Free Agency: Nets Options

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!

 

 

 

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Grading the Dwight Howard Deal, and Looking at What Comes Next

Thanks to Twitter, a trade not even 12 hours old is perhaps already old news.

Incoming: Dwight Howard, and all the irony that comes with him after the Dwightmare, dating back to 2011.

Outgoing: Timofey Mozgov, the 45th pick in the 2018 NBA draft, and a 2021 second round pick (no protections were released).  The deal, given cap machinations and over moves prior to when it can be made official on July 6, may look slightly different, but the above is likely the crux of the deal.

Overall, I give the deal a B+, but I note there are some risks lying beneath the benefits (those risks necessitate a non A range grade).

The 2019 salary picture: 

In short, this trade permits the Nets to open two max salary slots, depending on how they handle cap hold renunciations (you can only exceed the cap to retain your free agents for whom you maintain cap holds).

The Nets, in 2019-2020, could have the following salary cap structure, under the assumed $108 million cap:

-$30,872,745 in players under contract: Crabbe: $18,500,000 (if he opts in), Bust Stretch: $5,474,787, LeVert: $2,625,718 (assuming Nets exercise his option), Allen: $2,376,840 (assuming Nets exercise his option)

$34,275,004 in cap holds Nets may want to maintain: DLO ($21,059,095), RHJ ($7,411,071), Dinwiddie ($1,603,638); 2019 10 pick assumed ($4,201,200)

Cap Holds to renounce whether retaining players or not, due to excess salaries:  Carroll, Lin, Dwight

Other names “in the fray”: Harris, Whitehead, 2018 40th pick, other players added in 2018any “one year contract” players signed to round out 2018 roster

 

The benefits of the trade:

This is simple: the Nets washed Mozgov’s horrid $16.7 million in 2019-2020 off their cap.  That allows the Nets to do a ton in 2019 that they could not do before.  Want to sign stars? You have that much more cap room, potentially two max slots.  Want to trade for elite talent? The ability to eat contracts is huge.  Want to rent space for picks if you are not attracting stars? You can rent way more space now.

The only way the Nets lose out here on value is if they turn their newfound space into less value than pick 45 in the draft and a second rounder in 2021. That seems highly unlikely.

The goal of a rebuild is optionality: have as many options as possible to become good. This trade opens options up. If the roster disappoints and it is clear free agents will not be attracted, there is enough young talent left to tank, and a ton of cap space to eat assets and picks.  On the other hand, if the roster flourishes, there is enough cap space to pitch significant free agents on Brooklyn and surge upwards.

 

The risks of the trade: 

The main risk, really, is if the trade signals a required win now shift by ownership (a mandate to make a splash in 2019), or if Sean Marks’ eyes are bigger than his stomach, so to speak. There is clearly nothing wrong with the Nets pitching big free agents next summer.  As fans, we must hope that they still believe, and understand, that if they “strike out,” the worst thing they can do is pay B and C level free agents, to “save face.” The Nets should target a limited pool of prime free agents, and if that fails, become bargain hunters and rent space for assets.

Marks would be wise to apply his own past words in this regard, regarding his shift in 2017 from Otto Porter to the salary dump market.  As Marks said regarding the smart strategy shift, “we went after ONE guy. It wasn’t ‘hey, if we don’t get Otto Porter, we’re going to go after 50 different players and spend the money elsewhere.'”

Marks should take an identical tact in 2019.  Go after the stars.  If you strike out, don’t “go after B and C players and spend the money elsewhere.” Resort to salary dump for pick alternatives, like the Carroll move.

Color me as very optimistic that Marks will remain patient.

The second risk, it should be noted, is this trade makes a 2019 tank somewhat less likely.  However, Dwight did not add much to the bottom line in Charlotte, and likely will not in Brooklyn, from a win loss perspective.

 

So What’s Next

It must be noted that as of now, the Nets DO NOT have two max slots next summer, if the cap holds of DLO, RHJ, and Dinwiddie are all on their books next summer.  Cap holds stay on your books.  The Nets would need to trim about $16 million combined, from their contracts or holds, to open a second max slot.

LeVert and Allen cannot really be moved to open cap space; nor can the 10th pick. One way to open space could be trying to find a deal for Crabbe, similar to the Mozgov deal.  If Mozgov is tradeable (shoot, twice tradeable), Crabbe certainly is.

