The Atlanta Haws are one of the best teams in the east. They have some cap flexibility, although not as much as it appears at first blush with Al Horford as a free agent, and likely wish to to continue building as a contender. The Wizards have been a disappointment, but have a tremendous amount of cap space, and figure to continue trying to compete in the east.
So with free agency approaching, who on the Hawks and Wizards may interest the Nets, and who can they get?
Al Horford: Horford is an unrestricted free agent who should see huge league wide interest. I always have seen him as underrated by fans (the many great things he does aren’t reflected in traditional stats), but overrated by many media (for overcompensating for how underrated he is by fans, using words like “superstar”). Still, Horford is very, very good. He does have some weaknesses, however. He is undersized, can get bullied by bigger 5’s (Brook Lopez has dominated him in multiple meetings and forced the Hawks to revamp their playoff defense), and forced the Hawks to bring in Tiago Splitter this offseason — it is at least a minor issue if your elite center requires that good of a player behind him. The Nets could decide they prefer Horford to Brook or Young, try to sign him, and then flip one of their bigs. There is no reason, given the Nets have the cash to sign Horford outright right now, to deal either big before signing Horford — they can grab him and then flip one of their bigs, rather than risk dealing them just to see him not sign. Of course, Horford seems happy in Atlanta, who can reward him financially in a way other suitors cannot given the new CBA rules.
Bradley Beal: It’s become trendy and popular to propose the Nets offering Beal a huge max contract as a restricted free agent, but there are multiple issues with the approach. First, Beal is the clear 2 to Wall’s 1 in Washington, and due to his popularity and the Wizards’s popularity and round 1 wins, he has become somewhat overrated. Beal is a good or perhaps very good player. He’s not a great player. Also, given the Wizards will have over $53 million in cap space, and will be huge players in free agency even if Beal returns on a max deal, there is no reason for the Wizards to balk. Is it worth tendering him an offer, and waiting 3 days for the Wizards to match, all the while being unable to use a dime of the money in the offer on other free agents as they slip off the board (as a restricted free agency offer ties that cap space in that player, until the offer is or is not matched)?
Kent Bazemore: Bazemore has been a strong replacement for Carroll this year, and the Nets absolutely need more productive wings. However, there are some issues involved with this pursuit. The Hawks dealt Carroll in the hopes they could replace him at a lower cost, and Bazemore, unless he commands $15 million per, has done exactly that: if he resigns at $10 million per, that is a bullet Atlanta may bite. Still, he may command $12-$15 million per given the market for wings, and if he does, he is grabbable. Do the Nets want to pay that rather than find the next Kent Bazemore on the cheap?
Jared Dudley: Dudley is hitting an age where he is likely to put winning above a payday. However, despite not being a significant name to many, he is a very solid NBA wing, and very valuable player the Nets need to take a big look at. The Clippers and Bucks did extremely well with Dunleavy as a major piece. Both have suffered in his absence: the Clippers have missed Dunleavy on the wing (especially before bringing in Pierce), and the Bucks have been significantly worse this year, in large part due to losing Dudley’s services on the wing. He may be 85% of what Bazemore is at 50% of the price and the Nets need to seriously look at him.
Kris Humphries: Humphries as Nets fans know has weaknesses (he’s a mediocre offensive player who can hurt his team by crashing the boards even when it is suboptimal), but he has played well in Washington, and the Wizards have him shooting threes at a respectable 35% clip. He can be a third or fourth big on a good team (he was as such on a 49-33 Nets team, and may be a better player now). Perhaps he won’t return to a team that traded him, but he is a piece to look at. And with the Wizards likely seeking to retool around Wall and Beal this summer, their other free agents, like Humphries, may be very obtainable. The Wizards have a $4.6 million team option and Humphries is clearly worth that cash, but the Wizards could be in flux this summer.
Alan Anderson: Anderson as we all know is a nice role playing rotation wing. He is a piece the Nets can look to bring back, despite his injuries this year. Anderson perhaps may seek a return to what he had in Brooklyn.
Nene: Nene has a big name, and fans surely remember the Nets passing on making him an offer in 2011. But times change, and Nene has aged in the past year or two in Washington. Believe it or not he’s getting just 18 minutes per game, and he’s just not the same player he once was. His mobility is limited, he struggles defensively, and his game is slipping. He is not a piece to look at this summer.
Mike Muscala: Muscala has not played big minutes this year, and has been something of a disappointment, shooting just 31% from 3. However, he is a young big who competes, has shot better in the past, and may have a real NBA future as a back end rotation player. Muscala is not a player to give a big payday, but he could become a legitimate player, and that is the type of thing the Nets should gamble on with their cap space, especially at a manageable price, as opposed to focusing on the big splash. With Horford and Bazemore free, and a potential decision between Teague and Schroeder coming, the Hawks have more pressing matters than Muscala.
Ramon Sessions: Sessions has always been a competent backup point guard, and is essentially a fourth guard. He could draw interest but the Nets have enough of those and he is the definition of a “dime a dozen” player.
Gary Neal: Neal is a mediocre defender, but he is a rotation player because he can shoot the ball off the bench for a contender. He is not a priority in free agency, but a piece the Nets can look at.
Garrett Temple: Temple is a fringe reserve guard who has now been in Washington for some time. The Wizards also brought sessions in to help handle the duties. Temple is not the type of piece the Nets need going forward.
Drew Gooden: Gooden is on the downside of his career, is defenseless, and is now a bit player in Washington. I expect the Wizards to decline his $3.5 million team option but do not expect the Nets to be interested.
Mike Scott: Scott is largely a bit player in Atlanta. He is actually shooting the 3 better this year, but is a fringe rotation player at most. He is a piece the Nets can look at to round their bench out, but not a piece to commit significantly too. Competition to obtain him will be manageable.
Lamar Patterson and Shelvin Mack, DeJuan Blair, and Jarell Eddie: Patterson, Mack, Blair, and Temple are bit players at the end of the Hawks and Wizards roster, and whether they stick in the league this summer is a legitimate question.