Whether we should have known as the tea leaves came in or not, we know now. The Nets are going to be watching the balance ledger going forward. They may not be tanking and will look to compete. But the budget matters, and the goal of opening cap space for the summer of 2016: the summer of a mega free agent class of 2016, a cap which should be higher, and a landscape presenting the Nets with something they currently lack: options.
So what do the do in the interim?
I. The Roster
PG: Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, Jorge Gutierrez (Nonguaranteed), Marquis Teague
SG: Joe Johnson, Markel Brown (if signed), Xavier Thames (if signed)
SF: Andrei Kirilenko, Bojan Bogdanovic (reportedly signed), Sergey Karasev
PF: Kevin Garnett (if he sticks around), Mirza Teletovic, Cory Jefferson (if signed)
C: Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee
Of note, if you include Bogdanovic and all three second round picks, that’s 15 men, right there. The Nets could conceivably stand pat right now, sign all three second rounders, and make no changes to the roster. I do not foresee Thames making the roster, and Jefferson is likely to at least have to fight for a camp invite. So I do see the Nets at least testing the free agency waters, to see who they can add. But with only the minimum to spend, the shopping is going to be light.
II. The Cap Sheet
There’s only two deals on the ledgers for 2016 for guaranteed money: Deron Williams, and Bogdanovic if his deal is as reported. While Deron has a player option for $22,331,135 (gulp), he is likely to exercise it because he’s not worth that money. Maybe he’ll be truly franchise dedicated, opt out, and take less so the Nets have more flexibility that summer: I’ll hold my breath.
The other thing: there is not much the Nets can do on the trade market if they would like to get younger and cheaper. Bogdanovic, Plumlee, Karasev, Teague, Gutierrez, Brown, Jefferson, and Thames? Those are pieces you keep around if you want to remain young and cheap. Could the Nets entertain a trade? Sure. But the goal is also to leave the 2016 cap sheet free and clear, and those assets without control over tradeable first round picks leave the Nets short on assets for a significant piece.
Deron, Brook, and Joe occupy about $63 million of salary in 2015-2016: the Nets are basically anchored down to this roster so long as they have all 3 players. The Nets could very well kick the tires around on any of the 3, especially if the goal is to cut costs. That would surely be dramatic. But the only way to reshape the roster, and the financial picture, BEFORE 2016, is to deal at least one of those three pieces for an expiring contract. Otherwise, the Nets are looking at an offseason next summer in which they will flirt with the tax line, and will likely be limited to the full midlevel exception and biannual exception in adding to the roster.
Is dealing Deron Joe or Brook smart? That’s an open question, and my answer is probably not. But if you want a roster makeover before 2016, that is the way.
The Nets payroll for 2015-16 as of now: approximately $72,311,663: the tax this summer was at $77 million and will be a bit higher next summer, so the Nets are ALREADY flirting with it…and that’s with 10 roster spots to fill. That number is deceivingly low.
Picking up team options on Plumlee (no brainer), Karasev and Gutierrez (possible), and Teague (doubtful) increases the payroll by about $1.5 million per player. We have not included contracts yet for the Nets second round picks of this summer, any free agents they sign this summer, OR the Nets first round pick and second round pick next year: those numbers will spike the payroll up higher, and now you’re flirting with the tax. Now, the Nets would have decisions to make on their own free agents: Garnett is likely to hang them up next summer if he does not now, and the Nets would then have to decide on Teletovic and Kirilenko going forward: are they worth paying? For how long? Will they accept 1 year deals to not cloud 2016? If they won’t, are they worth clouding the 2016 cap picture? That probably depends on what the cap is expected to be, and is contingent on if Deron is traded (given his salary commitment beyond 2016. No easy answers here.
Given all that, and the hard cap placed on teams that use their MLE, the Nets face a salary crunch next summer where they’re seemingly set to be unable to add more to the roster.
All of which makes the Jarrett Jack trade puzzling, now that we know the Nets’ plans are to cut costs? Sure the Nets could have used more behind Deron than Gutierrez and Teague. But Jack struggled a year ago. The Nets could have used the league minimum on a Toure Murry, a Shelvin Mack, or someone of that ilk (they’re out there: Livingston was a minimum signing after all) with upside, to play backup point guard. They’d be looking at 70-80% of Jack’s production, but for 10% of the cost. And when you’re cutting costs, losing players to a numbers game, worried about your financials going forward: that matters. Given the salary constraints I just outlined, the $6,300,000 owed to Jack in 2015-2016 is a thorn in the side of the Nets tea building nets summer. Costs matter, especially when you say they matter, and there were better value signings than Jack out there given the Nets’ goals of financial flexibility.
And that only breeds more questions: is Teletovic dealt for draft picks? Kirilenko for a second rounder if that’s even scrounge-able. These were incredulous questions 17 hours ago. Not now.
It’s a new day in Brooklyn. #HelloCostCutting