Front-Office Insider: Shifting toward the draft

·The Vertical

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, examines the weekly thought processes of NBA teams and offers a behind-the-scenes look at the everyday grind of putting a team together.

This week we look at how teams are preparing for college conference tournaments.

THE MINDSET OF THE FRONT OFFICE
Background for draft-eligible prospects
The background evaluation process for seniors has already started.

Damion Lee, right, drives against Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon. (Getty Images)
Damion Lee, right, drives against Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon. (Getty Images)

Seniors who have been eliminated from their conference tournaments and will not play in any postseason games are now deemed draft-eligible. Teams tend to rely heavily on academic advisers, assistant coaches, trainers and strength coaches for the best information. Although the head coach is the face of the program, the administrative level staff has the best feel for the player on and off the court.

Seniors who played at Louisville are also now draft-eligible. The Cardinals, who self-imposed a ban on tournament play, have senior Damion Lee, who is projected to be a mid-second-round pick in June.

Scouting players on lottery teams
The next six weeks are crucial for evaluating players on teams heading to the lottery.

Not only will free agents be looked at more closely, but potential trade targets this off-season will be evaluated as well. The biggest thing a team wants to find out is about a player’s character. Is a player treating a mid-March game like he is in a playoff race? Or has a mystery injury kept him on the sidelines instead of the basketball court?

The final 20-plus games will tell more about a player than the first 10.

Getting creative with contracts
The trend now and until the end of the season is for teams with open roster spots to lock up players, not just for the rest of the season but with cap-friendly contracts going forward.

The biggest benefit to signing players to an additional year is that it allows teams to evaluate players not just for the last month but going into the summer as well.

Denver, Houston and New Orleans took advantage of this route by signing JaKarr Sampson (Nuggets), Michael Beasley and Andrew Goudelock (Rockets), and Bryce Dejean-Jones (Pelicans) to multi-year contracts.

Charlotte has an open roster spot and part of its full mid-level exception to sign a player for three seasons or more. The ability to control a player’s contract going into the future is a key component.

DISABLED PLAYER EXCEPTION
Brooklyn ($3.1 million), New Orleans ($1.7 million), Phoenix ($5.2 million) and Washington ($2.8 million) have disabled-player exceptions.

The exception will expire March 10 and can only be used to sign, acquire or claim a player in the last year of his contract.

TEAMS WITH ROSTER SPOTS
Brooklyn, Phoenix, Minnesota, Orlando, Miami, and Cleveland each have an open roster spot.

Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn, Phoenix, Minnesota, Denver, Detroit, Charlotte, Cleveland and the Clippers also have players on 10-day contracts and can create a roster spot if needed.

UNDER-THE-RADAR FREE AGENT
G Markel Brown, Brooklyn

Markel Brown (Getty Images)
Markel Brown (Getty Images)

Brown popped onto the radar during his rookie season with the Nets in 2014-15. The versatile 6-foot-3 guard can play both backcourt positions, and his production and minutes have increased since the All-Star break. He has the ability to knock down open 3-pointers and is best suited playing in the open court.

He had his best overall game against Denver on Friday, recording 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Brown will be a restricted free agent with early Bird rights, and the Nets are protected by the Gilbert Arenas provision if they want to re-sign him.

WHAT SCOUTS ARE SAYING ABOUT …
G Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Fifth-year college player who redshirted during the 2012-13 season. One of the older draft-eligible players at 23. Recent success of Draymond Green should change the league’s opinions on drafting four-year players.

Versatile wing that always makes the right play on both ends of the court. Although not lightning quick, Brogdon is a smart and unselfish player. Creative when he has the ball in his hand, always probing on offense looking to make the right play. Gets most of his points coming off screens with a great mid-range game.

Would be a great fit for a team drafting in the mid-20s.

SALARY CAP TERM OF THE WEEK
The Gilbert Arenas provision
Named after former All-Star Gilbert Arenas, the “Arenas rule” protects teams who have a player that is a restricted free agent with non- or early Bird rights.

Even if an opposing team has cap space the most money it can offer a player in the first year is the full mid-level exception. The current team would have the ability to match the offer but only if it is a non-tax-paying team, has the full mid-level at its disposal or has cap space.

There are ways for teams to get around the Arenas rule.

Teams can take available cap space and average it over the length of the contract, with the first two years reflecting the full mid-level exception. The cap hit would remain the average, but the contract would be backloaded in years three and four.

The Rockets, who at time were $8.34 million under the cap, were able to sign Jeremy Lin to a three-year contract valued at $25.1 million. The $8.3 million counted against the Rockets’ salary cap in the first three seasons, but gave Lin a balloon payment in 2014-15.

Houston structured the contract for the first two years starting at $5 million with a 4.5 percent increase in the second year. The third-year salary was comprised of the difference of $25.1 million (life of the contract) minus $10.3 million (salary for the first two seasons).

Year

Salary

Cap hit

2012-13

$5 million (mid-level)

$8.37 million

2013-14

$5.2 million (4.5 percent raise)

$8.37 million

2014-15

$14.8 million

$8.37 million

Total

$25.1 million

$25.1 million

Average

$8.3 million

$8.3 million

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