So we've heard some rumors about who the Nets' free agency targets could potentially be. We have some money to spend-in fact, money we have to spend-and there are many different scenarios that have been thrown out. Everyone is concerned with beefing up our roster to appease Deron Williams and convince him to re-sign. I want to point out two past scenarios that have played out for teams in somewhat similar situations recently:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers- With the threat of LeBron James leaving the franchise he was drafted by, the Cavs did everything they could to please their star in their efforts to retain him. Leading up to his free agency, they overpaid for some players (Anderson Varejao re-signing, Mo Williams' contract) and traded for some aging stars (Shaquille O'Neal, Antawn Jamison) as they struggled to provide "King James" with a suitable supporting cast. When he chose to leave, he left the franchise in shambles both talent-wise and from a salary standpoint. It will take Cleveland years to rebuild, but a lot of their past decisions sure look questionable now in hindsight.
2. Detroit Pistons- In 2009, one year before the much hyped off-season of LeBron, Wade, Amare etc. the Pistons had some significant cap room. They were a declining team after having a lot of success for much of the decade. Rather than begin a rebuilding process, they chose to "retool" so to speak and spent a lot of money in a free agency class much like the one we are looking at now. The Pistons made splashy moves signing Ben Gordon (5 years $58 million) and Charlie Villanueva (5 years $35 million) bringing in two of the better free agents available at the time. This spending took them out of the 2010 free agency festivities and also helped put them in a tough spot with their salary situation and to make matters worse, the experiment clearly failed as the team struggled to win 27 and 30 games respectively over the next two seasons.
What can we learn from these two situations? We need to apply these lessons to the moves we will make in the coming weeks.
-Obviously the big idea is Dwight Howard. Teaming him with D-Will would be the ultimate goal, no matter what it takes. I believe he will be traded much like Melo last season rather than hit the free agent market at the end of the year where the Magic stand to lose him for nothing in return. I think we should do all we can to try and acquire Dwight, he is the most physically dominating player in this league and he and Deron would make a very dangerous combination that would be incredibly difficult to stop.
-I think we should be very careful not to overpay in free agency. I would say we should avoid David West, he's coming of knee surgery, is 31 years of age and in my opinion, sort of duplicates Brook Lopez's skill set.
-I like what Jamal Crawford could potentially bring to the team alongside D-Will, but he, too, is 31 years old and I feel as though we are pretty set at the position with Morrow and MarShon Brooks. It would really depend on how much money he will be seeking but unless Morrow is dealt in a separate trade, perhaps for a SF/PF, I would probably stay away from Jamal Crawford.
-I like some of the veterans that have been mentioned such as Tayshaun Prince, Shane Battier and Andrei Kirilenko, but it's important to be wary of how much money we pay these guys. I would be ok with any of the three of them for the right price. $4-5 million at most.
-Tyson Chandler and Nene are both very good players and would instantly improve this team to a near playoff-worthy level, however they would come at a serious cost. I would be surprised to see either of them sign for less than $12 million per season. I could live with us signing either one of them, but it definitely would be a calculated risk.
-Young guys like Jeff Green, Glen 'Big Baby' Davis, and Marcus Thornton are interesting. I prefer Green or Thornton to Davis, and again whether they are right for our team would depend on their asking price, but I tend to lean towards younger players rather than aging veterans when it comes to multi-year deals. I think Jeff Green and Marcus Thornton should be seriously considered by the Nets, particularly Green since he could fill a position of need for us at SF while being able to play some 4 in smaller lineups, as well.
-I think that we should be patient and see what players become victim of the amnesty clause. A guy like Rashard Lewis, Marvin Williams, or Brandon Roy could be a great value-add for us once their old contracts no longer apply. This might be our best bet, particularly if we wiff on some of our primary targets as we did last off-season.
-Outlaw and the Amnesty Clause- I’ve kind of changed my mind on amnesty-ing Outlaw. At first it was a given for me, a no-brainer. Get rid of him and his contract, he’s way overpaid and we could use the extra cap room. But on the other hand, with the new minimums teams have to meet in terms of their total team salary, we would wind up having to give that $7 million to someone else and we would likely overpay for a different player. From what I’ve read about the new CBA apparently the amnesty clause can be used any one time over the life of the CBA (10 years) per team. So worst case scenario, if we want to amnesty Outlaw next season we can rather than doing so this year and filling the salary void with another undeserving player.
-If we don't like what we see in free agency, we may find better luck via trade. I would love to find a way to steal Josh Smith from Atlanta (Hump s+t, Morrow, James + 1st rounder perhaps?), for example. we really need to be creative in how we spend our money and realize that a wrong move could set this franchise back for years.