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Brook Lopez Should Shoot Threes

Following their fairly dramatic overhaul this summer, the Brooklyn Nets roster seems to be a few cuts away from being finalized. As it’s currently assembled, one major flaw stands out – the lack of serviceable three-point shooting. No player on the Nets shot 36% from deep (the league average) on at least 100 attempts last season and only the aging Joe Johnson, Wayne Ellington and erratic Jarrett Jack have done it in the past three years. Last year, Brooklyn ranked among the bottom ten teams in three-point percentage and attempt rate in a league where the three-pointer plays a key role in any good offense. Although the Nets shot better from three following the Thaddeus Young deal, they’ve lost some key shooters heading into this season and don’t have room to bring in new ones. A solution? Have their best offensive player shoot threes.

Brook Lopez has attempted 17 threes in his seven-year NBA career, making just one of them, so the idea seems foolhardy off the bat. But Lopez certainly has the range, and given the green light could prove that with a bigger sample size. Lopez has shot a good number of long twos over his career, so delving into those numbers could give us an idea of how he would fare shooting from three. Last season, Lopez shot 41.7% from 20-24 feet on 60 attempts. In 2013, he connected on 36.8% on 38 of those attempts and did the same in 2011. If teams choose to chase Lopez off the arc and make him create off the dribble, Lopez would still be able to thrive. Lopez shot just shy of 42% on off-the-dribble attempts from 8-24 feet last season, per NBASavant. He also got whistled for only five charges.

There’s also the offensive rebounding factor, which is a trade-off for bigs stepping out behind the arc. This isn’t much of a factor though, given the Nets are already a poor offensive rebounding team (23rd in the league) and the idea is Lopez would be taking a step back on his long twos, not shooting more jumpers in general.

The question quickly goes from “can he” to “will he” after consuming these numbers, Lopez’s fundamentally sound stroke and that according to TheBrooklynGame’s Devin Kharpertian he knocks them down in warm-ups. Mike Mazzeo of ESPN wrote a story last month suggesting Lopez could be working on adding the three-point shot to his game, but it doesn’t include any assurances from Lopez or his coaches. Here’s some video of Lopez working on his threes in a recent workout with the Nets:

Heading into his prime, Lopez is a throwback to old school NBA centers that hasn’t needed to adapt to this point. But with his team shallow in the three-point shooting department, now may be the time to add a new era big man’s skill to his game.

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Nets trade Steve Blake, Waive Cory Jefferson

More Nets news on the way, as Brooklyn has waived Cory Jefferson (as announced by the Nets earlier today) and traded Steve Blake for Quincy Miller, who will also be cut, according to RealGM’s Shams Charania.

This brings Brooklyn’s roster count down to 16 as Summer League continues. Blake was acquired in the Rondae Hollis-Jefferson trade. Jefferson averaged 3.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in 10.6 minutes a night last season.

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Nets Sign Andrea Bargnani for No Good Reason

The Nets announced today that they have signed Andrea Bargnani to a two-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, with a player’s option for the latter season. This move won’t kill the Nets, but it is 100% indisputably absurd, given Bargnani’s lack of skill, upside, durability, fit and basketball I.Q. among many other things. 99 out of every 100 days I will be reasoned, search for nuance, explore every side to every story. That one day is when the team I cover signs Andrea Bargnani against all that is logical and sacred in this beautiful game.

Clearly, I’m not happy. I made that evident when I first learned about the news and took to Twitter. But because I’m proud to say this blog carries with it strong analysis and owes it’s readers in-depth coverage, I’m going to share both my hasty (though accurate) all-caps tweets and an explanation of why I said those things. Let’s begin.

The Nets were having a really good offseason, at least considering where they stood coming in. Billy King got rid of Deron Williams’s contract and crafted a much younger and more athletic roster. This is especially the case in the frontcourt, where through the draft the Nets picked up uber-athletic power forwards Cory Jefferson and Chris McCullough in back-to-back years. Brooklyn has also taken fliers on Thomas Robinson and Willie Reed, two relatively young big men with upside.

Despite all this, they signed Andrea Bargnani. Let’s continue.

Old? Bargnani is going to be 30 once the season begins.

Injury-prone? He hasn’t played a 70-game season since 2010. He played in 29 games last season, 42 the year before.

Can’t jump over a credit card? Okay, maybe this one was harsh.

Seriously, though, Bargnani moves like he’s in quicksand and doesn’t have much verticality in him anymore.

Lionel Hollins likes defense. Bargnani doesn’t play any. As for taking minutes from young bigs, well, the Nets have trailed behind nearly every other team in the “young, developing player” department for years now. After collecting a great deal of them this summer and possibly moving towards rebuilding, it’s really not the time to be giving a washed up veteran minutes that could be going to raw, young big men that need development through in-game experience.

