With this piece, I continue my look at free agents across the league – this time, by looking at the Northwest division (*pre trade deadline*), starting with the Thunder and Blazers.
Who from the Thunder and Blazers are free agents the Nets can look at?
Kevin Durant: Clearly, the Nets are hilarious underdogs in the Durant chase. The presumptive favorite are the incumbent OKC Thunder. He can go to the Warriors, or another contender. He can go “home” to Washington DC. Should he crave going to a bigger city, the Lakers (with Randle, Clarkson, and Russell, yes) are better set longterm than the Nets, and the Knicks (with Melo and Kristaps) clearly are as well. Still, you HAVE to try. If Durant tells you he wants a meeting, you spend umpteen hours preparing your pitch, and you sell the franchise as best you can. You will fail, 99.999% of the time. But you have to try to be that .001%. If you are that 1 in 1,000, the other 999 alternate universes do not matter.
Meyers Leonard: The easiest thing to do when starting a rebuild, really, is to start. Even the Nets, in amassing a ton of assets as of January of 2011, got that part right. The Blazers have as well in the wake of losing Aldridge but start facing decisions on their young players, like Leonard, next summer. Leonard is a nice young big, who shoots four threes per game (a very encouraging sign), and has shown he can fit in with a winning group in some capacity. Do the Nets make him an offer and see if the Blazers match on their restricted free agent? Leonard is a nice piece, but is behind Plumlee and Vonleh in the pecking order in Portland.
Dion Waiters: Waiters is a classic “overrated and underrated” case. On one hand, casual fans love high scoring wings who were big names coming out of college, which conspired to cause Waiters to become overrated. On the other hand, media and more nuanced fans hate players overrated by casual fans and disliked by metrics, which conspired for overcompensation in the market correction on Waiters’ popular value, to the point many underrate him. Strip all of that away, and he is a key role player on a 40-14 team who clearly can be a 5th or 6th piece on a contender, as he is now. That has value on the market, especially given Waiters’s age. I would not overpay, but he is worth a $10 million contract on this market, without a doubt. Waiters will be restricted so OKC can match any offer, but Durant’s decision may affect their assessment of whether they should (they are likely more apt to match if Durant stays).
Allen Crabbe: Crabbe has been a useful shooting guard off the bench in Portland. He shoots the 3 well, and plays very good minutes off the bench for the second place team in the Northwest. Crabbe, a restricted free agent, may be obtainable, given the Blazers are clearly committed to Lillard and McCollum as their back court. The Nets need better guards and Crabbe can help in that area.
Maurice Harkless: The Blazers did an excellent job of getting Harkless for nothing this summer. He has been a decent reserve, and, lately, has started in place of Vonleh (and seems poised to take Vonleh’s starting job even after his return from injury). Harkless has not been that great, but has some skills, and is another restricted free agent the Nets may look to pry to bolster their bench. With so many young restricted free agents, the Blazers may crack somewhere.
Anthony Morrow: Morrow is clearly a high class outside shooter. He can play a critical role on any contender, as he is now, as a reserve spreading the floor. The Thunder have a $3.5 million team option they clearly should exercise. But given their constant desire to save money, perhaps they decline . . . a “perhaps” made more likely if Durant defects. The Nets clearly should show interest.
Gerald Henderson: After years starting, Henderson is now a reserve in Portland. He is likely obtainable, as an unrestricted free agent who is not in Portland’s future plans. Henderson is decent defensively, and is actually shooting a career best 36.5% from three on a career high number of attempts. He can be a useful piece in Brooklyn, but is certainly not a priority.
DJ Augustin: Augustin is a fair reserve guard in a pinch, nothing more or less. With Cameron Payne emerging next to Westbrook, there is little reason for OKC to make him a priority. The Nets would not be hurt by adding him.
Cliff Alexander: An undrafted free agent the Nets cut during their 2015 training camp, Alexander has not been able to get much of a sniff with Portland. Brooklyn, with far less talent, may be a better fit for a speculative player like Alexander, to see what he has. The Blazers have a $875,000 team option but with so many other issues this summer, who knows if they exercise it.
Chris Kaman: If he’s not finished, he’s close. Kaman has little to bring to the table at this point, and when the Blazers inevitably let him go this summer (unless he stays as nothing but a locker room veteran), the Nets should look in other directions.
Steve Novak: Novak can shoot the 3. But there is nothing else he can do at this advanced career stage. The Nets should look in other places.
Tim Frazier and Luis Montero: Both are end of the bench pieces who may not be in the league much longer. Frazier is a restricted free agent who likely becomes unrestricted upon Portland declining a qualifying offer; Montero a player on whom the Blazers have a $875,000 team option they may decline.