It’s that time of year again. A season is in the books, and now it’s time to look ahead to the draft and free agency. Last summer the Nets were coming off a 22-44 season and many thought Deron Williams was headed to Dallas. Billy King got him to stay by revamping the roster with 10 new faces, and the Nets improved more over a year than any other team by going 49-33, finishing one gut wrenching loss from the second round of the playoffs. Looking to take the next step, here is what we know about the Nets.
The salary cap will be around $60 million next season, and the luxury tax line around $73 million. The Nets have around $84.5 million already committed to next year’s roster so they will be a taxpayer. As a result, the Nets’ only exception available is their mini midlevel exception of around $3.2 million, which the team is expected to use on Bojan Bogdanovic, per Joshua Newman of SNY: http://snynets.com/columns/source-90-95-percent-chance-bojan-bogdanovic-joins-nets-next-season/. Other than the mini midlevel, the Nets have the 22nd pick in the draft, and can offer other free agents the veteran’s minimum of around $1 million.
2) The Nets have to improve defensively. Last season, the Nets finished 9th in offensive efficiency, and 18th in defensive efficiency. Notably, the Nets’ offense improved when Williams’ health improved after the all star break, but the defense did not.
And now, we go to an offseason plan for the Nets.
I. Pieces in Place
The Nets have eleven players under contract for next season. Among them, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez as cornerstones will be back. Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace are overpaid, and the Nets would not be able to deal them for more talent in return, so they’ll be back. As for the other seven pieces, Kris Humphries, Reggie Evans, MarShon Brooks, Mirza Teletovic, Tyshawn Taylor, Toko Shengelia, and Kris Joseph all could be included in a trade if the Nets wanted to shake the roster up. These eleven pieces under contract may soon rise to thirteen with the signing of Bogdanovic and drafting of the 22nd pick in the draft.
II. Free Agents
Andray Blatche, CJ Watson, Keith Bogans, and Jerry Stackhouse are free agents. As for Bogans and Stackhouse, both were frozen out of the rotation late in the year and King discussed the need for more wing athleticism this summer. That likely spells the end of their tenures in Brooklyn.
King has said he hopes to retain Blatche, and the amnesty rules under the CBA will help him do that. Under those rules, Blatche receives $8 million next year in total, and whatever he receives from the team he plays for only offsets what the Washington Wizards pay from that $8 million (ie: were he to receive $1 million from the Nets, the Wizards would pay $7 million; were he to receive $3 million from the Bobcats, the Wizards would pay $5 million). No team will pay Blatche above $8 million, so Blatche would not make more next year by leaving to play elsewhere. So, as long as King can persuade Blatche that filling his role in Brooklyn beats leaving, he should be back.
Watson is another story. Watson took less money than he could have received elsewhere to become a Net last summer, and the Nets will hope he does the same this summer. If he leaves, he stands to make more money, and perhaps receive more playing time if he plays behind a lesser point guard. That could result in his bolting.
III. What That All Means:
With eleven pieces under contract, the Nets this summer will be able to add 2-4 new pieces to the roster (depending on Blatche and Watson staying) through the draft and free agency, with two of those pieces perhaps being Bogdanovic and their first rounder. They could add more to the roster were they to complete a trade this summer. The only piece on the roster that could bring back a significant return would be Humphries. The rest of the roster (outside Williams, Lopez, Johnson, and Wallace) is tradeable, but under the CBA salaries must be close to matching on both sides of a deal; those pieces make little money so could not bring back much value.
So with that, here is a list of 25 free agents I think the team can target, and 15 potential deals involving Humphries. Keep in mind, many of these free agents off talent could earn more than the veteran’s minimum of mini midlevel and it will be on the Nets to persuade them to take less money to join the team.
