State of the Celtics Rebuild: Draft of Trade?

As with before, I've been working on my writing and came at it with another piece on the Celtics. I found this one interesting because I started it before the trade deadline in January, forgot to finish, and picked it back up in May after all the fireworks were over.

Celtics Rebuild (January 2017)

With the recent success of the current Celtics team, its hard to resist doubling down on this roster and cashing in and consolidating our young assets for 1 or 2 win now type players. Lets pause for a second, though, and evaluate. How do we skate where the puck is going?

If the new CBA hints at anything, we may be nearing the end of the super team era. It won’t go away completely, (where is the fun in that?) but the days where Durant and Lebron are courted for years leading up their free agency will soon be beyond us. The Celtics turning a war chest of prospects into KG and Ray Allen in 2007 and winning the title that same year gave way to teams like the 2013 Heat, the 2015 Cavs, and the 2017 Warriors. As much as rival fanbases may hate it, these teams will go down in history as juggernauts without any debate. 

Now, embedded in that rundown is a great deal of generosity toward some current and former GMs. Not every “superteam” has enjoyed the success those 4 teams enjoyed. Among those success stories, we’ve also witnessed the Billups-Melo-Chandler Knicks Big 3, the Nash-Kobe-Gasol-Dwight Lakers Big 4, and the D-Will-Joe Johnson-Paul Pierce-Andrei Kirilenko-KG Big Mistake. This tactic has not only jumped the shark, its gone full 2017 Bulls. 

Super teams have worked before, but aren’t automatic- and they have short shelf lives. This Celtics team has been regularly deemed “one piece away.” You know who has always been one piece away? The Clippers. The Clippers have managed to develop Deandre Jordan into a Top 5 center and they are still in roughly the same place as the day they traded for Chris Paul. 

We’ve kind of fallen into serious playoff contention because of 2 trades turning out better than expected.

Celtics Trade:
Rajón Rondo
Dwight Powell
Celtics Receive:
Suns 2016 2nd round pick, Timberwolves 2017 2nd round pick (for Brandan Wright)
Jameer Nelson
Demetrius Jackson
Jae Crowder
Guershon Yabusele

—>Suns 2nd round pick was packaged with a 2nd round pick from the Gerald Wallace deal to acquire the 2019 Memphis 1st round draft pick

Celtics Trade:
Marcus Thornton
Cavs 1st round pick (Skal Labissiere)
Celtics Receive:
Isaiah Thomas

To sum it up, the Celts flipped Rondo & Jeff Green, the core of a middling team for IT4, Crowder, Jerebko, the core of a playoff hopeful.

And then theres the picks. So far they’ve netted Yabusele and Jackson, two future rotation players, with 2 more second rounders due in 2017 and the Memphis first in 2019. 

All of this coming from the activity of one years trade deadline. Thats straight up intoxicating. They remodeled the team without giving up valued pieces Bradley and Smart.

The moves they’ve made since then:

  • Sign Amir Johnson
  • Sign Evan Turner
  • Sign Gerald Green
  • Sign Al Horford
  • Get a meeting with Kevin Durant

Horford was a huge validation of this team’s ability to compete, but Turner is already gone and Johnson & Green are both expiring contracts with age taking a toll on their games. The addition of Horford has led to some confusing moments. We added an All-Star caliber big man who fits Brad Steven’s system like a glove, but we pose little threat as a championship contender. We have arguably 4 players in their respective prime years, but we are (so far) unwilling to part with young prospects.

Bluntly, The contracts lined up perfectly for a win now team headlined by Durant, but that didn’t happen. And now we are left with a front office still figuring out where we go from here and if we just ride it out and run it back next summer.

The cap will be there, but the pieces won’t necessarily be. Once Amir, Jerebko, and Gerald Green hit UFA, we waive Zeller’s non guaranteed 2nd year- the only players left on the Celts roster that they haven’t drafted are IT, Crowder, and Horford. And in order to sign a player like Durant, with Horford now on the books, all of those guys above are gone. 

We likely replace Amir with Zizic, and the defense may suffer, but the rebounding and PnR upside probably evens that out. We could replace Jerebko with Yabusele, but we theres no indication he won’t be stashed for a 2nd year, which paints enough of the picture there. Adding another max contract or not, the team, and even the rotation, is slated to get younger and a little less experienced.

