AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Speaking to a scout the other day, he said the Nets had the best draft on any team last year. Overall, they had a pretty underrated offseason.
But, this year, it has to be better.
The Nets don’t have as many draft picks or tools in free agency. But, they may have more from the standpoint of good, young, relatively low-priced talent and expiring contracts.
First, it appears they did have the best draft, getting Brook Lopez, Ryan Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts. The three combined to score 52 points in the Nets’ 100-93 loss to Detroit on Friday night.
The only team that came close to having a draft like the Nets was the Miami Heat, which got Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. That duo may prove to be better in the long run, although Lopez looks like a franchise center.
The Nets only have one pick this season, so they have to use it wisely. They’re tied for the NBA’s 10th-worst record. They have three games to better or worsen that, depending on which side of the fence you sit.
Unless they win the Lottery, expect them to try and put together a package to move up for Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, the consensus No. 1 pick. The Nets and many other teams, that is.
Get Griffin and put him next to Lopez, and you’re set for years. The Nets would have two inside forces and, in Griffin, a fierce rebounding power forward, which they need. But, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves.
Teams make the most change via trades or free agency, and that’s where the Nets are expected to be the most active.
They only have the mid-level exception and chances are they won’t be allowed to use all of it. They also have a $1.2 million trade exception from the Marcus Williams deal that they have until July 22 to use.
Last year, the Nets used part of their midlevel, their bi-annual exception and trade exception on Eduardo Najera, Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling. Hayes and Dooling wound up being excellent pickups.
Nets president Rod Thorn and GM Kiki Vandeweghe have to make similar moves. Find good players at low costs — which is what most teams will try to do. Everyone wants to trim money to be in position for the summer of 2010 when LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire are free.
This summer, there isn’t a great crop of free agents, aside from Kobe Bryant — if he opts out — Carlos Boozer and Lamar Odom. You’re not getting any of them. Shawn Marion is an interesting name considering he’s a Dan Fegan client, of which the Nets already have some.
All of that said, look for the Nets to make trades.
They made one big one last summer, dealing Richard Jefferson for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. That move didn’t work out that well this season and was the only thing that kept the Nets from having a great summer of 2008.
Management can make up for it this summer.
Simmons, Trenton Hassell, Josh Boone, Sean Williams, Yi, Douglas-Roberts, Anderson — basically everyone but Harris, Dooling, Najera and Vince Carter — could have expiring contracts next season, so some of them could draw interest.
Then there’s the matter of coach Lawrence Frank. He could be coaching his final three games or could be brought back to finish out his contract.
From a financial standpoint, it makes sense for the Nets, who are losing millions, to keep Frank. But, a decision has to be made right away because there are good coaches available that may be scooped up.
If a coaching move is made, that will have a huge bearing on the type of team the Nets have and players they pursue.
The Nets gave their fans hope by hanging around the playoff race this season. Just hanging around won’t be good enough next year. So, this has to be a better offseason than last year. Forget about 2010.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).