IV. Free Agents:
-Bigs: Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Zaza Pachulia, Tiago Splitter, Carl Landry, Robin Lopez,
-Wings: Shawn Marion, Tony Allen, Mike Dunleavy, Randy Foye, Kyle Korver, Marco Belinelli, Dorrell Wright, Ben Gordon, Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Anthony Morrow, Ronnie Brewer, Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington, Brandon Rush, DeMarre Carroll,
- Point Guards: Jarrett Jack, Jerryd Bayless, Will Bynum
V. Kris Humphries Trades: In dealing Humphries, the Nets have much to consider. A deal makes sense because if he walks in 2014, the Nets cannot fill his salary slot with anything except a mini midlevel exception. Dealing him now allows the Nets to acquire $12 million in better, albeit less flexible, talent. Here are some routes the Nets can go.
1) Humphries for Zach Randolph: This feels unlikely with the Grizzlies thriving, but the Grizzlies front office sees Marc Gasol and Mike Conley as the team’s foundation, and Randolph is owed a lot of money in 2014-2015. Maybe they look to shed that contract. Expect the Nets to offer tons of younger pieces to get this done if possible.
2) Humphries to the Celtics for Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett: a deal like this would allow the Celtics to jump start their rebuilding by dealing their long deal, aging veterans, for an expiring deal. I see this as highly unlikely, but it’s worth making the phone call.
3) Humphries to the Bulls for Carlos Boozer or Taj Gibson: Chicago’s salary chart is daunting for a team afraid to step into tax territory, and Gibson is expensive for a reserve forward. Dealing one for Humphries may downgrade their talent but opens flexibility to add pieces for Derrick Rose down the road. Perhaps the Bulls do it.
4) Humphries for Nene: A popular deal amongst Nets fans on Twitter, this deal would help on the court as well. The Wizards are looking to build a winner around John Wall and that may deter them, but if they feel they need cap space, the call does not hurt.
5) Humphries for Goran Dragic and Luis Scola or Jared Dudley: This seems like a weird deal because the Nets have Williams, but with the Suns hiring Ryan McDonough as GM a roster overhaul is on the horizon, and when teams rebuild the goal is always flexibility over talent. Humphries provides them that and the Nets would be well served seeing what talent they can bring in from the desert.
6) Humphries for David Lee: This one is possible solely due to how good the Warriors look this postseason without Lee. He is owed a lot of money through 2016, and the Warriors have little flexibility moving forward as extensions to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson kick in.
7) Humphries for Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: With the Bucks facing tons of roster decisions going forward and hoping to pay Brandon Jennings and JJ Redick this summer, a deal of this kind could help the Nets and give the Bucks some needed flexibility.
8) Humphries for Wes Matthews and Joel Freeland: The Blazers are hoping to add one more elite player to their Lillard-Aldridge-Batum core, and dealing Matthews could help provide them flexibility to get there. Also, Matthews thrived with Williams in Utah and his departure set the wheels in motion for the Williams deal to New Jersey.
9) Humphries for Steve Nash: File this away in the highly unlikely category, but if the Lakers do this they would completely purge their balance sheet beyond 2014 and offer Dwight Howard the chance to build a team from scratch.
10) Humphries for JaVale McGee: The Nuggets went 57-25 but lack flexibility, and McGee was somewhat of a disappointment off the bench for them. This deal gives them flexibility, and the Nets a high upside talent.
11) Humphries for DeMar DeRozan: The Raptors in acquiring Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay are locked into an average product unless they open up some flexibility. Dealing DeRozan to free time for Terrence Ross and money for other assets helps them do that, and provides the Nets a nice piece off their bench.
12) Humphries for Marcus Thornton and Chuck Hayes: this type of deal gives the Kings cap flexibility as they go through their ownership transition, and vastly upgrades the Nets’ talent base.
13) Humphries for JJ Barea and Alexey Shved: if the Nets bigger strikes do not work out this at least provides two solid pieces for next season’s bench.
14) Humphries for Tayshaun Prince and Darrell Arthur: another deal to help upgrade team depth and giving flexibility to the trading partner.
15) Humphries for Brandon Bass and Jason Terry: another deal dealing Humphries for capable players to help fill the bench.