This is the least invasive plan for the future of the Celts and the one that seems most likely. You hope that you use it wisely enough before you are forced to cap yourself out extending guys like IT, Bradley and Smart. 

This disregards the wishes of the Win-Now crowd for the most part. You have high upside pieces like Jaylen Brown, Smart, the 2017 & 2018 Brooklyn picks that in some combination could hypothetically net the Celts another proven All-Star in a trade. The difficult part of trading these guys, is how do you trade for an All-Star without filling up your cap space for free agency in the summer. You don’t want to trade too much talent, but if you trade all of your expiring contracts, you are, again, capping yourself out. 

In most scenarios, there’s no avoiding being capped out by the end of next season.

Why not use the draft picks? Why not have 2 lottery picks at 5M cap hold over 4 years? By the 2019-2020 season, you’ll be paying 15M for 3 lottery picks- one with 4 years of experience, one with 3, one with 2. You aren’t talking rookie level production at that figure. Smart, by the end of his 2nd season as the 6th pick, already asserted himself as the teams most versatile defender on a team with Crowder and Bradley, the former with the ability to comfortably guard three positions and the latter with 1st Team All-Defense honors to his name.  

There’s an all too apparent lack of trust in the draft. We landed Pierce in the draft, we were able to build around him enough to get us to the conference finals. We landed Rondo in the draft and we are still benefitting from his value. We landed Bradley in the draft and he has been the only enduring part of the Celtics identity since the Big 3.

Continuation (May 2017)

We may never hit on any of our picks like we did with these guys, but for all the flack Ainge catches on his draft record, he has a clear history of drafting proven NBA rotation players. Since 2003, when he was hired, (and ending at 2014 to avoid snap judgments) Ainge has hit on the following with 1st round picks:

  • Dahntay Jones
  • Tony Allen
  • Delonte West
  • Al Jefferson
  • Randy Foye
  • Jeff Green
  • Avery Bradley
  • Jared Sullinger
  • Kelly Olynyk
  • Marcus Smart

With the 1st round misses being:

  • Hometown hero Troy Bell
  • Gerald Green
  • JR Giddens
  • Marshon Brooks
  • Fab Melo
  • James Young

Most of these guys were late first rounders, and if you look at Ainge’s 2nd round history, you’ll see thats where he (and many others) miss like nobody’s business. In fact, lets make some corrections. Giddens was the last pick of the first round, so he doesn’t count. Brooks was traded away. And we will mercifully excuse the Fab Melo pick because it was clearly a desperate attempt to get an aging contender some front court help. When you need to choose between Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins, or Brandon Bass off the bench, its time to throw shit at the wall and see what sticks.

So the corrected list goes like this:

  • Troy Bell
  • Gerald Green
  • James Young

Look at those odds and tell me you don’t want Ainge to pick with our potential 6 first round picks in the next 3 years. If he only hits on half of them, you have 5 rotation players on the roster on rookie scale deals and only one, Jaylen Brown, due a raise in 2020- a year where the Celts clear 30 mil in cap from Horford’s contract alone. All this with a cap rising to 102 in 2018.

Think that over. 5 rotation players making an absolute max of 6 mil per year in an era where Miles Plumlee makes 12 mil per year to do nothing but high-fives teammates during timeouts and wear cardigans. That’s almost as good of a deal as having a two-time All Star at 6 mil per.

I am, however, not blind to the fact that the clock will eventually strike 12 on this team. We can’t float by on theoreticals and promises of low cap holds forever. We have one more full season until some very large, very consequential decisions are made and that likely won’t be enough time to evaluate return we’ll get from the young talent. 

The real play here is always having the flexibility to back out of something thats not working. Lets call that the Anti-Clippers. 

(You remember them from earlier in the article, right? If you look hard enough, you can find three All-Stars among the band-aids, but no serious chance of contending. They were so busy grasping at straws, they were forced to pay Austin Rivers 12 mil over three years simply because they didn’t have Bird Rights on anybody else.)

If you look at the current Celtics roster, you’ll see that everything orbits around this offseason. It’s the same exact play as last offseason, blown to larger proportions: overachieve as a team, add proven talent in free agency, add young talent in the draft, repeat. 

Over the past two years, the front office has successfully made it a no-brainer for impending free agents to consider joining the team- it offers all the promise of playing with vets in their prime, with none of the roster lock-in that usually accompanies that opportunity. Now, the player decision making is out of their control, but just about everything else is well in hand. Even if they come up empty, they still have a convincing, albeit less sexy, direction to go in.

