Fans have been looking forward to 2016 for the pursuit of Kevin Durant. To me, having cap space in 2015 is just as important important in order to even be in the conversation for Durant in 2016.
I doubt a roster of Lopez and Williams, with their health concerns over the past two seasons, would be enticing enough for Durant to leave OKC and come to Brooklyn. Durant will be in the midst of his prime at age 28 in the summer of 2016. He'll want to go to a team that is ready to contend not just right away, but for the duration of his 3-4 year contract. For that reason, it's important to establish a young playoff team in 2015 that could build the perception of a team with contending potential for years to come. Let's assume Lopez opts in to his player option and Teague's team option is not picked up. Depending on the salary cap, 100% of our cap space could possibly be taken up by Johnson (35 years old at the time), Williams (32), Lopez (28), and Plumlee (26) (totaling $64,097,401). Additionally, if the Nets do venture into the luxury tax that season, they'll be subject to the repeater tax. Filling out the remaining 9 roster spots with enough meaningful players to be a young playoff team will be extremely difficult. To do so without paying any luxury tax will be nearly impossible.
I've been an advocate of blowing the team up before, but after looking at the free agents in 2015, I'm even more convinced that's the way to go. The Nets should do what they can to clear their books of any large salary for the 2015 free agency. Deron Williams for Rudy Gay's expiring contract and draft picks. Joe Johnson for Stoudemire's expiring contract and a draft pick (yea, a trade with the Knicks because Stat's contract will be the only one worse the Johnson's, excluding Kobe). Hope Lopez opts out so he can retire with his comic books (I'm so conflicted about Lopez. I think the Nets are better off with his salary off the books, but he's my favorite Net and I want him to end his career here).
Possible free agents available in 2015 include:
- LeBron James (ETO in 2014, player option in 2015)
- Chris Bosh (ETO in 2014, player option in 2015)
- LaMarcus Aldridge (unrestricted)
- Kevin Love (player option in 2015)
- Kyrie Irving (restricted)
- Marc Gasol (unrestricted)
- Roy Hibbert (player option in 2015)
- Paul Millsap (unrestricted)
- Omer Asik (unrestricted)
- DeAndre Jordan (unrestricted)
- Aaron Afflalo (player option in 2015)
- Goran Dragic (player option in 2015)
- Jimmy Butler (restricted)
- Ricky Rubio (restricted)
The ones I'm truly interested in are the ones in bold above: Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, and Jummy Butler. I believe for various reasons, each one of these guys could be attainable. Although Rubio and Butler would be restricted free agents, I believe that each team would be willing to let go of them, especially if Prokhorov utilizes his financial leverage and pays them a large signing bonus to be paid upfront.
With Rubio, his team would likely be rebuilding and I doubt they'd want to rebuild around Rubio who they haven't even been playing in crunch time recently. If there is anyone that can get the most out of a point guard with incredible court vision and no jump-shooting ability, it's Jason Kidd.
With Butler, the Bulls are notorious for being a cheap organization. After what many expect to be their big free agent splurge this summer, I doubt they'd be able to match even a decent offer made for Butler.
With Gasol, you get a former defensive player of the year who is probably the most well-rounded center in the game. He'd be up there in age, but his game has never been predicated on athleticism. His comfort level with Rubio would also help elevate Rubio's game. Memphis's avoidance of the luxury tax hinders it from contending in the competitive West. I'm assuming he'd enjoy re-uniting with Rubio in a major market that has international appeal.
Armed with a core of Rubio, Butler, Bogdanovic (who we can hopefully bring over this summer and be ready for big minutes the following year), Plumlee (with a mid-range jump shot?), and Gasol, the Nets can build a young playoff team with role players to perfectly complement Durant at each position.
- Pass first point guard: Rubio
- Defensive wing stopper with three point range: Butler
- Scorer off the bench: Bogdanovic
- Athletic big with shooting touch (hopefully): Plumlee
- Defensive big capable of scoring: Gasol
The Nets would also have the added benefit of being in the East as opposed to the stacked West, especially considering that Pacers and Heat will likely be unable to retain their roster strength till then.