Billy King’s contract as GM and decision maker for the Brooklyn Nets is up this summer, and despite reports a year ago of an extension nothing has happened on that front. Which leaves him in a lame duck situation and a lot of people around the league expecting a change at the top after the season (and likely with that a new coach replacing Lionel Hollins).
Now comes a report out of the respectable eurohoops.net saying now that Mikhail Prokhorov owns 100 percent of the Nets, he is looking at bringing the president behind the run of success of CSKA Moscow over to become the first European GM in the NBA.
Mikhail Prokhorov is the full owner of the Nets and according to Eurohoops sources, Andrey Vatutin is his top choice for the job of the general manager. Billy King’s contract expires at the end of the season, things are going to change in the Nets and the president of CSKA Moscow is offered the position. This is not the first time Prokhorov wanted Vatutin in Brooklyn. Back in 2010 there were also reports about an offer to Vatutin for an undefined role. However this time things are different.
With that being said, Vatutin hasn’t decided yet anything about his future and the option of him remining at the head of CSKA Moscow is more than just an alternative. There’s no fixed timetable about his decision, Prokhorov, who was for year the main financial supporter of CSKA, is waiting for him and it remains to be seen what the future holds.
Vatutin knows basketball and talent. He’s made CSKA Moscow one of the biggest powers of European basketball for years running; he’s someone Prokhorov knows and trusts.
However, this would be an enormous risk.
While I’m not about to question Vatutin’s hoops knowledge, the European and NBA structures are very different. Specifically, the salary cap and the intricacies of the CBA require smart men and a lot of specialized knowledge — you can’t just buy a team and slap it together (Prokhorov learned that the hard way). The way teams are built here would be a dramatic change for Vatutin.
Second, being a GM is a lot about relationships. Ones built up over long periods of time. Guys near the top of front offices all tend to know each other, having spent years coming up in various organizations together. They also all know the top agents well. Trades are not cold-blooded calculations like a fantasy trade (although there is that aspect to them), trades happen because of relationships and mutual interest, plus both teams feeling like they got a win. Also, getting free agents to sit down and talk can happen because of relationships. Vatutin would be an outsider in this club.
Certainly the Nets could surround Vatutin with people to help him navigate these challenges, but they would be an issue. And no matter who takes over that seat, the fact remains that the Nets do not control their own draft pick until 2019 and will have a real challenge rebuilding without many young players or assets (they will have about $40 million in cap space and need to nail free agency… again, relationships).
This hiring may not happen, but it’s something to keep an eye on — Prokhorov is enough of a wild card to try it.