Bargnani’s not a good basketball player. Maybe two years ago it made a little sense for Knicks fans to be saying that he could bounce back from some down years, but it’s become the norm now.

He’s averaged over two assists per-36 minutes just twice in his career. His vision is atrocious and he simply doesn’t look to move the ball. His rebounding rate has eclipsed 10% three times in his career, he’s not going to help on the glass at all. He’s primarily a “floor spacer” on offense, but three-pointers have made up under 25% of his field goal attempts in four of the last five seasons. When he shoots from deep, he connects on 30.2% of them over the past four seasons. Half the time he can’t even threaten defenses with the long ball because he stands around in the long-two area. His usage rate over the past four seasons, and throughout his career, is consistent with that of a team’s secondary scorer. Defensively, he doesn’t move, can’t do much when he gets to his spots and doesn’t communicate. The only good he’s done on the defensive end is allow centers to try and post him up and stand his ground pretty well.

The. Freaking. Kings.

Silver linings, folks.

We went over that.

More positives!

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention his +/- numbers. The Knicks were outscored by 17.5 points per 100 possessions with Bargnani on the floor last season. They only got outscored by 8.2 with him on the bench. No other Knick had worse numbers. Note, this is the team that won 17 games last season and consistently played: Travis Wear, Lou Amundson, Ricky Ledo, Cole Aldrich, Jason Smith, Lance Thomas, Quincy Acy… you get the picture.

His 2014 numbers weren’t much better. Opponents had a 6.2-point leg up on the Knicks per 100 possessions with Bargnani in the game. The Knicks had the advantage by 1.4 points with him out. Bargnani wasn’t the absolute worst in this occasion, but still at the very bottom alongside Shannon Brown and Beno Udrih.

A partially guaranteed one-year deal would have made this easier to swallow.

That would have made sense.

I think we should wrap up there. Again, this won’t destroy Brooklyn’s season so long as Hollins doesn’t play him 30 20 10 any minutes a night. But boy is this a humbling way for King to end an otherwise positive and fruitful offseason.

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Deron Williams Agrees to Contract Buyout

The Brooklyn Nets and point guard Deron Williams have agreed to terms on a contract buyout, as reported by David Aldridge. The 31-year old Williams, who signed his five-year, $99 million dollar deal in 2012, will receive $27.5 million from the Nets organization in his release (of the $43.1 million remaining over the next two seasons) and then hit waivers, where he’s expected to sign for $10 million over two years with the Dallas Mavericks.

Leaks of a potential buyout between Williams and the Nets filtered out late Thursday night, with Stein’s sources attributing the activity to the Dallas Mavericks’ failed pursuit of DeAndre Jordan in free agency and the organization’s desire to sign Williams with their unexpected cap space after courting him in the summer of 2012. Williams appeared in 68 games for the Nets in 2014-15 and averaged 13 points, 6.6 assists, and 3.1 rebounds in 31.1 minutes per game, shooting a career-low 38.7% from the field, and reportedly clashed with head coach Lionel Hollins last season during a meeting around the All-Star break.

Deron Williams’s Nets career was affected early by ankle issues which limited him on the court and sapped him of his former athleticism and lift on his jumper, but he was still capable of the occasional throwback performance, like with his 35-point outburst against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series. Off the court, Williams struggled to adjust to a leadership role with the team and as the face of the organization’s move to Brooklyn, which former teammate Paul Pierce addressed this postseason. He should be expected to compete for a starting role with the Dallas Mavericks next season, while the Nets will fill his point guard position through their numerous internal options.

Losing Williams’s on-court production and shooting ability will be a loss for a Brooklyn Nets team that hopes to return to the postseason again next season, but the financial savings on Deron’s deal will help the organization in the long-term by trimming their luxury tax commitments and removing a near-max salary slot from next season’s payroll. Brooklyn general manager Billy King will then utilize the NBA’s stretch provision to spread Williams’s remaining $27.5 million over the next five years, effectively eliminating his luxury tax anxieties and any potential Joe Johnson trade rumors going forward.

Deron Williams’s Brooklyn Nets career spanned five years and 277 games, and he ranks fourth in assists (2,078) in the franchise’s history.

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Brooklyn has Five Point Guards, and That’s Okay

In a quietly impressive offseason, the Brooklyn Nets raised eyebrows by amassing a total of four point guards as their final roster nears completion. Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack are returning from last year, Steve Blake was picked up in Brooklyn’s draft day deal with Portland, Shane Larkin was signed to a two-year deal and Ryan Boatright was signed to a partially-guaranteed deal.

