March changed a lot of things for the Nets. They signed D-Leaguer Gerald Green to a contract as the month began, then after losing out on Dwight Howard two weeks later, sent Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a lightly protected first round pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace. The Nets had hoped they could go on a playoff run, but injuries (once again) and a period of adjustment ended that idea fairly quickly as they lost five straight.
Now, with "Gerald Squared" playing well, the Nets will be looking at the future, one that will take them to Brooklyn in a few months ... hopefully with their best players in tow. Here's our best guess at what assets the Nets will have at their disposal over the next few months.
After the flurry of late off-season moves, the Nets opened the 2011-12 season about $2 million over the cap ($1.995 million to be specific). That was after trading for Mehmet Okur and signing or re-signing free agents Shelden Williams, Shawne Williams, Kris Humphries and DeShawn Stevenson and inking Marshon Brooks, Jordan Williams and Dennis Horner to rookie contracts.
Since then, of course, they've signed and released Keith Bogans and Larry Owens, called up Andre Emmett, Gerald Green, Jerry Smith, Armon Johnson and Horner on 10-day deals, and signed Green for the rest of the season. All those contracts count against the cap, being pro-rated at league minimums.
On March 15, after waking up to the bad news about Dwight Howard, they moved on to "Plan B", trading Okur, Shawne Williams and their lightly protected (1 through 3) 2012 first rounder to the Trail Blazers. At the end of the day, the Nets are under the cap by a million dollars or so and about $13 million under the luxury tax threshold. The big advantage of the trade in terms of cap space is that the Nets were able to dump Shawne Williams player option ($3.15 million) on Portland, who has yet to decide whether to buy him out. Williams will almost assuredly "opt in", considering his injury status.
How much will they have to play with? We're not going to estimate that number at this point since so much depends on so many variables, starting with Deron Williams plans. Suffice it to say that before discussing cap holds, player options, draft picks, etc., the number is around $30 million. In terms of guaranteed money owed players long-term, the Nets are near or at the bottom of the NBA list. One estimate has them owing a grand total of $66 million but that too depends on a number of variables. (Compare that to the Knicks, who owe nearly a quarter billion dollars --$246 million-- to their players over the course of their contracts.)
The Nets have seven players on expiring contracts totaling about $30 million, with the possibility those numbers could rise to nine and $43.7 million. The expiring contracts, in descending order of size, are: Deron Williams, $16.4 million (assuming he opts out as he has said he will); , $8 million; DeShawn Stevenson, $2.5 million; Damion James, $1.2 million; Sundiata Gaines and Shelden Williams, $854,389 each (for cap purposes) Gerald Green $406,524 and Armon Johnson $104,494 (both for cap purposes) .
Gerald Wallace ($9.5 million without incentives) and Jordan Farmar ($4.25 million) both have player options for next year. Farmar had said he plans to opt out but with his injury likely season-ending, that may change. Wallace has said he will likely opt out and seek a longer term contract..
Brook Lopez, on the last year of his rookie contract, is a restricted free agent making $3.1 million. He has a cap hold of $7.7 million next season until he is re-signed or renounced (which isn't going to happen). No team will have as much cap space as the Nets (although the team obviously doesn't want to lose Deron Williams).
The remainder of the team is either on rookie contracts: MarShon Brooks ($1.1 million) and Jordan Williams ($473,604); or multiple year deals: Anthony Morrow ($4 million) and Johan Petro ($3.25 million).
The Nets hold the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic, selected in the 2011 draft. He is 50-50 to join the team in 2012-13, but it's more likely he will arrive in the NBA for 2013-14, when he will be 24. His agent reportedly wants him in the NBA earlier rather than later. Just before the 2011 draft, he signed a three-year deal with Fenerbahce Ulker of Istanbul. The contract has an "NBA out" in 2013 but the Nets hope they can work a deal with the Turkish club and get him here quicker. As a second round pick, he can negotiate a contract outside the rookie minimums. Considering that he was the first pick of the second round (and would have certainly gone higher except for his deal with Fener), he is likely to get an initial contract with a first year salary above $1 million, depending on how much Euroleague teams offer him.
The Nets have three first round picks and one or maybe two second rounders over the next three years, or if Lady Luck shines on them, four. Here are the details:
In 2012, the Nets have their own first round pick IF they finish 1, 2 or 3 in the lottery (protected as part of the Gerald Wallace trade) but if not, it goes to the Trail Blazers, and the Heat's second round pick (unprotected), acquired along with Chris Quinn in 2010. They may also have the Bulls' second round pick (unprotected), if the Lakers elect to accept a $250,000 payment. The pick, obtained in the Chris Douglas-Roberts trade, was sent to the Lakers in the Terrence Williams deal. The Nets can retrieve the pick in return for $250,000, but the Lakers are unlikely to agree.
In 2013, the Nets have their own first round pick (unless they get 1, 2, or 3 in the 2012 draft) and the Rockets' first round pick (lottery-protected), acquired in the three-team trade that send Terrence Williams out; See below for details on protections on this and the Rockets pick, which also rolls over if Houston doesn't make the playoffs.
In 2014 and beyond, the Nets have their own first round pick.
In 2016 and 2017, the Nets have their own second round picks, having sent their 2012 second rounder to the Warriors in the Brandan Wright trade; their 2013 second rounder (plus cash) to the Timberwolves in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade; their 2014 second rounder to the Celtics in the Marshon Brooks trade; and their 2015 second rounder to the Jazz in the Mehmet Okur trade.
Regarding protections: the Nets pick owed the Blazers is protected top three in 2012; top two in 2013; top one in 2014 and unprotected in 2015. The Rockets' first rounder is lottery protected (1-14) through 2016. That means the pick rolls over each year through 2016. In 2017, if the protections have prevented the Nets from using it as a first rounder, it would become a second round pick and the Nets would receive an unspecified amount of cash from the Rockets.
Until the Deron Williams' trade, the Nets had not traded one of their own first round picks since 1999, preferring to keep their picks and trade those acquired from other teams. Now, they have traded first rounders in 2011 and 2012. (The last two first round picks the Nets traded turned into Matt Harpring and Wally Szczerbiak.)
The Nets have two trade exceptions from the Gerald Wallace trade, a $3 million exception and a $1.39 million exception. It's unlikely the smaller one will be used. The Nets had a $1.3 million trade exception from the Terrence Williams trade which they never used. It expired earlier this season.
Mid-level and Low-level exceptions:
The Nets had a "room exception" which they used on DeShawn Stevenson. The availability of the MLE and LLE will be determined by the amounts and timing of the Nets moves this summer.
Although the Nets have the richest owner in the NBA, new restrictions on cash considerations limit how much Mikhail Prokhorov can use in deals. Under the new CBA teams are limited to sending --or receiving-- more than $3 million in cash during the fiscal year, July 1 through June 30. Since the Nets haven't paid out any cash since June 27 of 2011, they can, if they want, use $3 million to buy a pick (or two) on Draft Night, then after July 1, use another $3 million to sweeten a trade.
Since he bought the team, Prokhorov has spent $7.5 million in cash: $3 million in the Yi Jianlian salary dump; $3 million in the Deron Williams trade and $1.5 million to buy the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic. During that period, only the Knicks' James Dolan paid out more, $7.75 million.