Offseason Outlook: Brooklyn Nets

May 24 at 4:07pm CST By Zach Links

Guaranteed Contracts

Options

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • None

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $85,075,418
  • Options: $5,827,125
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $816,482
  • Cap Holds: $21,927,479
  • Total: $113,646,504

After a summer of spending that was enough to make Mark Cuban blush, the Nets weren’t able to meet their lofty expectations for this season.  The Nets powered their way to a winning record with a 15-game home winning streak, swept their regular season series with the Heat 4-0, and knocked off the Atlantic Division champs in the first round.  However, their wildly entertaining up-and-down season came to a close with a second round ouster at the hands of the Heat.  Now, the Nets are entering an offseason in which they have numerous question marks and very little flexibility to help address them.

Much of the Nets’ offseason will hinge on whether Kevin Garnett decides to play out the final year of his deal at $12MM or simply walk away.  Yes, it’s true, KG is a shell of his former self.  The 37-year-old averaged 6.5 PPG and 6.6. RPG in 20.5 minutes per game with a career-low PER of 13.3.  However, his decision will have serious ramifications on the rest of the roster.  Even though Nets owner and heli-skiing enthusiast Mikhail Prokhorov appears willing to spend whatever it takes to win, there has to be a limit at some point and that $12MM could conceivably be re-routed elsewhere, though, they can’t really reallocate those funds in free agency.  Garnett’s call also figures to weigh heavily on the mind of free agent Paul Pierce.

Pierce, 36, knows that time is running out on his NBA career and as he told reporters after the Game 5 loss, he has maybe one or two [years] at the most” left in the tank.  The veteran is said to have interest in a reunion with coach Doc Rivers in Los Angeles and also likes the idea of finishing his career in Boston.  Even though the Celtics will have to do some serious work to turn themselves into contenders for 2014/15, the Clippers are a bonafide contender who would only get stronger with the addition of Pierce.  The Nets have a leg-up over the Clippers since L.A has $66MM+ in commitments for next season and can only sign Pierce to the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception.  However, Pierce has earned more than $315MM over the course of his career, including $15MM last season, and it’s not hard to imagine him giving up a few million dollars to have a strong chance at a ring with his longtime coach.

Pierce and Garnett aren’t the only stars who could break out of black and white.  According to a May report from Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, the Nets won’t rule out the possibility of shipping Deron Williams to his third career NBA team.  When the Nets acquired Williams from the Jazz in 2011, General Manager Billy King called him “the best point guard in the NBA.”  Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would put D-Will in the same tier as Chris Paul and the rest of the league’s elite ones.  Williams, 30 in June, averaged 14.3 points and 6.1 assists per game this season, bringing his career totals down to 17.4 PPG and 8.7 APG.  Factor in the double-ankle surgery that he’ll undergo and the $63MM+ he’s owed over the next three seasons, it’s hard to see someone paying a hefty ransom to King for a player who posted a career-low 13.3 PER in 2013/14.  However, it sounds like the Nets will at least explore the possibility of moving Deron and getting something of value to team up with Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, and hopefully, Garnett and Pierce.

The future of Williams’ understudy, Shaun Livingston, is also in question.  Livingston seems to have fully recovered from one of the most gruesome looking injuries in NBA history and is poised for a big pay bump in free agency.  While the Nets can outbid the Clippers and others for Pierce, they’re pretty handcuffed when it comes to the 6’7″ guard.  The Nets only have Livingston’s Non-Bird rights, which provide for no more than 120% of the minimum salary he made this past season. Brooklyn could also use its taxpayer’s mid-level exception, which would allow for a starting salary of $3.278MM and a total of nearly $10.3MM over the course of a three-year deal.  Other suitors can blow them out of the water.  The Wolves, who are already said to have interest, have the non-taxpayer’s mid-level, worth $5.305MM in year one, at their disposal.  If Livingston went to Minnesota, he could get a four-year deal worth $22.652MM on that exception.  King says that keeping Livingston will be his No. 1 priority this summer, but he’ll have his work cut out for him.

While the Nets probably could have used the services of Lopez in the playoffs, there’s no denying that they performed better as a unit without him.  It’s not Lopez’s fault – he’s an extremely adept scorer who can draw a double team every time he gets the ball inside.  In fact, in his 17 games last season, the Stanford product averaged a career-best 25.4 PER which would have placed him at No. 7 in the NBA had it been for a full season.  With a combined 96 games played over the last three seasons, could the Nets conceivably find a suitable trade?  While a healthy Lopez would be a very welcome addition for most teams, he is set to earn ~$15.7MM and ~$16.8MM over the next two seasons.  That’s a big risk for any team to take, so I wouldn’t bank on him changing uniforms.

So if Williams and Lopez are less than likely to get moved, who makes for a stronger trade candidate?  Mason Plumlee, who enjoyed the highest PER (19.09) of any eligible rookie last season, would be very desirable to teams looking for a reserve big with a high motor on an affordable deal.  The Nets also have an attractive asset in overseas stash pick Bojan Bogdanović.  The Nets can only give the 24-year-old Turkish leaguer the $3.278MM mid-level exception, which may not be enough to outbid European teams for his services.  The Nets would prefer to have both guys in the fold next season to fortify their bench, but figurative beggars (rich beggars, go figure) can’t be choosers.

There could be turnover when it comes to other guys on the reserve unit as well.  Andray Blatche ($1.4MM) will opt out and Andrei Kirilenko ($3.3MM) and Alan Anderson ($1.1MM) could follow suit.  AK47 turned down a much more lucrative offer from the Timberwolves last season and may seek to cash in this summer.  Anderson, signed without much fanfare last offseason, became a vital part of the Nets’ rotation, and it’s not hard to see someone giving him more than the veteran’s minimum.  Blatche, for all of his frustrating inconsistency, is still a very valuable piece for the Nets with athleticism that makes small-ball lineups possible.

And with all of these potential holes, the Nets probably can’t come away with an impact player in the draft since they traded away both of their 2014 picks.  The Nets’ all-in risk didn’t pay off and they’ve got their work cut out for them if they want to contend in the East in 2014/15.

Cap footnotes

* — Kirilenko’s cap hold would be $3,819,600 if he opts out.
** — Blatche’s cap hold would be $1,788,285 if he opts out.
*** — Anderson’s cap hold would be $915,243 if he opts out.
**** — Pierce’s cap hold will be the lesser of $23,000,001, which is 150% of his 2013/14 salary, or the maximum salary for a veteran of 10 or more seasons, which won’t be determined until after the July Moratorium. The number here is this past season’s max. Next year’s max will likely represent Pierce’s cap hold, since it’s almost certain not to jump to more than $23MM.

ShamSports and Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ were used in the creation of this post.

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