So let me repeat this for the win-now crowd, not just Celtics win-now, but for anyone that was standing at the gates of the Garden near the deadline, pitchfork in hand, screaming “how dare you not trade ‘fair value’ for Paul George?”

Look at the Clippers.

 The trades that you wanted- that would launch the Celts suddenly into contention- they have already happened. 

No Sleep 'Til the Brooklyn Picks: the Nets & Celtics Rebuilds

I've been actively trying to get better at writing lately, so I've decided to post some of the stuff I've written recently as personal motivation. I intend to eventually write about my design process and trends I'm seeing in the market, but, for now, I'll stick to writing what I feel comfortable with. If its one thing I'm know and am confident speaking about, its the Boston Celtics. Here is a piece I wrote after the Brooklyn Nets got off to a hot start at the beginning of the NBA season:

The Nets are better than most NBA fans gave them credit for and they are currently a lot better than most Celtics fans had hoped. For Celtics fans, you never want to actively root against a team that has a long road ahead of them. That’s something Celtics fans can empathize with: we spent a few seasons rooting for Kris Humphries and the ghost of Gerald Wallace. That was punishment enough, we didn’t need it rubbed in our collective face. 

But you can’t blame a team and its fans for wanting to maximize the returns of trading Celtics Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. And maximizing those returns, means keeping track on the state of the Nets and evaluating the best course of action. So, for the sake of Celtics fans sanity, whats up with these Nets and where are they going?

Its not a good look to see a Nets team that had 21 wins all of last year, rack up 4 wins in their first 9 games. Some of those coming without Jeremy Lin. Wins, however, like points scored, do not show an accurate measure of skill. They show a part of the story, absent of context.

So lets provide that context- who could the Nets be beating?

They beat a Pacers team that hasn’t won a road game so far. They also beat a Pistons team who is undefeated at Home, but is 1-5 on the road. Both of these games were at home at the Barclays Center. 

That Pistons team, by the way, is currently playing without Reggie Jackson. And judging by how aggressively they pursued Ish Smith on the first day of free agency, they know their biggest weakness as a team is when Jackson is off the floor. I think fans of every NBA team can agree that nobody wants to see Steve Blake running their offense for 20 minutes a night.

And where do you even start with the Pacers this year? They went for an addition by subtraction play, cutting Frank Vogel loose, letting Ian Mahinmi walk, and gently easing the kicking-and-screaming Paul George into small ball 4. Except they abandoned that plan before it even started, swapping the off-ball PG George Hill for the ball dominant Jeff Teague, signing the ball stopping Al Jefferson, and rounding it out by trading their first round pick for Thaddeus Young because they wanted to get “younger and faster.” Nobody denies that these guys are talented NBA players, but the Hornets, Hawks, and Nets were happy to unload each of them as had been well documented for months (even by Jeff Teague’s Instagram) leading up to the summer. 

Moving to Western Conference opponents, they beat a Timberwolves team at home that many expect to crack a spot in the tough Western Conference playoffs. But this is also a Timberwolves team that only had 29 wins and is still figuring it out under new coach Tom Thibodeau.

They did beat a team on the road: The Phoenix Suns. The same Phoenix Suns that made 2 draft picks in the lottery this summer. Dragon Bender and Marquese Chriss, both regarded as long term projects. This is a Suns team that tallied 23 wins last year- two more than the Nets won last year, so they technically are the better team. They definitely have better talent with guys like Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Jared Dudley, but Earl Watson has just been unable to put it all together in his time there; the Hornacek magic went out the door with Goran Dragic.

But what if all of these wins are good wins? Any time a team with a roster like the Nets wins a game, it shouldn’t be disrespected. They aren’t winning on talent, they are winning through grinding effort.

In the interest of this discussion, this could be the beginning of a team forming an identity around team basketball. Coach Kenny Atkinson has them playing a lot more disciplined than Hollins could ever get from them and this is almost a completely new team from last year. So if they pose a threat, the C’s Front Office should be prepared to sell this years pick before the value drops even lower.

If Marks & Atkinson want to pull an accelerated rebuild, they need a plan to take advantage of their core.

Its hard to argue them as a free agent destination for a while. With solid contributors like Lopez, Lin, and Booker all 28 years old and all in the midst of their primes paired with a promising prospect like Rondae Hollis Jefferson they start to make an interesting case.

