Over the next several weeks, Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the 2016 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2016/17 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Brooklyn Nets.
Free agent signings:
- Jeremy Lin: Three years, $36MM. Third year player option.
- Trevor Booker: Two years, $18.375MM.
- Justin Hamilton: Two years, $6MM.
- Luis Scola: One year, $5.5MM.
- Greivis Vasquez: One year, $4.348MM.
- Randy Foye: One year, $2.5MM.
- Anthony Bennett: Two years, minimum salary. Second year non-guaranteed.
- Joe Harris: Two years, minimum salary. Second year non-guaranteed.
- Beau Beech: One year, minimum salary ($45K guaranteed)
- Chase Budinger: One year, minimum salary (no guarantee)
- Yogi Ferrell: One year, minimum salary ($100K guaranteed)
- Jorge Gutierrez: One year, minimum salary (summer contract)
- Egidijus Mockevicius: One year, minimum salary ($100K guaranteed)
- Acquired the draft rights to Caris LeVert (No. 20 pick) and the Pacers’ 2017 second-round pick (protected 45-60) from the Pacers in exchange for Thaddeus Young.
- Acquired the draft rights to Isaiah Whitehead (No. 42 pick) from the Jazz in exchange for the draft rights to Marcus Paige (No. 55 pick) and cash ($3MM).
- 1-20: Caris LeVert. Signed to rookie contract.
- 2-42: Isaiah Whitehead. Signed for four years, $4.586MM. Third year non-guaranteed, fourth year team option.
- Markel Brown
- Wayne Ellington
- Jarrett Jack (waived)
- Sergey Karasev
- Shane Larkin
- Willie Reed
- Thomas Robinson
- Henry Sims
- Donald Sloan
- Thaddeus Young
Other offseason news:
- Hired Kenny Atkinson as head coach to replace interim head coach Tony Brown.
- Acquired D-League rights to 12 players in D-League expansion draft.
- Signed both Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson to offer sheets, which were matched by the Trail Blazers and Heat, respectively.
The Nets have a truly daunting task ahead of them as the franchise tries to dig itself out of the tremendous hole it’s currently in. Brooklyn is, and will be, paying for past mistakes over the next few campaigns. Thanks to ill-advised trades that sacrificed the future for a shot at immediate glory and New York relevancy, the Nets will have to rely on development from within if the team hopes to improve on its dreadful 21 wins of a season ago.
Under normal circumstances, fans of the team could at least spend the 2016/17 season dreaming about a shot at landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft as the team bottoms out. Instead, it’s Celtics fans who will be watching the standings and praying Brooklyn ends up with the worst overall record in the league, since Boston holds the right to swap first-rounders with the Nets thanks to the 2013 trade that brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce into the fold.
Still, there is a sliver of hope in Brooklyn in the form of GM Sean Marks – who took over last season – and new head coach Kenny Atkinson, who brings with him enthusiasm, offensive acumen and his experience from working under Gregg Popovich disciple Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta. Say what you will about the Nets’ talent level, but if any coach can get the team to play hard and perform above expectations, Atkinson looks like that guy. It also appears that team owner Mikhail Prokhorov has learned his lesson and will afford the new regime the patience to rebuild the team the right way. That’s a luxury that former GM Billy King was never quite afforded by the Russian billionaire.
The team’s top player remains center Brook Lopez, a player who spent a good portion of last season as the subject of trade rumors. The situation with Lopez remains a tricky one for the franchise. Trading him away and plummeting further in the standings would bear no fruit on draft night since Boston is projected to be a playoff team this year. But hanging onto the big man, who is an injury risk, as well as only under contract through the 2017/18 season, isn’t necessarily the wise move either. If the Nets were able to land a solid package of draft picks and/or younger players who could contribute in exchange for the big man, it may be prudent to jump at the chance since the team isn’t likely to return to contention during his tenure.
Given that the Nets are not currently viewed as a desirable destination for upper-tier unrestricted free agents, Brooklyn tried to strike gold in the restricted free agent market this summer. Brooklyn tried to build itself a new backcourt by signing Tyler Johnson to a four-year, $50MM offer sheet and Allen Crabbe to one worth nearly $75MM over four years. Adding one or both players could have been a game-changer for the Nets’ future, but alas, both players’ respective teams matched the offers and Brooklyn was back to square one. While I’m not certain Johnson is worthy of that investment given his small sample size, Crabbe could have become a legitimate two-way star for the Nets. Despite not landing either player, Marks deserves some credit for working the market and making two bold offers in an effort to improve his club.
Having struck out in restricted free agency, Brooklyn went to plan B, signing Jeremy Lin to a three-year, $36MM pact. While Lin has never been able to live up to the hype that “Linsanity” generated during his brief stay with the Knicks, he is a solid player and citizen who will provide a stabilizing influence at a critical position on the floor. Given what the team’s backcourt depth chart looks like, Lin will see plenty of minutes and should put up solid numbers in Atkinson’s system. With the dramatic increase in the salary cap and his solid play for the Hornets last season (11.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 3.0 APG), nabbing Lin for approximately $12MM per year is an excellent value. He’s not the long-term answer at the one spot for the franchise, but Lin will give the team its money’s worth over the life of the pact.
One of the more puzzling moves the team made this summer, considering the Nets are not technically in rebuilding mode given the relative age of the team’s roster, was trading away Thaddeus Young on draft night to the Pacers for the No. 20 overall pick, which was used to select Michigan’s Caris LeVert. Young put up solid numbers during his time in Brooklyn, averaging 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds while shooting 51.4% from the field in 2015/16. Those numbers will be difficult to replace and Young’s game seems like a solid fit in Atkinson’s system.
As for the player Brooklyn received in return, LeVert has suffered three foot fractures already during his young career, the latest of which will likely keep him out of action until close to mid-season. The Nets are extremely high on LeVert’s potential, but given the state of the franchise and its lack of draft picks the next two years, he represents a very risky acquisition. If LeVert can recover from his latest surgery and remain healthy, then nabbing the shooting guard will be considered a coup for the franchise. I’m just not sold on that coming to pass.
To fill out its roster, the team added a number of veteran players that it hopes can pay dividends this season. The most interesting of which is Trevor Booker, whose toughness and rebounding ability should play well with the fans in Brooklyn. Also joining the team is former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, who has reportedly looked good during training camp. If Atkinson can salvage Bennett’s career, the team will be all the better for it.
It will likely be a long season for the Nets and their fans, and it’s unreasonable to expect much improvement over last year’s win total. With a number of Eastern Conference squads fortifying their rosters over the offseason, there’s a very real chance that the Nets will end up with the worst record in the league. However, for the first time in what seems to be an eternity, Brooklyn appears to be moving in the right direction as a franchise. If Atkinson can work his magic and get this collection of players to perform above expectations, perceptions about the team may change and next summer’s free agents may indeed give serious consideration to coming to Brooklyn.
Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.