Another stealthy way? Working out a pre October 31 extension with DLO.  This is a gamble because it means the wagon is hitched to him, but if you extend him at, say a $16 million starting salary in 2019, that removes $5 million from your cap (because the actual salary would replace the hold).

Another way would be moving RHJ before the deadline, or this summer, for a 2018 draft pick (or a later year pick).  RHJ (and Dinwiddie) simply do not have the upside that DLO, LeVert, and Allen have.  The Nets would be remiss to pay RHJ and Dinwiddie their deserved marked value figures, because those figures will anchor their salary cap, in 2019 and beyond.  The last thing the Nets should want is non star players, like RHJ, Dinwiddie, and Joe Harris, eating space that can go to a star, and producing wins that blockade a tank.

Dealing RHJ and Dinwiddie for draft pick compensation (and Harris after reupping his deal), serves a clear purpose — it opens up options in the Nets’ rebuild. If DLO takes off, there is a ton of cap space to attract stars on the market.  If the market does not bear stars, the Nets would have the type of asset cache that they could use to deal for one.  And in the doomsday scenario, f DLO is not worth the squeeze and the Nets fail as a result, the picks acquired for RHJ, Dinwiddie, and Harris will help the Nets begin a tank from the bottom of the standings, with a surplus of assets.

RHJ, Dinwiddie, and Harris are simply not as valuable to the Nets as the combination of picks and cap space (by not paying them) that dealing them would provide.

 

Buckle up.  It should be a fun offseason.

 

Nets Trade Winds: Central Division Edition

My Nets offseason series continues with a look at the central division – who can the Nets pluck from Cleveland, Indiana, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Chicago?

Let’s take a look.

Cleveland Cavs: Whether LeBron stays or goes (no, Brooklyn isn’t getting HIM), the Cavs figure to be active, either to surround him or shed veterans for assets. Kevin Love is also unlikely – the Cavs would likely seek assets or a talent upgrade for him neither of which the Nets can or should provide.

But otherwise, the Nets can become active. If Cleveland needs a parking space for any of its bloated contracts – Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, or to a lesser extent Kyle Korver – in exchange for picks – the Nets should be open for business. The Nets could absorb or nearly absorb any of those pieces.

In addition, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic have some upside. If the Cavs need to ship them in a Nets deal to make dollars work, the Nets would be wise to explore.

Indiana Pacers: the Pacers are in a fascinating position. With Thad, Bojan, Darren Collison, Al Jefferson, and Lance Stephenson all on options, Indiana could in theory enter the summer with Oladipo and a ton of cap space, if they are so inclined.

Their veterans do not really make sense in Brooklyn. TJ Leaf was a first rounder last season; maybe the Pacers would trade him to add DeMarre Carroll to boost their wing production as they compete in the east. Maybe, instead, Indiana would deal their first rounder to add a piece like Carroll – that is less likely. The Nets should push for Ike Anigbogu in any deal.

Glenn Robinson III is an intriguing free agent to consider. He is a young wing who has not had much chance to shine in Indiana, due to injuries and roster depth. That could change in Brooklyn. The Nets should give him a look since he plays a premium position and has a 3/D profile.

Milwaukee Bucks: First things first: even if obtainable I want no part of Jabari Parker. The Nets need flexibility to obtain stars (whether in the draft or free agency). The worst thing they can do is cap themselves out – with a roster too good to tank but not good enough to win. Parker would help do just that.

The Bucks would only likely deal John Henson if a big upgrade was available but if they did, the Nets could look into a pick rental situation with him. Tony Snell or Matthew Dellavedova who had bad years, are more likely options.

Beyond that, the Bucks have no picks to deal until 2023 due to the Bledsoe deal, which may keep things quiet here.

Detroit Pistons: The Pistons are chasing the playoffs; the Dwane Case hire made that clear (he has too much cache to sign on a rebuild).

Reggie Bullock would be a fine young piece to consider if the Pistons do not guarantee his deal (for some odd reason).

Other than that, one area the Nets can target here is traded – the Pistons want win now upgrades and the Nets should exploit that. A Carroll for Leuer-Galloway swap, or something similar with Lin, should be on the Nets’ radar. The Pistons are unfortunately unable to trade a first rounder before 2020, but maybe the Nets, in such a deal, can pry the first rounder and Henry Ellenson, to sweeten the pot.