Five is an unusually high number of players for one position on an NBA roster. With 15 available spots and qualities like balance and diversity in roster creation considered pivotal, it’s easy to see why some are skeptical of this impartial construction. But it’s really no big deal, in fact it’ll likely bear out to be a positive.

Last season, the Nets came into the season with four point guards, but just two of them offered NBA-level production. Outside of Williams and Jack were Darius Morris, who has played for five NBA and two D-League teams in his four years of pro ball and Jorge Gutierrez, who played sparingly before being traded to the Bucks early in the season.

This wouldn’t be an issue if these two stayed relegated to the pine, but beyond the scope of anticipation, the Nets saw Williams sit out games due to soreness, only to come back, struggle and get seated for a lengthier stretch thanks to a rib injury. In his absence, Jack was forced to play a host of 38-minute plus games with Morris has his backup. The Nets were outscored by double-digits per 100 possessions with Morris on the floor, yet he was forced to play over 12 minutes a night in January.

Williams is 31 now, hasn’t played an 80-game season since 2008 and has only played one 70-game season in the past five. Jack has remained relatively injury-free, but is turning 32 in October. Coach Hollins could try to prevent future injuries by resting his elder statesmen, but he doesn’t believe in the practice. So naturally, signing more point guards (that can hold their own) is a smart way of avoiding this issue down the line. And so GM Billy King did, with Blake still capable as a third guard despite his age and Larkin showing promising signs with the Knicks last year. Boatright’s a project, a low-risk high-reward acquisition, so short of a massive, unprecedented injury plague or Linsanity-esque surprise he likely won’t be a factor.

Insurance isn’t the only reason obtaining these points guards makes sense. Last season, Hollins experimented heavily with a Williams-Jack backcourt. Dual point guard pairings have become increasingly popular in today’s NBA, so watching Hollins try out a modern basketball development was a pleasant sight. What wasn’t pleasant was the combo’s performance. Brooklyn was outscored by 10.3 points per 100 possessions in 661 minutes when Williams and Jack shared the floor.

Hopefully this doesn’t dissuade Hollins from trying out more two point guard lineups, because they can be effective with the right personnel. And the Nets might just have that. Larkin is quick enough to match strides with the many blistering ones the league has to offer, which can’t be said of Williams, Jack or Blake. Pair him with Williams or Blake – someone who can spread the floor and hide defensively on a shooting guard – and we could see positive results.

The Nets still have holes at other positions, namely the backup five spot, but one trade can easily amend those. At the end of the day, if Brooklyn’s worst problem this summer was stockpiling one too many players at a position held back by injury and poor play, as opposed to gifting assets in a delusional pursuit of a championship, there shouldn’t be much opposition to chalking this up as a win.

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Summer League Shorthand: Nets vs. Heat

The first win of the summer for the Brooklyn Nets was snatched away by a game-winning layup by Miami’s Tyler Johnson with 0.4 seconds left. The winless summer league squad showed an expected lack of cohesion, but there were some interesting moments for Brooklyn fans to take note of.

  • Earl Clark continues to struggle as the veteran on the roster. After playing 14 minutes yesterday, Clark lost his starting spot and had just two field goals against Miami.
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson showed off some unexpected offense with a few mid-range jumpers and some ball handling off pick-and-roll situations. As the 23rd pick, we knew that he was an elite defender, but the shooting and confidence on the ball bodes well for his chances in the NBA.
  • The summer is usually a tough time for frontcourt players to stand out in front of scouts and coaches because of the fast pace, but the Nets were outplayed down low. Miami’s Willie Reed scored 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting while also outperforming Brooklyn’s bigs on the boards.
  • Jonathon Simmons, a swingman from the Austin Spurs in the D-League, earned the most minutes for the Nets, despite not playing on Saturday or starting against Miami. He scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds, but his moments of athleticism were what stood out, including a devastating block on Justice Winslow that was unfortunately ruled a foul.
  • Ryan Boatright can score in bunches. The Connecticut rookie lit up the Heat to start the third quarter with three straight 3-pointers to get the Nets back in the game. He finished with 23 points on 50 percent shooting while also picking up four assists. As one of the only players on the team that can create his own shot, he could continue to impress.
  • Outside of Boatright, the Nets have struggled to score in the halfcourt. Without a pass-first point guard or multiple shot creators, this summer’s team has relied on hustle and athleticism to stay in games so far.

The Nets continue the Orlando Summer League when they take on the Hornets on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.