But they bottom out after that. 

They are reminiscent of the early 2014 Celtics with Rondo, Jeff Green, and Avery Bradley being featured heavily and a promising prospect in Marcus Smart getting handfuls of minutes and showing flashes of elite defense. But that was a Celtics team that had a lot of trades ahead of them.

They have enough veteran pieces locked up and enough non-guaranteed and expiring contracts to quickly clear cap, but that flexibility is going to be put to the test by the Restricted Free Agency of Bojan Bogdanovic this offseason.

Bogdanovic isn’t going to make anything less than Miles Plumlee money on the Restricted Free Agency market, especially after the Evan Turner contract, and the cap continuing to rise this offseason. The guy is a starter that consistently shoots 38% from 3, is well above league average on corner 3s, and has shown improved ability to drive the lane and, more generally, be a threat off the dribble after a confidence boosting Olympic run. The Nets could be locked down to pay 3 years of anywhere between 12-18 mil a year to an aging scorer that already lacks foot speed. If they were going to commit to this, they have 2 years to build on a core of Lopez, Lin, Booker, Hollis Jefferson, and Bogdanovic before the clock strikes 12. They have hopes that some of their prospects would join that group (Whitehead, McCullough, Levert), but the only support this roster will be getting for a few years is going to come from free agency.

They could throw money at RFAs like Nerlens Noel or Otto Porter and promise them more wins than their previous team, possibly even try landing Alex Len, KCP, or Mirotic. Even go after an upside signing like Ian Clark; anything to inject some proven youth into the roster. But if I’m Noel, I’d think twice about signing up for another Sixers rollercoaster and I definitely don’t sign if they still have Lopez. 

Or they could go all in on Club 28s and pay Serge Ibaka for 3-4 years of his services. They could easily stomach whatever the going rate may be for the Congolese rim protector given the under market deals they have on Lin and Booker, and move the latter into the 6 spot. You take that home, add some broth, a potato- baby, you got yourself a playoff contender. 2017 may well be their year given the state of the Pacers, the ever-aging Bulls, the dumpster fire that is the Knicks, the malcontent of the Wizards, and hell- even the Hawks face some crucial personnel decisions next season. But if its one thing the Orlando Magic have proven, the formula isn’t as simple as add a dash of Ibaka and watch the wins roll in.

Lets be real, without a major trade, the best they could hope for with a move like that is to sell a bit more tickets, grab a 7 seed, and hope they can sell some of their pieces before they drive down the value of their 2019 pick.

I’ve yet to mention Durant, Millsap, Hayward, Griffin, Cousins, and even Derrick Favors. But, why would I? With the exception of Cousins, all of these guys are playing for playoff contenders that have their Bird Rights. Its not like the Sixers are banking on signing big names like these. And even if they were, at least they have a promising young core. It’s best to not worry yourself about this possibility. They are fighting an uphill battle on this front, and that is before bringing up Deron Williams $5.5 million cap hold not coming off the books until 2019. 

Even though there may be a low ceiling on their short term future, they definitely aren’t laying down until the 2019 pick, but why maneuver your way to a core that’ll keep you out of the lottery and out of the Conference Finals? Especially when every member of that supposed core will be 30 in 2019. Lopez and Booker will be UFAs and Lin will probably opt out, so why sign another vet for anything more than 2 years this summer? Ultimately, what the Brooklyn Front Office decides to do with Bogdanovic will be a key indicator of which direction they intend to move. 

Are the Nets a threat to the Celtics draft picks? Yes, in the short term as it currently stands, absolutely yes. But thats if they ride out their contracts and trade no one in the next two seasons, which would be unconventional at best.

The only players the Nets have under contract for the 18-19 season are Hollis-Jefferson, McCullough, Whitehead, and Levert. They are bound to add players to that list over the next two offseasons, but thats not a group of guys that plan on contending. So lets go over what they might do with all the expiring contracts they have on the horizon.

Luis Scola and Randy Foye are UFAs at the end of this season. They are currently paying peanuts for them, and, given their role increase, they may not be able to, or even be keen on, retaining them. Now, teams probably aren’t lining up for these guys, but Foye was able to net Denver 2 second round picks from OKC last year. If a contender is looking for bench depth with playoff experience, these guys could easily net Brooklyn a single 2nd round pick and give them more bites at the apple than they currently have.