Chicago Bulls: While the Bulls (perhaps recklessly) per Woj want to accelerate their rebuild and dip into the free agent market, their status as a rebuild makes them a poor Nets match for transactions.

David Nwaba was a strong find for Chicago last year. If the Bulls let him walk in pursuit of a reshuffle, the Nets should take a strong look. Noah Vonleh also may warrant a look.

Going more nuclear, if the Bulls heel turn on their rebuild and explore salary dumps to sign free agents, the Nets should be open for business on Omer Asik, Cristiano Felicio, and Justin Holiday if the Bulls really went there.

Nets offseason plan: any Southeast division picks or players for sale?

Continuing to tour through the league, I look at how the Nets might try to upgrade this summer.

Our tour goes through picks or players the Nets May poach the Southeast Division: the Heat, Wizards, Hornets, Magic, and Hawks.

Miami Heat:

The Heat are in a similar spot as the Thunder last summer, minus a star in Westbrook – they are capped out with a first round loser, and no obvious path to improve.

With no tradeable picks until 2022, it will be hard to poach this roster. The Nets could, in theory, rent space to Miami to park a contract, but Miami has no picks to send back. And if a team is dealing a star to Miami (which feels unlikely), that team isn’t going to add picks to the deal.

Brooklyn’s only chance here is if the Heat make a few Blazers like moves. Something like sending Justise Winslow and James Johnson to Brooklyn for nearly nothing in return.

But unless the Heat unexpectedly part with Bam Adebayo in a money dump (not happening), this is not worth it.

Washington Wizards:

The most likely path this summer for Washington is to reshape the roster around Wall and Beal, in their effort to contend. The Wizards also have their full complement of picks.

That opens up myriad trade possibilities depending on how short term the Wizards get.

Perhaps the Nets could extract the 15th pick in the draft, in a trade built around Allen Crabbe and Ian Mahinmi – it’s a real but perhaps Washington feels the upgrade in talent (both players expire in 2020) warrants the pick being dealt.

Thinking along similar lines, if the Wizards want to move on from Gortat and expand their wing rotation to handle Boston’s loaded group, a Carroll-Gortat swap could work – they should not, but if Wizards parted with a first in the deal, that is a home run. Alternatively, the Nets could simply eat Gortat’s contract in exchange for a first – without moving Carroll – if the Wizards feel Wall’s comments about their big man rotation leave Gortat out of the picture. The Wizards would likely insist on dumping Jason Smith and Jodie Meeks in a package like this – the Nets should accept if on the table.

If the Wizards balked on dealing a first, Kelly Oubre could be an alternative.

Charlotte Hornets:

The Hornets truly can go a number of ways this summer.

At the deadline, there were rumors of them dealing Kemba Walker, and using him to offload bad money. If Charlotte does that, expect a complete rebuild, and expect the Nets to be unable to help.

But if Charlotte changes course and goes into “sell Kemba on staying” mode, we could see the Hornets chase short term upgrades to get Kemba to stay.

That could put their pick, at 11, on the table. Maybe the Nets facilitate with a trade centered around a Carroll-Marvin Williams swap.

Going more nuclear, the Nets could acquire the awful Nicolas Batum contract for the 11th pick, Carroll and Lin. The Nets would be forfeiting a lot of future cap space, and allowing Charlotte to reshape it’s future roster. As such, the Nets, in such a scenario, would need to demand more, from among Kaminsky, Monk, and other future firsts.

Dwight Howard’s deal fits more neatly into many of these scenarios. But would the Nets organization ever acquire him?

Orlando Magic:

Trades are always tough with other rebuilding franchises. The Magic have bad contracts but they are not going to dump picks to shed them.

Aaron Gordon? He is not a star, or close really, and is poised to get a huge contract. That money on the books doesn’t benefit the Nets long term. And the Nets don’t have the cap room to make a max offer. And the Magic are likely to match any offer made.

Mario Hezonja is a worthwhile target, simply because he may come cheap, and because there is a recent record of young players leaving Orlando and thriving elsewhere (See Oladipo and Tobias Harris).

Atlanta Hawks:

There is little here for Brooklyn. The Hawks will likely look to turn veterans into kids or rent space picks – neither fits the Nets’ interests since the Nets should want the same thing.

Mike Muscala could be a target if he opts out and he would strengthen the big man rotation as well as provide another shooter. That is about it here.

