Throughout the month of November, Hoops Rumors will look back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
Trades and Claims
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
Ever since the NBA's new Collective Bargaining Agreement took effect, teams around the league have been preaching cap flexibility, asset-gathering, and the benefits of staying out of luxury-tax territory. The defending Western Conference champions traded a star player to ensured they remained flexibile, picked up a few assets, and avoided amassing a huge tax hit.
But there's something to be said for zigging when others zag. With other teams clearing salaries and ensuring they'll have big chunks of cap space in future offseasons, the Nets came into this summer with both guns blazing, committing a staggering amount of money to free agent contracts and ensuring that they won't have cap space to work with anytime soon.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why such an approach made sense for the Nets. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov isn't shy about throwing his cash around if it means building a winning team. And with the franchise making its Brooklyn debut this fall, there was a need to make a splash -- playing in a new arena in New York City would have only sustained fan interest for so long if the team continued to perform on the court like the Nets have in recent years.
The first step to the team's mammoth offseason was ensuring that Deron Williams chose Brooklyn over Dallas. GM Billy King and the Nets front office undoubtedly had a Plan B in place if D-Will bolted for the Mavericks, but it certainly would have paled in comparison to Plan A. While I always believed the Nets were the favorites for Williams based on how much more guaranteed money they could offer, the team's acquisition of Joe Johnson from the Hawks sealed the deal.
The Nets' trade for Johnson is a perfect example of the team's ability to capitalize on the rest of the league's aversion to cap inflexibility. With the Hawks looking to clear future salary from their books, Johnson's contract was an ideal fit for the Nets. The money and years left on the deal make it something of an albatross, but Johnson is still a very good player, one of the league's best shooting guards. His bad contract meant it wouldn't cost the Nets much in trade assets to acquire him, and the club's willingness to blow past the luxury tax line meant Johnson's exorbitant salary wouldn't hinder the Nets as much as it did the Hawks.
Acquiring Johnson and re-signing Williams ensured that the Nets wouldn't have any cap space to work with in the offseason, which meant the best way to fill out the rest of the roster was by signing the team's own free agents. From this perspective, you could make a case that Brooklyn's in-season trade for Gerald Wallace was necessary, since the team wouldn't have had his Bird rights and wouldn't have been able to sign him without that trade. I still view the deal as something of a disaster for the Nets, who allowed the Trail Blazers to draft a potential superstar in Damian Lillard with that sixth overall pick, but the Nets got what they wanted out of the move, using Wallace's Bird rights to ink him to a long-term contract.
Throw in big new contracts for Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries, along with a handful of smaller additions such as Mirza Teletovic, C.J. Watson, and Andray Blatche, and the Nets' total free agent commitments exceed $235MM. And that doesn't even take into account the $89MM they assumed when they acquired Johnson.The Nets didn't quite achieve the perfect offseason, having failed to acquire Dwight Howard from the Magic. But when you stack it up against a worst-case scenario that would have included D-Will wearing a Mavericks jersey, the summer has to be considered a huge success. Sure, Brooklyn now has over $70MM committed to team salary every year from now until 2016, but when so many other teams are trying to create cap space to pursue the same few free agents, the Nets did well to spend whatever it took to lock up the talent available to them.