Headed for the trade deadline with limited flexibility

Jeff Zelevansky

The minor trades of Tornike Shengelia to the Bulls for Marquis Teague and Tyshawn Taylor plus cash to the Pelicans for the rights to a 6'11" Bosnian forward don't change the landscape of the Nets much. It does give them an extra roster spot and thus some flexibility, saves them $2.4 million in luxury taxes, gives them a small trade exception ($888,872) and lets them take a chance on a 20-year-old prospect.

The extra roster spot is the big prize. It permits them to think about how to use the Disabled Player Exception or sign a player to a 10-day contract, options that weren't realistic or even possible before the deals. And don't dismiss the possibility that Moscow would like them to reduce the luxury tax a bit before using the DPE.

There are other (less positive) consequences. The Nets sent an estimated $1.2 million to the Pelicans, reducing the amount of the cash they use on Draft Night to buy a second rounder. They still have $2 million, which should be enough to buy a pick somewhere in the middle of the second round but it limits them none the less.

And if Teague doesn't work out, they will pay him $1.1 million to sit on the bench ... and other $3 million or so in luxury taxes.

Here's a basic rundown of where they stand in terms of trade assets and flexibility.

Cap space:

They have none and won't have any for years to come.

The Nets owe their current roster a grand total of $280.4 million in fully guaranteed deals over the next five years.including the 2013-14 season (down from $340.3 million last year). That's the second highest total in the NBA (surprise!), according to ShamSports. The Clippers owe more than $300 million. Yes! Even if you add the $8 million the Nets still owe Travis Outlaw, they can't catch Clippers.

One financial advantage from the Celtics trade: the Nets dumped Gerald Wallace's contract, with its $10 million salary in 2015-16. By doing so, that should help them avoid the dreaded repeater tax for that season and maybe even get under the luxury tax apron in the summer of 2015 ... once again be able to sign and trade players from other teams.

The big problem being so capped out for so long goes beyond the luxury taxes, which Russian ownership seems to see as the cost of doing business, an investment, is the Nets can't accept any players sign-and-trade deals until that summer, unless something extraordinary happens, like Garnett retires. Nor will they have the full MLE or the BAE, which will be close to $3 million by 2015.

Right now, they will have the mini-MLE, which should start at around $3.3 million ($10 million over three). Like any team, they can sign and trade their own free agents if they have Bird rights, as they did with Keith Bogans in the Celtics trade. In that case, they used the big number to make the deal work. But by losing Taylor and Shengelia, they don't have that Bogans-like contract.

Not a lot of flexibility there. Moreover, neither Garnett and Blatche can be traded without their approval.

Expiring contracts:

Last summer, the big expiring contract was Kris Humphries, who is being paid $12 million in 2013-14 by Boston. They also got value out of Bogans who because he had been with the team two straight years was eligible for Early Bird rights. They signed him for $5.2 million and traded him to Boston to make the Paul Pierce - Kevin Garnett deal work.

This year, they have multiple expiring deals. Start with Pierce, who will make $15.3 million this year. Don't be surprised to see the Nets offer him a multi-year deal at the end of this season ... at less money ... if he improves. His agent is Jeff Schwartz. Because he is at the end of a multi-year deal, the Nets have his full Bird rights. That means they can re-sign him outside the salary cap. Will they? He reportedly wants to return. But if at the deadline, a Western Conference contender wants to take him on, and offer a younger player, the Nets would have to listen.

Shaun Livingston is also an expiring contract with no options, team or player. If the Nets want to keep him, they will either have to dip into the mini-MLE or he'll have to accept a vets minimum deal plus 20 percent, roughly $1.56 million. His agent is Jeff Schwartz.

The Nets have three players who are on two-year deals with player options in the second year: Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche and Alan Anderson. Kirilenko is being paid under the mini-MLE, the other two are vets minimum deals.

Blatche, as always, is unique. He still has two years to go on his amnesty payments from Washington, this season and next. Between his Nets salary and amnesty payments, he is guaranteed $18.5 million over two years. Because he's in his second season with the Nets, he will have his Early Bird rights next summer. That makes him eligible for a four-year $25 million contract outside the salary cap. If he continues to play well, is mature and healthy, he could be in for a big payday. He'll turn 28 this summer. By holding his Early Bird rights, the Nets can pay him a competitive salary. And yes, if he opts out and signs with the Nets (or any other team), he still gets money from the Wizards in 2014-15.

The rest of the roster is on a variety of other deals. Here are the details as laid out by ShamSports. Deron Williams has four years and $81.6 million left on his contract with an early termination option in the last year; Joe Johnson, three years and $69.5 million left; Brook Lopez, three years and $47.2 million left, with a player option in the last year; Kevin Garnett, two years and $24.4 million left; Jason Terry, two years and $11.5 million left; Mirza Teletovic, two years and $6.6 million left; Reggie Evans, two years and $3.5 million left. Mason Plumlee and Marquis Teague are on rookie contracts. The Nets could pay Plumlee $6.4 million over four if the Nets exercise his third and fourth year options. Teague is owed $1.07 million this season, $1.12 million next season for a total of $2.19 million. The Nets will have until next October 30 to decide whether to pick up an option on his third year. That would add $2.02 million plus luxury taxes in 2015-16. Williams and Lopez have 15% trade kickers that would be paid by receiving teams.