Trade Winds – Who will the Nets add? Atlantic Division Edition

You smell that?

It smells GOOD.

That my friends, is the smell of the NBA offseason, finally upon us.

How will the Nets use their cap space? Can they move up in the draft? Can they add a pick? Will they keep their 2019 powder dry?

With questions abound, this article begins a series. I will look at every team in the NBA, and consider the Nets’ options.

One common thread will exist in these posts: the Nets likely are not a compatible trade partner with teams in rebuild mode, since the Nets are not in asset dealing mode.

For starters? The Atlantic Division. Who can the Nets poach locally?

Toronto Raptors:

The Raptors are a tough team to figure regarding offseason plans. On one hand, they went 59-23 and appear dissatisfied with being swept by Cleveland. That tends to show they will look to win now. On the other; Masai Ujiri wanted to rebuild in 2013 and did not due to the team’s fluky emergence. With fan disappointment about losing and a clear limited ceiling perhaps he feels this is his window to rebuild.

If the Raptors continue competing, as I expect, their inability to deal a first rounder until 2020 (due to the Nets owning their 2018 first); their toxic relationship with DeMarre Carroll similarly complicates matters.

Lucas Nogueira is a free agent the Nets can consider. He has never put his talent together and there are questions abound about his NBA future, but he alters shots with his length and has the raw skill to be a good interior defender, if channeled.

Jakob Poeltl, under contract, is another, as a solid defending and rebounding big. He is worse than RHJ right now, but cost controlled through 2020. Dealing RHJ for Poeltl and another asset – perhaps that Toronto 2020 first rounder, although that is a reach – would give the Nets more cap room in 2019, replace RHJ with two assets before his extension, and, for Toronto, provide another wing defender to throw at LeBron, or at Boston’s morass of wings.

Boston Celtics:

Unlike the Raptors, the Celtics’ focus is clear – make the NBA Finals.

But despite the Nets potentially having veterans, young and old, who could help Boston, Danny Ainge is a notorious big game hunter. He is unlikely to cash assets out on small games in a deal with Brooklyn.

That makes something like, say, RHJ for a first and either Daniel Theis or Guerschon Yabusele, unlikely.

Perhaps Aron Baynes is a candidate to backup Jarrett Allen, if he wants to avoid a multi year deal given the cap crunch and build some value.

Marcus Smart? He would help Brooklyn build a winning culture but the Nets cannot afford to kill their future cap with role players.

Philadelphia 76ers:

The Sixers will pursue LeBron James and other big names this summer. That makes them an obvious trade target for the Nets, who, starting July 1, have cap space in which to dump contracts – at a price.

Jerryd Bayless sticks out on the Sixers’ 2018-2019 books like a sore thumb, but since he expires in 2019, it would be thievery if the Nets could extract the Sixers’ 26 pick to eat his deal. Simply put, the Nets only have role player money to spend on the market – the 26 pick, in a rebuild, is way more valuable. Particularly when the Nets HAVE done well drafting in the 20’s.

If the Sixers give up on Furkan Korkmaz, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, or Justin Anderson in opening cap space, the Nets should look to pounce. Similarly, in the unlikely event the Sixers decline Richaun Holmes’ team option to maximize their cap space, the Nets should show strong interest.

The Nets should not worry that if they give Philly cap space, they “helped them” get LeBron, or Paul George, or (insert star here). If the Nets don’t do it, someone else will – and then Philly still has their stars but the Nets reap no benefit.

Lastly, if the Nets do keep their cap space for the free agent market, perhaps guys like Marco Belinelli or Ersan Ilyasova are willing to at least start the season with a mediocre team – both, particularly Belinelli, would spur the development of D’Angelo Russell by giving him floor spacers to work with offensively.

New York Knicks:

Unless the Knicks strike gold on the free agent market, their plan appears to be to continue developing their kids, and keep the powder dry for 2019.

Going radical, would the Knicks, sick of Joakim Noah, swap him in exchange for Timofey Mozgov, and dump an asset to do it? The Knicks don’t have a second rounder for several years, so there is likely no mileage here.

Maybe the Knicks think they can sign a big name this summer and the Nets can help out by taking on Kyle O’Quinn, Ron Baker, or Troy Williams in exchange for future second rounders.

Beyond options like that, there is not much doing on this front.