The first week of free agency is officially over, and the Nets have done the following this offseason: draft Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs, resign Joe Harris, and sign Ed Davis.
The short of the present: the Nets have as much as $10,164,673 in cap space this summer, and as little as $3,602,689 in space, as follows (italicized items are assumed):
1: Deals on the books come to $87,726,295: 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 (assuming he’s not cut because that’s a no brainer); Musa: $1,632,240 (his cap hold); Pinson (no hold or coming figure for Exhibit 10 pieces); Dwight: $19,319,725 (splitting the difference in the Bontemps and Scotto reports); Dead Stretch Money: $5,474,787.
2: Holds/Exceptions being worked around come to $1,512,601: Harris: $1,512,601 hold; Davis $0 hold (Nets can circle back to both after other business)
3: Nonguaranteed deals, uncertain signings and questionable cap holds, come to $9,027,415: Doyle ($1,349,383 hold), Whitehead: $1,544,951 ($844,951 guaranteed per netsdaily.com), Acy: $1,512,601 hold, Foye ($3,000,000 hold), Kurucs ($1,620,480 salary, the 120% scale for the last pick of the first round, given reports of an agreement via netsdaily.com and others).
4: Off the cap: Webb III, Cunningham and Okafor (renounced), Stauskas and Mozgov (on new teams)
The Nets cap space is variable, per the above. The Dwight buyout may be over or under the $4.5 million listed. Musa could sign below the 120% rookie scale figure (unlikely). Kurucs could sign for more or less than the above rookie scale figure. And the Nets can waive Whitehead, and renounce Doyle, Whitehead, Acy, and Foye
However, one this is SURE: Marks needs to do SOMETHING to advance this process forward.
The Nets, since the trade deadline, have done virtually nothing to advance this rebuild besides add cap space in 2019. They face a dilemma: they are close to becoming a “treadmill team” in the middle of the standings.
Want to pitch free agents on the Nets and contend? They just went 28-54, and their chief addition, win column wise, is Ed Davis. He is not moving that needle. Most of the league will be armed with cap space, and the Nets, at this point, figure to pitch 4 straight lotto bound seasons (and a fifth sub .500 season).
Speaking frankly, the Nets cannot credibly add Ed Davis to a 28-54 team, and pitch stars on this product. Repeatedly, free agents are choosing the teams where they feel they can win the most.
On the other hand, want to pitch a rebuild? The best rebuilds are payroll light and asset heavy. The Nets are poised to be the opposite; payroll heavy and pick light.
As for the payroll, DLO, Dinwiddie, and RHJ are all getting extensions next summer; Joe Harris just got one, Allen Crabbe would be wise to opt in, and that stretched Deron money is still on the books. Caris LeVert is then due his extension in 2020, and the Nets did not get Allen Crabbe to be a bad contract.
As for the picks? The best rebuilds are stockpiled with multiple extra picks, per year. The Nets? They have their firsts going forward, but no other firsts, and they face a deficit of seconds, with three outgoing and only one incoming through 2021 per RealGM.
Just look at other rebuilds. The Suns added the 1, 10, 31, and 59 picks this year, and have a future surplus by way of a coming Bucks first. The Hawks added players at 3, 19, and 30, and have two firsts and four seconds due in coming years from other franchises (per RealGM). The Sixers, before breaking through this year, had a massive volume of picks, at all draft levels.
With a lack of picks — and with a roster likely too good to lose 60+ games, a rebuild will be difficult for the Nets as of now.
The foregoing puts the Nets in no mans land: too good and asset light to rebuild, but not near good enough.
This brings up a cold reality: while Sean Marks has been patient, and not actively harmful to date, the Nets have been residents in no mans land since midseason in 2017-2018; nothing Marks did at the deadline mattered, and nothing Marks has done this summer, to date, has really mattered.
Personally, my opinion is that the Nets should strip this roster bare of everyone except their 3 highest end prospects – DLO, Caris, and Jarrett – and rebuild around the picks acquired plus those three pieces. I see it as the best risk/reward proposition they can enter. It provides the most assets possible, so that when their 2019 first rounder comes around, it is not naked, but flanked by other assets. In addition, since stars are attracted by stars not role players, the Nets relinquishing role players is not going to lessen the quality their star pitches in 2019. Frankly, only DLO exploding will attract a star, and having RHJ, Lin, Harris, or Carroll is not really changing that.
That said, if the Nets prefer not to strip the roster clean, but instead to go all in on the summer of 2019, they should be mindful of two things. First, they need to add authentic talent this summer; not Ed Davis and Dzanan Musa to a 54 loss team. Second, if the pitches to elite players do not work, the Nets need to use their space to add picks in deals, instead of signing second rate players because “we sold this summer and fans need to see something.” That would be out of character for Marks – but not for Prokhorov.
Some would bemoan the loss of continuity and culture. But both are overrated. As for continuity, there is a correlation is not causation issue. Teams are not good because they have continuity, but rather, good teams like their players and decide to keep them (and therefore good teams are correlated with not caused by continuity). And last year, three of the four conference finalists were dramatically overhauled as compared to the year prior. As for culture, it is good to have a quality working environment conducive to success when you have talent. But culture is no substitute for the actual talent, and having it only benefits you as compared to a few dysfunctional franchises.
Something tells me the greatest power forward of all time, not culture, spearheaded the Spurs dynasty.
It is true that Marks cannot be reckless (and in fairness, has not been). We saw what happens in Brooklyn when you are reckless.
That said, a GM DOES need to advance the program forward. Marks didn’t at the deadline. So far, he hasn’t in this early part of the summer.
Will that change?