Two days after reportedly agreeing to a four-year deal with All-Star forward Gerald Wallace and one day after trading to secure the services of All-Star wing Joe Johnson, the Brooklyn Nets found some time in their busy schedule of working to land All-Star center Dwight Howard and trying to bring back All-Star point guard Deron Williams to bring aboard a player whose resume boasts a shocking zero NBA All-Star Games. To be fair to Mirza Teletovic, though, he has yet to actually play in an NBA game, and they generally don't just put non-NBA players in the midseason exhibition. (Believe me. I've tried.)
Howard Beck of The New York Times reported via Twitter on Tuesday afternoon that the Nets and Teletovic have agreed in principle on a contract that will bring the 6-foot-9-inch Bosnian power forward to Brooklyn this coming season. After reportedly drawing interest from the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns following a strong season in Spain (and the completion of a €2.2 million buyout with his European team), Teletovic has agreed to a three-year deal worth just under $15.7 million, meaning the Nets will use their full mid-level exception on the 26-year-old big man.
Teletovic averaged 16.3 points (on 46.3 percent field-goal shooting and a 36 percent mark from 3-point range) and 6.9 rebounds in 31.1 minutes per game last season for Caja Laboral of Spain's Liga ACB, the country's top league, where the likes of the Gasols, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez and others played before coming to the NBA. He was also the leading scorer in the 2011-12 Euroleague regular season, averaging 21.7 points and six rebounds over 10 games, and hitting 43.1 percent of his long-distance tries.
Most scouting reports suggest that he profiles as a stretch four in the NBA, an accurate shooter who prefers to play on the perimeter on offense and doesn't offer a ton on the other end, especially on the defensive glass. Writing at Nets blog Nets are Scorching, Sam Meyerkopf of Euroleague Adventures suggested reasonable NBA comparisons for Teletovic's game might include Ryan Anderson on the high side and Channing Frye on the low end:
He'll walk into the NBA and right away have one of the smoothest long distance strokes. His jumper is his most lethal weapon. No matter how close you think you're guarding him, Mirza will find space to get off his quick release shot. His confidence is always sky-high.
Teletovic shoots in a wide variety of ways; coming off screens, pulling up, or his specialty, off the pick and pop. Say Deron Williams does stay with the Nets. Williams' offensive prowess will make teams double him off the pick so much that Teletovic will murder defenses popping off of them.
On paper, as that report suggests, bringing in a sweet-shooting pick-and-pop big to run with a re-signed Williams (who made beautiful music with Carlos Boozer in a similar arrangement in Utah way back when) and incoming star Johnson (no slouch at orchestrating in the screen game himself) makes an awful lot of sense for a Brooklyn team that's still figuring out what its offensive identity is going to be.
Having the option of using Teletovic to attack defenses with the two-man game certainly provides more offensive variety than a returning Kris Humphries or any other four on Brooklyn's radar, making the burgeoning new-look Nets an interesting offensive team ... and maybe even more than that, if those increasingly loud rumblings reported by multiple outlets Tuesday morning could actually result in Brooklyn landing Howard. Remember, "spread the floor with shooters, let Dwight draw attention and make opponents pay for doubling" was a pretty effective strategy for a few years there in Orlando, and with all due respect to Jameer Nelson and company, that was without any complimentary talent on the order of Williams and Johnson on the roster.
Unfortunately, on paper — read: on the balance sheet — Teletovic could also severely hamper the Nets' chances of building a title contender.
The signing of Teletovic — and, more specifically, the fact that the Nets are using their full mid-level exception to do it — seems to make the already thin financial margins within which a Nets-Magic trade would work just about disappear, especially if Orlando insists on Brooklyn providing additional cap relief by taking back the contracts of Hedo Turkoglu (owed $11.8 million for 2012-13) or Jason Richardson (due $18.6 million over the next three years) in the bargain.
Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated's The Point Forward blog has been crunching the numbers:
The new collective bargaining agreement includes an effective hard cap, set $4 million above the tax line, for any team that uses the full mid-level exception, which is worth about $5 million per season. The Nets have now reportedly put that cap in play with the Teletovic agreement.
Even assuming Wallace accepted a back-loaded deal that will pay him only $9 million next season, the sum of 2012-13 deals for Wallace, Teletovic, Howard, Johnson and a max-level $17.2 million deal for Williams would give the Nets about $70.5 million in payroll with only five roster spots filled. The Nets, in other words, would have only $3.5 million left to fill up to seven roster spots, for a per-spot price of just over the $473,000 rookie minimum salary.
Thus it would seem extremely difficult now for the Nets to trade for Howard unless either Wallace or Williams is willing to take much less money next season (and perhaps over the course of their contracts). And the Nets' absorbing Turkoglu or Richardson along with Howard would seem to be out of the question now. League rules will prevent the Nets from dealing Teletovic or any of their new free-agent signings for several months.
So how about it, Deron and Crash? Ready to get on that LeBron/Wade/Bosh belt-tightening plan (only more so) to make sure the Nets can fit one more star attraction under the big tent at the Barclays Center? If not, the odds of seeing Dwight Howard in Brooklyn might have just become infinitesimal.
Video of Teletovic's European highlights via BranislavBibbySormaz, duh.