Free agency starts at midnight. It is time to be excited.
This article will assess, first, factually, what the Nets CAN do, and SECOND, look at some free agents the Nets PERHAPS SHOULD pursue.
I. SO WHAT ARE THE FACTS
As of now, the Nets, on their 2018-2019 books, have (assuming Dinwiddie is not waived and Musa not dumped) $92,212,375 for 10 players and one stretched contract from the past, as follows: Dwight ($23,819,725), Crabbe: $18,500,000, Carroll: $15,400,000, Lin: $12,516,476, DLO: $7,019, 698, RHJ: $2,470,357; Allen: $2,034,120; LeVert: $1,702,800; Dinwiddie ($1,656,092); Dead Stretch Money: $5,474,787.
Purely on the surface, with a $101 million cap, it would appear, without delving in further, that the Nets have $8,787,625 in space. However, this number does not account for cap holds.
A cap hold is a placeholder number on the salary cap, assigned to each free agent a team has, based on the player’s prior salary. The hold stays on the team’s cap to ensure that teams do not exploit the system by using their space on free agents, and then exceeding the cap to keep their players with bird rights. In a “bigger name” sense, this is why the Rockets, despite Chris Paul’s free agency, lack cap space. His cap hold is on the books at over $35,350,000.
Cap holds disappear in one of three ways. First, if the player signs elsewhere the hold disappears. Second, if you resign the player, the new salary replaces the hold. Therefore, if you intend to keep the player for more than his hold, it is beneficial to keep the hold on the books, exhaust your space on other pieces,and then circle back to sign the player, using bird rights, at a figure above his hold (think Joe Harris and his $1,499,698 hold). Third, if you renounce the player, the hold disappears. Here, you still can resign the player, but now you lack the bird rights described above, and must use cap space to sign him, as if he is another team’s free agent.
Outside of the ten pieces above, the Nets have the following cap holds to decide how to handle: Harris ($1,499,698 hold), Acy ($1,499,698 hold), Okafor ($6,313,832 hold), and Cunningham ($4,370,000 hold). Furthermore, the Nets already renounced Nik Stauskas, and Rodions Kurucs, Milton Doyle, and James Webb do not have holds given their second round and two way statuses respectively. Finally, the Nets have to decide on Isaiah Whitehead’s $1,544,951 nonguaranteed deal for 2018-19.
II. SO WHAT OPTIONS DO THE NETS HAVE, AND WHAT SHOULD THEY
The Nets, before deciding on holds and before handling Dwight’s buyout, have $8,787,625 in space. If they buy Dwight out, they should, even with a player friendly buyout, have over $10 million in space after the buyout.
If the Nets maintain the holds on any of their pieces, their space decreases by the hold’s amount.
One thing the Nets can do is maximize their space by renouncing all of their free agents, or renouncing all except Harris (that would leave them with $7,287,927 in space before a Dwight buyout). Even there, a productive Dwight buyout number should put the Nets over the $10 million mark in space.
One option the Nets have is to keep all their holds on the cap — that would put the Nets OVER the cap, but UNDER the tax apron. If they “operate over the cap” in this fashion, they will have access to a $8.6 million non-taxpayer exception and $3.4 million biannual exception.
The two exceptions can be used on multiple players (i.e. the Nets could sign two players whose starting salaries added to $8.6 million, in using the first exception), but CANNOT be aggregated (i.e.: the Nets could give one player a $12 million starting salary. If the Nets used the smaller exception they would be hard capped at the apron – the apron, however, figures to be around $126.3 million, a figure the Nets likely never approach.
The second option: get under the salary cap by as much as possible by renouncing holds and aggregating Dwight’s buyout into the mix. With the Harris hold, that leaves the Nets with cap space of $7,287,927 + the Dwight buyout figure.
Given these figures, the Nets appear more likely to maximize their space by renouncing holds, buying Dwight out, and working as an under the cap team. If they want to sign someone over $8.6 million per season, they particularly would need to dive under the cap.
III. So what are some options they can look at?
Julius Randle probably tops the list as far as talent goes. The Nets would need to get a good buyout figure from Dwight to gain much traction here. The hope would be that the Lakers are constrained by star chasing, causing them to be unable to keep Randle, or to renounce him. Zach LaVine or David Nwaba, and Aaron Gordon? They are much more likely guys who remain with their incumbents in the RFA process.
Montrezl Harrell is a good young big the Nets can consider, although he is restricted and the Clippers may have offloaded DeAndre Jordan.
Jerami Grant could be another target if he is a financial casualty with OKC.
Treveon Graham is a name to watch. He has the makings of a 3 and D guy, and his per 36 numbers are strong — playing time has been his issue. He is a piece to consider.
Marco Belinelli is a shooter the Nets can consider if he is ok with going to a lesser team. Seth Curry is a player the Nets can look at as injuries have led to his being undervalued. Salaj Mejri, a veteran who can guard the interior, is a name to look at to come off the bench behind Jarrett Allen. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a good defender on the wing and if he is willing to go to a lesser team he could be worth a look as a short term wing defender.
Lucas Noguiera is a shot blocker who has never showed the ability to play within a system on either end, but there is raw talent there. He would be a better signing for a potential look, than a low ceiling veteran at the 5.
Tyler Ulis can be targeted to replace Isaiah Whitehead. Phoenix waiving him was somewhat puzzling on the surface.
Mario Hezonja and David Bertans could receive a look; this is still a rebuild and you can never look at enough developmental pieces along the way.
Bruno Caboclo is another intriguing name. He had no chance with a loaded Raptors team to play, and then wound up in a wasteland in Sacramento. The Nets could determine whether Kenny is the guy to maximize him.
AND AWAY WE GO!