Nets Notes: LeVert, Durant, Free Agency

Swingman Caris LeVert is going to be a key piece for the Nets this summer, in more ways than one, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. LeVert, affectionately nicknamed “Baby Durant” due to his lanky build, style of play, and relationship with his nickname-namesake, is the one player on the Brooklyn roster with connections to Kevin Durant, the cream of this summer’s free-agent crop.

But on top of that, LeVert is also a key piece of the Nets’ young core – he led the team in scoring before injuring his foot and then again during the playoffs – and locking him up to a long-term contract extension should be near the top of the team’s offseason to-do list, right next to making a run at Durant, writes Lewis.

LeVert, 24, just completed the third season of a rookie contract he signed after being drafted No. 20 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. Therefore, per the CBA, the Nets have until the day before the start of the 2019/20 season (but not before the end of the July Moratorium) to lock LeVert up to a long-term deal, potentially through 2024 (or 2025 if the club designates him), right before LeVert turns 30.

As Lewis notes, the Nets opted not to extend the rookie contract of D’Angelo Russell last summer, instead letting the 23-year-old All-Star hit restricted free agency. Brooklyn is still in a good position to re-sign Russell, but it’s likely they could have gotten him on a cheaper contract last summer before his breakout 2018/19 season. Failing to extend LeVert could again cost the Nets money next summer should LeVert outperform expectations in 2019/20 akin to how Russell did this season.

Furthermore, keeping LeVert happy is important in order for the Nets to have the best chance at signing Durant this summer. And LeVert has made it clear he’s happy in Brooklyn. “I’d love to play here as long as possible,” LeVert said. “I love the city of Brooklyn, I love the coaches and the team here. So whatever we decide to do, I’ll be happy with.”

There’s more news out of Brooklyn this evening:

  • The Nets being ahead of schedule in their rebuild does not mean they should sacrifice their core to go wild in free agency, writes Sean Deveney of Sporting News. For example, Brooklyn could make a trade and let Russell go in free agency in order to create two max-contract slots. But doing so would destabilize the nucleus of a team that is on the rise, and there is no guarantee that the two-max players would fit into head coach Kenny Atkinson’s system. Even signing one max-guy shouldn’t be a no-brainer, writes Deveney, as that player could potentially stunt the growth of LeVert or a guy like Spencer Dinwiddie.
  • Despite the lack of an on-court rivalry between the two teams from the Big Apple, the Knicks and Nets could be headed for an offseason, front-office-oriented showdown this summer in the form of Durant’s free agency, writes Stefan Bondy of the Daily News. One factor in the Nets’ favor is location – per forward Jared Dudley – as the Nets practice in Brooklyn while the Knicks practice in Tarrytown, a village in Westchester County located roughly 30 miles north of Manhattan.
  • Frank Isola of The Athletic also chimed in on the difference in value between the Knicks and Nets from the eyes of free agents, writing that Madison Square Garden, fan base, and team history tip the scales in New York’s favor, despite the tremendous job that Atkinson and Sean Marks have done in the last three years.
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