Sean Kilpatrick. He doesn’t expire until 2018, but his 2017 year is non-guaranteed. His contract and his production so far should be the most concerning thing about Marks skill as a GM. Last season, he needed 2 10-Day contracts to claim his roster spot. This season, he’s 2nd on the team in points scored and minutes played. He is outperforming any Sean Kilpatrick in history and one of them was probably an extra on the set of “Rudy.” He’s a feel good story, but he’s already 26 and will be 29 when the rebuild “officially” begins at the 2019 draft. Everybody loved when Sundiata Gaines won a few games for the Jazz in 2010, but competing fanbases never lost sleep about him being a franchise cornerstone.

Trevor Booker. He is under contract for 2 more years, but you wouldn’t know it since he’s playing like its a contract year. The dude is playing more inspired basketball than anybody in Brooklyn has seen since…uhh…I don’t actually know- Playoff Paul Pierce? Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson? Thats as depressing for Nets fans as it is impressive for Trevor Booker. Well done, sir. 

Anyway, the guy is leading the team in Rebounds, Steals, and Win Shares while being 3rd in minutes. All of that at 9 mil a year. They could easily wait until the deadline and get a late 1st round pick from a contender and they would be dumb not to. Turning that down is defensible, but dumb nonetheless. 

Justin Hamilton. You’ve been in the league for 4 years, you’ve been on 6 teams, yet you’ve managed to go unnoticed until now. You look like you belong in a Super Cuts commercial more than you belong in the NBA. Yet you are shooting 53% from the field and 47% from 3 at 24 minutes per game. What has gotten into you? Is it the unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks for $6.99 at the Olive Garden? This dude is locked up at 3mil per until 18-19 and at 26, if he can keep this up, I don’t think the Nets even trade him. Ryan Anderson is making 20mil a year doing the same old tall white guy things. Not sure if other teams would be interested, they should be if the numbers hang around that area at the deadline, but you can’t fault Brooklyn for wanting to see what they have. Then again, you could absolutely fault them for not pulling the trigger on a Jordan Crawford type cash in. The guy will be 29 when the Nets can keep their own first round pick in 2019 and he expires the same year as Lopez, Booker, Lin’s player option, Kilpatrick, and Harris. Either way, give credit to Marks for this pick up. He was the second guy he signed, and thats high praise for a guy who bounced around the D-League before finding his game in Spain last year. 

Jeremy Lin. Every team should want Jermey Lin at $12 mil a year. Unless you are the Celtics and have 3 ball handlers in Thomas, Smart and Rozier for $11 mil a year, but thats neither here nor there…well, maybe its there, but we are here now. Even though Lin is a high usage player, he firmly proved he can function in a two guard offense in Charlotte last year.  He can run an offense efficiently and get to the line at will. Although he has a savory contract, he’s got a complicated market value with regards to a trade. 

He’s a proven commodity, but his age (28) is not something young teams want to build around. Most contenders already have a better point than him and may be unwilling to part with the package required to land him. 

The Spurs could probably pull it off with Dejounte Murray and 1, maybe 2 first round picks. 

The Nuggets always seem to have more talent than they can put on the floor, but not enough to win 40 games. They could certainly put a package together and immediately upgrade over Mudiay, without even having to give up Mudiay. 

It all depends on what the Nets want to do. They have all of the options and all of the leverage here (which is the biggest compliment they’ve received since 2014). They have to wait until December 15th for anything involving Lin, but anything beyond that and they may start to see diminishing returns. With his player option, he would be an attractive, low-risk rental at next years deadline that could net them a late-first round pick, at least.

Then there’s Brook Lopez. For all we’ve talked about Bogdanovic being the great indicator of Sean Mark’s plans for this team, Brook Lopez is the ultimate domino. For the past few years, Brook Lopez has been nothing but Chekhov’s Gun. He was either wasting away on the bench in an oversized suit or sharing the floor with players that didn’t deserve to be out there. This season, it seems that may be a thing of the past. When Lopez is on the floor, this team is competitive (which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s the teams best player and they pay him $20 million a year to make the team competitive). They don’t blow teams out, but they surely aren’t the Brooklyn Nets everybody remembers. This season, he’s among the Top 40 players in the league in both Player Efficiency Rating (PER, 21.94) and Estimated Wins Added (EWA, 1.2) and he’s added a 3-point shot to his repertoire to avoid coming down with Greg Monroe syndrome. He is a player every team should want regardless of their current talent.

