Days ahead of deadline, Vaughn admits Nets need to add size – The Denver Post
It’s hard to pass judgment on a Nets team with three key front court players out due to injury, but one thing is clear: This team needs to get bigger.
It’s been the theme of the week for a Brooklyn team that got bullied in a loss to the conference-worst Detroit Pistons, then out-rebounded by 25 in a 43-point loss to the Boston Celtics, a loss so disgusting Jacque Vaughn said the team decided against reviewing the game film.
The Nets were so desperate for size against Boston, Vaughn experimented by playing both Nic Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe minutes together to combat Boston’s duo of Robert Williams and Al Horford.
“We still got outrebounded,” Vaughn said in a Zoom conference call with reporters from the Nets training facility on Friday. “It’s a problem for us, and I don’t see it going away anytime soon.”
Which brings us to next Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline, one of few remaining opportunities the Nets have to improve the roster other than signing players who negotiate contract buyouts with their current teams before the end of the regular season.
It’s quite clear the Nets need to get bigger on the wings and at center, even with Claxton’s emergence as a fringe All-Star in Brooklyn this season.
Kevin Durant has been out with an MCL sprain, Ben Simmons has missed three straight games with left knee soreness, and T.J. Warren has missed three games with a left shin contusion.
Those are three players 6-foot-8 or taller who are each out of the rotation, forcing Vaughn to go small and start three guards each under 6-foot-5 (Kyrie Irving, Royce O’Neale and Seth Curry) alongside the 6-foot-7 sharpshooter Joe Harris and Claxton, whose lanky, 6-foot-11 frame has added muscle but still lacks the strength to handle the NBA’s true bruisers at the five.
Vaughn declined to comment specifically on team needs with less than a week to go before the Feb. 7 trade deadline but did address his team’s lack of size. Calling a player up from Brooklyn’s G-League affiliate Long Island Nets team is also an option, but unlikely a viable route to add a true impact player to a team with championship hopes.
“As a coach, you see the trends of the league: long, athletic, multi-dimensional guys that can play on both ends of the floor,” Vaughn said Friday morning. “That just makes it easier for you to get things done on both ends. We’ll exhaust all our resources, whether that’s Long Island, whether that’s hopefully our guys coming back healthy helps.”
A trade becomes complicated, however, due to the payroll constraints caused by player salaries, plus a lack of draft capital to use in a trade.
Durant is on the hook for $44M, Irving’s cap figure is $36.9M, and Simmons earns $35.5M for the 2022-23 NBA season. It’s unlikely any of those three players are moved by next Thursday’s deadline. It’s also unlikely the Nets trade Claxton, fresh off a two-year, $17.25M contract extension he has thoroughly outplayed.
Harris makes $18.6M this season and has one more year left on his deal worth $19.9M. O’Neale makes $9.2M this season and has one year left on his deal worth $9.5M, but only $2.5M on that following season is guaranteed before Jan. 10, 2024. Curry is in the final year of his contract and makes about $8.5M, and Patty Mills signed a two-year, $13.2M extension last summer but has been largely outside Vaughn’s rotation. He makes $6.5M this season.
Any deal made that improves the Nets would have to include at least one of those perimeter players simply in an effort to match the incoming player’s salary. A deal would also likely have to include at least one of the Nets’ three young players (scoring guard Cam Thomas, backup big man Day’Ron Sharpe, and athletic wing defender Kessler Edwards).
For what it’s worth, Vaughn said on Friday he has no contact with the second-year players about trade rumors.
“I’ve probably taken that approach purposely to not address it with them. I hopefully feel if they have a problem or they’ve read something and want some clarity, they can come to me, but there’s so much out there these days that you know, I would have to address it individually on a daily basis,” he said. “So I’ve kind of taken the approach of this is our group, this is who we are, and if you ever have a problem or need clarity, come to me, but not going to address it with the group.”
To acquire a good enough player at the deadline, the Nets would also need to sweeten the pot with draft asset compensation: As a reminder, they do not own their 2024 or 2026 first-round picks as a result of the James Harden deal with the Houston Rockets (note: Harden is no longer a Net and was moved to Philadelphia for Simmons). The Nets traded the 2023 first-round pick they got back in the Harden deal with Philadelphia to Utah for O’Neale.
That leaves a top-eight protected 2027 first-round pick from the 76ers as part of the Simmons-Harden swap and first-round picks in 2028 and 2030 that are eligible to be included in a deal by the deadline.
Then there’s the market: It cost the Los Angeles Lakers three second -round picks and backup point guard Kendrick Nunn to pry former No. 8 overall pick Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards’ roster.
Toronto’s O.G. Anunoby has headlined this season’s trade market on a Raptors team likely headed for a fuller rebuild. Anunoby is a prototypical three-and-D wing listed at 6-foot-7, 232 pounds. He is a lockdown defender and high-level athlete who is averaging 17 points and two steals per game as a career 37% shooter from downtown.
Anunoby, 25, is in the second season of a four-year, $72M contract and makes $17.3M. If the Nets determined he’s the kind of player that boosts their front court woes (Anunoby averages 5.5 rebounds per game), a deal would likely cost them at least two of their three tradable draft assets — plus matching salary and a young player.
The asking price varies based on the caliber of the player in question. The Nets have also rumored to have interest in Atlanta’s high-flying forward John Collins.
It’s difficult to fully assess Brooklyn’s needs, however, because Durant’s injury wrecked an opportunity for the team to scout itself fully healthy.
How can the Nets know what they need when they’ve barely played any games at full strength? It’s up to the front office to answer that question.
The only certainty is this team can’t go into the playoffs without adding some true size to a roster in desperate need of some help in that department.
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