The Nets have an absurdly rich Russian Oligarch owner and basically every conceivable economic advantage the league has to offer. The biggest market in the country, the willingness to pay an absurd amount of money to players, state of the art facilities blah blah blah etc. The worst thing you could say about playing for the Nets is that New York has an income tax, so playing there might net you a smaller total NBA paycheck than plying your trade in Texas.
If the NBA operated by pure free market principles, like European soccer teams or, uhh, most other oppressive and lousy things in America, they would probably be one of the league’s dominant franchises, hauling out crazy teams with insane, highly paid talent year after year, monsters clad in black, creeping into city after city, demolishing your team in such a way as to make you wish you had never HEARD of basketball, much less attended a game to root for a team that played it.
BUT! As it happens, the NBA does not operate on a free market. Instead, teams seeking to pay their players less have created a wildly messy salary cap and trade matching system that makes it kinda hard to get a payroll too big and does some work — entirely by coincidence, even though the owners are just dying to tell you its otherwise — in maintaining competitive balance. The Nets tried to use their infinite money to blow out the cap altogether a few years ago, trading basically everything they had of value for uhh, 35-year old players who had won a title once. It REALLY didn’t work and now the team has sort of half-heartedly drifted through the last few years, fielding teams loaded with weird players and waiting to get draft picks again so they can operate like an NBA team and not like Manchester United or some other such nonsense.
The bizarre irony of all this is that, in seeking to do everything they could to circumvent the cap and use a battering ram made of money to knock over the door to a title, the Nets have made themselves into the other kind of NBA team that the league’s economic structure has mostly purged: a collection of fringe role players, swinging away at futile nonsense, waiting for time and luck in the draft to bring them the talent they need to compete.
In seeking to operate like the Yankees, blowing out their minor league roster to build a grimy robot lineup to destroy the league and bring one title home, the Nets have done the very thing the NBA CBA is designed to prevent them from doing; made a team that is not unlike an off-decade MLB squad, some random-year Rockies squad, all its pitchers throwing up 4.5 ERAs, or a collection of Orioles players getting whupped by the Red Sox night after night, or like… the Padres, shuttling out weird anonymous dudes and hoping for the best.
The Nets are the ultimate example of what happens when an NBA loses sight of what their actual assets are in the perverse market where they operate. Mikhail, an amoral-seeming billionaire who has been able to buy himself pretty much anything his brain could figure out how to desire, figured that he could buy his way to hot stuff, seeing as, well, that’s how you get hot stuff in pretty much every other economy in the world. But in the NBA, whoops, the actual money isn’t money at all, it’s high draft picks, young players with upside, superstars who produce tons of wins and are under the age of, like, 34. Any attempt to get around this, to bust through the paper mache facade of the league’s half-improvised economic system with a battering ram made of pure money, will just send you careening off a cliff.
It’s all an attempt to keep salaries down, of course. But I guess it does kind of serve another purpose.