and scrubs approach. And if the 2011 Finals showed us anything, it’s that the balanced team building approach isn’t dead in the era of superstars joining forces.

Brook Lopez still is on a favorable rookie deal and is set to make just a hair over $3 million next season (with a qualifying option for the following season.) He has loads of talent and the ever unteachable skill of being a non-beanpole seven footer. Still only 23, Lopez threw in over 20 points per game (20.4) last year and his scoring chances should greatly improve with Williams running the point.

But it’s not all sunshine and lollipops with Lopez. The problem is he seemed to hit a wall in his progression last year. In fact he hit it so hard, he bounced backwards. His rebounding took a nosedive. He grabbed an astonishing 221 less rebounds last season than he did in his 2009-10 campaign, for a drop in rebounds per game from 8.7 to 5.9. For a player the Nets hope to be a franchise cornerstone at center, that’s both unacceptable and horrifying. Even returning to his old averages wouldn’t be the kind of production you expect out of such a talented center. That said, he does only have three years in the league and the hope is still there, especially considering how NBA teams never give up on big men with skills (see: Oden, Greg.) Lopez is certainly still more of a positive than a negative, and the Nets have to hope last year was merely a fluke.

Lowlights: Outside of a certain fellow who brandished a gun in his locker room and the dude who got traded for said gun brandishing guy, Travis Outlaw has the worst contract in the NBA. He’s getting $7 million a year for three more seasons. Yikes. A contending team wouldn't want Outlaw playing significant minutes unless one of their SFs got hurt and they were desperate. Yet he’s making $7 million and starting for the Nets (who “luckily” don’t have to worry about contending this year.) The Nets front office has to go to bed every night dreaming that the rumored amnesty clause (the Allan Houston Rule v2.0) actually becomes a reality in the post-lockout landscape so they can rid themselves of the Outlaw mistake.

Johan Petro is set to be fabulously overpaid over the next two seasons ($3.25 & $3.5 mill.) On the surface it doesn't seem that bad. But here’s a little rule of thumb: When a guy’s salary in millions is close to or above your previous seasons points per game (3.5) and/or rebounds per game (2.8) then he is massively overpaid (and he should probably write long thoughtful letters of thanks to his agent every week.)

In comparison to the two aforementioned piles of burning money, Jordan Farmar seems like a great value. That said, his $4 million price tag over the next two seasons is a bit more than a team should spend on a guy who’s merely a decent backup point guard.

The Future: The Russian billionaire is banking on being able to resign Williams and land another star. It isn’t that farfetched a plan (especially if an amnesty clause can wipe away the Outlaw albatross.) If it does and Brook Lopez rebounds from his down year, the future could be looking pretty bright for the Nets this time next year.

However, if they don’t have two legit superstars playing for them by the start of the 2012-13 season, fans will likely be disappointed. And if the worst case plays out and they can’t even land a single one, well, we could be looking at the same ol' Nets for years to come.

Grade: B

TallmanNYC
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Yeah some of those contracts

Yeah some of those contracts are out of control, but this article really needs to focus a bit more on the Brooklyn stadium. If there is a soft cap, it will be a game changer. What I mean by that, is that the Brooklyn stadium is going to bring in big big bucks. I'm not saying it will bring Knicks money or L.A. money or Boston Garden money, but it will start approaching that. Since the owner doesn't care about running a profit on this team and with the money coming in from the stadium there will be lots of cash to spend. They need the soft cap to allow them to spend over the cap so they can outspend teams like the Bucks. But provided it can do that, this will be big time.

Why am I focused on the Stadium? The Nets are going from playing in a freaking swamp conveniently located to no one, to playing in Newark, to playing two subway stops or a 15 minute cab ride from Wall Street. They will be closer to Wall Street than the Knicks. About 10 different subway lines have a stop within four blocks of the Stadium. The surronding neighborhoods are filled with a diverse group of folks, but many are yuppies with lots of disposable cash. So games are going to sell out, maybe not at Knick prices, but the days of seeing a Net game for $20 will be done (which is too bad, but good for the Nets business). They will design the Stadium with the latest in corporate box seating, which will be cash cows.

Now provided they don't keep doing terrible contracts like Outlaws, they should have an advantage over many teams. The Nets should be on the rise and with some basketball knowledge in the front office they should be doing a lot better real soon.

rwindrem
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I agree

on two points: the writer's position that the lockout is bad for the Nets and the commenter's postion that there isn't enough on how a new arena in NEW YORK CITY is going to affect this franchise. D-Will spend five years in virtual anonymity in Salt Lake City. Opening a new arena, the world's most expensive EVER with a billion dollar price tag, has to be appealing and in fact he has said it does appeal to him.

What is also missing is that the Nets have the third smallest payroll in the NBA after the Kings and Pacers. The Nuggets may soon be below all three as their players defect. But what separates the Nets from those three is this: the Nets have one of the NBA's superstars. The Kings have Cousins, Evans and Fredette. The Pacers have Granger and Hibbert. The Nuggets have Gallinari and Miller.

The Petro contract gets all this attention, but who cares? If you can have the third or fourth lowest payroll AND have a superstar, you can afford a slightly overpaid back up center.

Finally, Deron Williams is unlikely to opt out under almost any circumstances. The $18 million he will make from the Nets in 2011-12 will be a lot more than he can get in the next CBA. For him the best option may be to take the money and see how the Nets do in free agency and trades. The Williams trade was no more of a risk than the Jason Kidd trade in 2011. He too could have left after two years but didn't. And while Marbury may be nuts, he was at the time of the trade a 24 year old all-Star who had the highest PER of any NBA Net ever. Kidd? He had just pleaded guilty to domestic abuse.

TallmanNYC
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Yeah, if Williams stays and

Yeah, if Williams stays and Lopez continues to develop (and he doesn't have to go far, just get to 20 pts and 8 rebounds), there will be serious buzz around the Nets when they open in Brooklyn in 2012. I suspect the new collective bargaining agreement will make it harder for players to leave franchises, so the Nets will have some sort of advantage. Now if the Knicks can offer Williams a max contract, of course he will join them to play with Melo and Stoud. But CP3 seems to have the inside track for that position and I'm pretty sure Melo will push for his boy over Williams.

By the way, I've got an appointment to swing by a Nets sales office in a few weeks. They will try to talk me into some season ticket or corporate box thing which I don't have the money to do. But if they want to give me a full sales pitch and a chance learn all about the stadium, I'm okay with that. And if they have smaller weekend ticket packages, I might buy one of those. I will write up a post to tell you my impressions. Heck, there is no season this year to talk about so might as well talk about future stadiums.

briankeating
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The Nets should be on the rise and with some basketball knowledge in the front office they should be doing a lot better real soon and Lopez is certainly still more of a positive than a negative, and the Nets have to hope last year was merely a fluke..

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