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Nets Sign Thomas Robinson and Shane Larkin

As rumors fly about Lamarcus Aldridge and Dwyane Wade agrees to a contract with the Heat the Nets have made two quietly under the radar move. The first reported deal of the day for the Nets was a two year 3.0 million contract for Shane Larkin with a 1.5 million player option after year one. Next came Thomas Robinson who signed for a similar two-year deal with a player option on year two, with his contract coming in at a reported 2.2 million total. It seems that the Nets are using the Mid-Level to sign both of these guys, but it’s possible one is being signed to the Mini-Mid Level; either way this adds (slightly) to the Nets already large tax bill.

Former 18th overall pick Larkin is still only 22, and hopefully he can earn minutes as another backup point guard if the Nets want to move Jarrett Jack off the ball, or just avoid playing Jarrett Jack. The Nets had tried to sign Robinson in midseason before Philly swooped in at the last minute, and after only three seasons in the league the Nets are hoping to resuscitate the former 5th overall picks value. Both of these moves are good low-risk moves for the Nets organization, and continues this off-season’s trend of adding youth and athleticism.

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Report: Nets Re-Sign Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young

According to, who else, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nets were one of the first teams to strike in free agency, re-signing big men Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young.

Lopez will earn $60 million over three years, with the third year reportedly a player option. The deal also ”includes some protections for the Nets should a recurrence of Lopez’s past foot issues sideline him again,” according to Woj. Good news there.

Young will earn $50 million over four years, or $12.5 million per, which at this point looks like a steal given what he did for Brooklyn this season and the direction the cap is headed in. Spoiler: up. Big time.

Keep updated through Brooklyn’s free agent dealings at BK’s Finest.

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A Longer Look at the Nets Draft

This might be the last time for a few years, but the Nets actually managed to walk away from this years draft with three new prospects, two of which were first-rounders. Analysis of the trade can be found elsewhere, this is strictly an introduction to and overview of each prospect, along with analysis of their potential fit on the Nets.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: Hollis-Jefferson is one of the premier defensive prospects in this class, and arguably the best wing defender of the whole group. Virtually everything you would want from a defender, Hollis-Jefferson has. He’s super quick, long (7’2″ wingspan), well built, explosive off the ground, has fantastic instincts, and plays with the energy and intensity that all great defenders do. In college he guarded 1-5, and his quickness combined with his length and strength should make him effective switching onto almost any player in the NBA, the only exception being a truly dominant big guy like Demarcus Cousins. There’s no telling how fast he will be able to pick up advanced NBA defensive schemes, but he should be a great one-on-one defender from the start, and his awareness in college was very good so he will probably turn into a great team defender in time. Ultimately, Hollis-Jefferson has a real chance at becoming one of the best wing defenders in the NBA, the type you can stick on whoever the opposing team’s best perimeter player is and be happy with it.

Why then, did such an elite defender fall to the 23rd pick? Well, he cannot shoot, at all. Last year at Arizona he shot 20.7% from three, and defenders frequently ignored him anywhere outside of 15-feet. His form is pretty broken, and it is unlikely Hollis-Jefferson ever turns himself into an outside threat. The other aspects of his offensive game are much more palatable. Hollis-Jefferson’s ball-handling is a bit wild, but he’s quick and shaky with his moves, and when he gets into the lane he flies into the body of defenders to get to the foul line or finish spectacularly with his athleticism. Additionally, Hollis-Jefferson is a very good passer for a wing, and a great cutter off the ball. Defenses will sag off Hollis-Jefferson and really hurt a team’s spacing, but he can make them pay with his cutting, passing, and finishing ability. Hollis-Jefferson can probably get away with his lack of shooting in the regular season, but in the playoffs there is a chance teams will be able to scheme him off the floor like Golden State did with Tony Allen. Still, Hollis-Jefferson was a good value at 23, and if he did miraculously turn around his jumper his upside would be enormous.

Fit: Hollis-Jefferson’s immediate fit with the Nets makes sense, and his drafting might be a sign that the Nets are not going to re-sign Alan Anderson. Between Joe Johnson and Bojan Bogdanovic the Nets have two offensively oriented wings, so adding a third wing who specializes on the defensive end makes sense. Hollis-Jefferson is the rare rookie who might be able to step in and have an immediate impact on the defensive end, and it will be fun to see if the Nets give him a chance against some of the NBA’s star wings.

Chris McCullough: McCullough is one of the more athletic and skilled players in this draft. Standing at 6’9 with an over 7’3 wingspan McCullough is clearly suited to play power forward, but his quickness and leaping ability allow him to be a free safety type threat on the defensive end. Playing in Syracuse’s zone McCullough had free reign to make plays on the ball, and he used his length and athleticism to rack up and impressive 2.3 steals and 2.9 blocks per-40 minutes pace adjusted. His frame is somewhat frail, and his awareness is inconsistent at best, so McCullough is going to take some time to adjust to NBA defense, but he has the physical tools to be a very good defender down the road.

