My look into Nets free agency options, beginning with Atlantic Division free agents, began with the Boston Celtics, and now continues with the Toronto Raptors.
As with the Celtics, we take a look at roster building options for Brooklyn involving currently Toronto players. Who is a free agent the Nets can scoop? What kind of payday are they looking at? What trade options exist?
As with the Celtics, the same rules apply. All free agents are being reviewed, regardless of perceived attainability, although issues regarding retaining the free agent or the player’s status (is he restricted, is there in option, etc) will be noted. Also as discussed, the Nets are looking at $37,950,666-$43,620,786 in cap room assuming an $89 million cap, pending player options, with Lopez, Young, RHJ, Bogdanovic, and McCullough in place, and Larkin, Robinson, Ellington, and Bargnani having player options (which options explain the variance in cap room).
Now for a look at the Toronto Raptors and the Nets’ Options.
DeMar DeRozan ($10,050,000 player option). DeRozan will not be free unless he opts out, but he is widely expected to opt out of his under market contract. $15 million to DeMarre Carroll? $14 million to Khris Middleton? DeRozan figures to earn $17-$20 million per season on his next deal, at least. While the Raptors figure to try to keep him, he may be attainable. Masai Ujiri is not afraid to shake things up, and if the Raptors fail to reach the conference finals (or get out of the first round), Ujiri may decide this core is simply not good enough to contend. If he does, DeRozan is the only core piece hitting free agency, and in adding Carroll, drafting Delon Wright, and extending Terrence Ross, the Raptors have prepared for this moment. I do expect the Raptors to try to keep DeRozan, but do not see him staying in Toronto, and Toronto wanting him to stay, as anything close to a lock — especially if Toronto has another playoff disappointment. Should the Nets want DeRozan, given the poor play of Joe Johnson and Bojan at the moment, DeRozan would represent a significant upgrade on the wing. However, it should be noted that Kyle Lowry is the straw stirring the Raptors drink. Like Brook Lopez, DeMar is a good, not great, player. However, at 27 years old when free agency comes he would be a nice addition to Brook and Thad as the Nets build piece by piece. The Nets can and should be in play for him this summer, although the competition for his services will be stiff.
Bismack Biyombo ($2,940,630 player option): Biyombo is a piece the Raptors likely will try to keep, regardless of a retool or if they keep the status quo. I expect him back in Toronto, although I also expect him to decline his player option. He is just 23 years old, and while his offense is a struggle, he is extremely good defensively, both on bigs inside and in the pick and roll. If the Raptors let Biyombo walk, the Nets should absolutely take a close look at his services. On a 3 year $12 million neighborhood deal, he would be properly paid, and would be a great backup for Lopez, given their contrasting skill sets. Biyombo is the type of piece who does not make the headline, but makes a team better.
James Johnson: He is an extremely good wing defender who can guard 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s. You can never have enough of those, and he is worth a look as the Nets build their bench. Given RHJ is already on the roster, Johnson is the type of piece whose fit right now is nebulous, until the Nets add more to next year’s roster. However, he is a free agent to monitor. His poor offense, and bristling about playing time in Toronto, are red flags, however. Johnson appears unhappy in Toronto, and I expect him to hit the open market.
Luis Scola: Scola is a good scoring reserve big having something of a renaissance season thus far in Toronto. However, I would not have much interest were I the Nets, unless I had enough quality defense surrounding him. Scola does not play a lick of defense, and at 35, there is no room for improvement. The Nets are better served adding quality defenders to their big man rotation than another big who can put the ball in the basket, particularly one whose early season stats may be a mirage given his age.
Anthony Bennett: The Nets have enough speculative reclamation projects in house. Bennett is in year 3, on team 3, and still has been unable to make a dent in the NBA. I do not expect the Nets (or anyone, really) to have much interest in his services.
Trades with the Raptors:
At the moment, the Raptors do not make for a sensible trade partner with the Nets. They are competing in the East, and there is no reason for them to take on Jarrett Jack, Joe Johnson, or other large Nets contracts.
However, as discussed above, Ujiri is a bold GM. If he believes the Raptors are not a contender with this core, he will not hesitate to make changes. With that, there may be options for the Nets at the deadline or in the summer, if the Raptors are looking to shake the roster up.
Jarrett Jack for Patrick Patterson and two second round picks: I would take a first rounder and start my offer there, but it seems preposterous that a franchise would deal a first rounder for Jack. Patterson makes $6,050,000 in 2016-2017 and is a reserve in Toronto who does not appear to be part of their future core. With this deal, Toronto can buy Jack out at his $500,000 buyout amount for next year, and open up some more salary cap space to use on DeMar DeRozan, a pitch to Kevin Durant, or other free agents. For the Nets, they would be renting just a portion of their cap space, and charging Toronto some draft pick compensation in exchange for the rental.
Jarrett Jack and Thomas Robinson for Cory Joseph: Call this the “Toronto would have to be crazy but you miss every shot you don’t take” trade offer. Do not expect a deal like this, unless the Raptors sputter, and truly believe a retool is necessary. Joseph is Canadien, is young, and is thriving in Toronto. Still, if the Raptors sputter, perhaps they look to shed his contract and rely on Delon Wright to provide minutes. If they do, he’s worth more than this, however, and I would rate the Nets’ chances at a deal like this as miniscule.