That’s a good thing for the Nets. They’ve recently been the punching bag of the league, but Lopez has kept their phone lines active, which could not be more important for a team without draft picks and desirableprospects. 

Let that sink in for a little bit. The Nets won’t fall prey to any will they, won’t they action. They don’t mind notching a few more wins while the market heats up. And they definitely won’t trade him until a market price is set, which they themselves can do. 

Right now the Nets could be two things, a scrappy team of proud veterans that won’t go down without a fight OR a walking, talking, basketball-playing yard sale. 

The best part for Celtics fans, is that, until the trade deadline passes. This team is a yard sale. Any piece could go. We’ve seen this before. A team that doesn’t plan on competing trades Courtney Lee for Jerryd Bayless and 2 second round picks. They take on Joel Anthony’s salary for 2 second round picks. They trade Jeff Green for Tayshaun Prince and a 1st rounder and then flip Tayshaun Prince for Jerebko and Datome. You get the point.

Marks is sure to make some good moves. He isn’t going to force a deal if it isn’t there. His first moves were to underpay for Lin, who was arguably the most complete guard on the market save for the 29 year old Mike Conley. And sign Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson to offer sheets, effectively recouping draft picks lost under Billy King. I won’t comment on Tyler Johnson since I don’t know enough about him, but the Crabbe signing would’ve been a clear win. Crabbe is continuing to grow as a player that can catch and shoot from anywhere and can run pick and roll when needed. Had Portland not matched, the Nets could afford to let Bogdanovic walk and not miss a beat.

One signal of where Marks hoped to create value where there was none was by scooping Trevor Booker up early, late at night during the first day of free agency. Booker was a valued role player for a Jazz team that had a successful run, but suffered one too many injuries to make the playoffs. He was tough to let go, but when you’re faced with choosing 2 out of the 3 of Favors, Gobert, and Hayward the next offseason, letting Booker walk becomes a bit easier. 

He then moved to inking deals with validated role players Randy Foye, Greveis Vasquez, and Luis Scola. Scola just having started at the 4 for the 2 seed Raptors the prior year, Foye a bench scorer who was sought after at the deadline, and Vasquez, a sixth man for the Raptors who was then traded to Milwaukee for a 1st round pick.

Vasquez is the key here. Marks went out and signed him for to a 1 year $5 million deal, the highest cap hold for anybody coming off the books in the next two years. When Vasquez re-aggravated an ankle injury that sidelined him last year, they waived him that same day. You don’t just burn $5 million like that if you think that player is going to help you win. You burn $5 million dollars when you’re frustrated that nobody will want to deal for him at the deadline. Market interest dissipated after a nagging injury and the Nets quickly grasped at straws for another long shot prospect to develop. 

The remainder of signings Foye, Scola, and Anthony Bennett are now the only options available from the Brooklyn Rent-a-Center. The only problem is that half the teams in the league have tried the Anthony Bennett reclamation project and who would ever deal for a 36 year old piece of Euro-trash like Luis Scola?

Let’s make this perfectly clear: The Nets Front Office is not winning games simply to spite the Celtics. As much as its may look like that from the players and as much Brooklyn fans want to believe in that narrative, that’s not how a GM keeps his job. The most reasonable achievement for them this season is to stop the bleeding from last season, restore short term faith in the organization as a whole, and try to win some deals. Given the current chatter among Nets fans, they are making good on that plan so far.

Fair warning: trying to rebuild the team in a single offseason would be the single most Nets thing to do. They didn’t hire a new GM and a new coach so they could keep the streak of ineptitude going. They are here to make smart deals and recover the painful amount of draft picks they lost. The wins are just an early sign that most new GMs hired post-Hinkie will never go full Process. Thats a headache the league is sure to deal with if it pops up again. 

If I’m the Nets, I don’t think about trading Brook Lopez until I’ve got a first round pick in exchange for Trevor Booker. I need to restock the cupboard and turn 1 and 2 year veteran deals into first and second round picks; and the only way I do that is by dangling the possibility of a bigger fish. 

The Nets don’t have to rush into this. They can posture as much as they want. The more games the win, the more leverage they gain. But the deadline looms for rentals and the more they wait, the more this Presidents Day sale turns into a liquidation sale.