Offensively, McCullough uses that same length and athleticism to run the floor and dive in pick and roll sets for impressive finishes at the hoop. Unfortunately, McCullough did have some struggles finishing at the hoop because he tended to try and shy away from contact, and his touch wasn’t good enough to complete the difficult shots he attempted. As a shooter, McCullough isn’t consistent yet, but he has pretty nice form and has shown the ability to hit from 18 feet confidently. His 56.3% FT% is a bit concerning, but McCullough’s solid form and confidence in shooting from the deep midrange gives some hope he could even develop range to the corner three later in his NBA career. If he’s not shooting from outside or right at the rim, the rawness of McCullough’s game can get exposed. He’s a pretty good ball handler for his size, but his decision making is shaky, and he is turnover prone when he tries to take his man off the dribble or find teammates. Like Hollis-Jefferson, McCullough was good value at 29th, and though I would’ve preferred the Nets take Kevon Looney who went next, McCullough is a really fluid athlete who has the chance to turn into a skilled offensive player and defensive force.

Fit: One of the reasons McCullough fell all the way to 29th is that he is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered midway through Syracuse’s season. Coming off the ACL tear McCullough won’t play in summer league, might not play in training camp, and will probably get less minutes at first than the typical first round rookie due to his injury. Once healthy, McCullough is a good fit next to the slower moving Brook Lopez, and McCullough can play a similar role to the one Thad Young did last year, whether or not Young stays around with the Nets.

Juan Vaulet: Vaulet was billed as the draft’s mystery man coming in, but after going 39th it’s clear NBA teams had him on their radar. I’ve only seen two full games of his, but Vaulet is an interesting long-term prospect. Vaulet is an athletic wing, and just from my own anecdotal observation he looks to be very long as well. Defensively Vaulet is a very good prospect, as he is quick on the ball, and plays very physical, allowing him to switch onto big guys and compete well. Off the ball, Vaulet isn’t a big time defensive playmaker like the Nets other two picks, but on the ball Vaulet’s quickness and physicality are really impressive.

On the offensive end, Vaulet plays a similar brand of physical, aggressive basketball. He attacks the rim with abandon, off the bounce on his own, cutting to the basket, and crashing the offensive glass as hard as any wing I’ve seen. Around the hoop Vaulet is a good leaper, and isn’t afraid to jump through contact, resulting in him spending a lot of time at the foul line. At the foul line, Vaulet isn’t so impressive, he’s a pretty bad free throw shooter, and a reluctant shooter from outside the arc, though his form isn’t that bad. As a creator and passer Vaulet has good vision, is very unselfish, and has a nice low handle, but he doesn’t execute many advanced dribble moves. It will be key for his NBA career to improve his jump shot because Vaulet’s offensive game relies on attacking the basket with his quick first step in straight lines, and he will need defenders to play tighter up on him to be able to attack at an NBA level. At 39th Vaulet is a good value, he looks like he could be a good defender, and his jump shot isn’t that far off from making him a useful offensive player.

Fit: Vaulet is a bit redundant with Hollis-Jefferson, but if Vaulet does end up proving his worth as an NBA player the Nets will be happy to have four good wings, a rarity in today’s wing scarce NBA. I’m not sure when Vaulet will come over the Nets, and if he comes over this year he may not play much, but hopefully he will get a real shot in the NBA sometime in the next couple years.

Overall this looks like a very good draft for the Nets. Last year’s Nets team was one of the most unathletic in the league, and adding three young and dynamic athletes will be good for the Nets, and their fans. Most importantly, every player the Nets pick seemed like fine or even good value for where they were drafted, something I didn’t expect from the Nets management. The Nets might not be adding much young talent the next couple years, but they did a very good this year, and hopefully these guys will come to be staples of the Nets team down the road.

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Brook Lopez Exercises Player Option; Becomes Free Agent

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Brooklyn Nets Center Brook Lopez will decline his player option on his contract and become a Free Agent.

Lopez, 27, still had just shy of $17 million left on the final year of his contract with the Nets but will test his market value this off-season.  The former All-Star left a lot of money on the table.  An intriguing move, especially since his contract would have be up the same year the new salary cap will take into affect.

As Wojnarowski said, the Nets and Lopez may reunite again, but for now, the Nets will need to have a back-up plan.

Lopez averaged 17.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 44 games last season for the Nets.