A footnote: Last year, D-Will and JJ ranked #1 and #2 in guaranteed money owed. This year, they are #5 and #8. Chris Paul is #1, followed by Blake Griffin, John Wall, Dwight Howard, Williams, James Harden, Derrick Rose and Johnson.

Special situation:

What if Garnett decides to retire after this year with $12.3 million still on the books? He almost retired last year and it wouldn't be a surprise if he does. Does the last year of his contract simply go away? Once he puts in his retirement papers, he stops getting paid. Money comes off the cap. However, the could ask for a buyout.

Draft rights:

The Nets still hold the rights to Bojan Bogdanovic, selected in the 2011 draft, and Ilkan Karaman, selected in the 2012 draft. Both play for Fenerbahce of Istanbul. They added the rights to Edin Bavcic in the Taylor deal, but not no one other than his agent thinks the 6'11" Bosnian is going to make in the NBA.

Bogdanovic, a 6'8" Croatian swingman, could arrive in the NBA for 2014-15, when he will be 25. As reported ad nauseum, he couldn't get out of his $2 million buyout with Fenerbahce this summer, scuttling the Nets' plans to bring him over. Next summer, he will be a free agent. He has no buyout. He has told Croatian websites that he still wants to join the Nets and league sources have told NetsDaily they look forward to getting his signature on an NBA contract. On the other hand, he's told Turkish websites there's no urgency to his joining the NBA and his coach says he will be back..

As a second round pick --#31 in 2011-- Bogdanovic can negotiate a contract outside the rookie minimums. Under the proposed deal he and the Nets had agreed to in early July, According to some reports, Bogdanovic would have been paid $3.2 million in 2013-13 and $10 million over three years. According to others, the number would have been around $2.5 million and $8 million.Since he will have no buyout this summer, will the Nets try to get him for a smaller package? Or did the Nets commit to the $10 million whenever he signs? We don't know. Agents do have a tendency to hold teams to handshake deals.

A bigger question is whether the Nets will be outbid by a European club ... and how he gauges what happened to Teletovic, who is after all from the same town in Bosnia. (League sources don't see that as a much of an issue. Players see themselves as different, that is, better, than other players, said one.)

Karaman, a 6'10" Turkish power forward, has an uncertain arrival date. He's 23. The Nets have not publicly talked about his buyout situation but reports suggest it's $1 million this summer. Word is that he is quite a way from being an NBA quality player . Moreover, he is still recovering from double knee surgery he had over the summer and has yet to play this season. He is expected back at the end of February. His agent is Jeff Schwartz.

Draft picks:

The Nets have their own first round picks in 2015, 2017 and 2019 and none from other teams.

They traded their first round picks --unprotected-- in 2014, 2016 and 2018 to the Celtics. The 2015 and 2017 picks must be swapped if they are higher than the Hawks (2015) and Celtics (2017) picks.

They have only three second round picks through 2019. Here are the details on the second round picks:

--On Draft Night in 2011, the Nets sent their second round pick in 2014 and their 2010 first round pick (Jujaun Johnson) to Boston for MarShon Brooks.

--In the 2011 Mehmet Okur trade, the Nets sent their second round pick in 2015 to Utah for Okur.

--In 2012, the Nets agreed to swap second round picks in 2016 with the Clippers in return for Reggie Evans. If the Clippers pick is between #31 and #55, L.A. can swap it with the Nets pick if the Nets pick is higher. The Nets can still trade the pick if the other team is willing to assume the risk.

--In the 2012 Joe Johnson trade, the Nets sent their second round in 2017 pick to Atlanta. It wasn't included in the original deal but the league required it because of a CBA technicality.

--In 2018, the Nets have their own second round pick.

--In 2019, the Nets have their own second round pick.

They have also acquired the rights to another pick, but both it's of limited value, a so-called "paper pick." If Boston exercises its right to swap its 2017 first round pick for Brooklyn's 2017 first round pick, then Boston will convey its 2017 second round pick to Brooklyn protected for selections 31-45. If Boston's pick falls with that range, the Celtics will retain it and the Nets get nothing.

Prior to the Deron Williams' trade, the Nets hadn't traded any of their own first round picks going back to 1999, preferring to keep their picks and trade those acquired from other teams. Under Billy King, they traded their own first rounders in 2011 and 2012 to acquire Williams and Gerald Wallace, then traded their own first rounders in 2014, 2016 and 2018 to acquire Pierce and Garnett.

As Devin Kharpertian noted, the Nets picks traded away since 2010 have yielded: Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Damian Lillard, Darius Morris, Gorgui Dieng and Shane Larkin. In return, they have received Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson. But that is really hindsight, a look at the best case scenario. (Multiple league sources said the Nets would never have taken Lillard but instead liked Thomas Robinson, who was gone at No. 5, John Henson and Tyler Zeller.)

The Nets are continuing to scout a wide variety of players, from lottery picks to those who may not be drafted ... because, well, you never know.

Trade Exceptions:

The Nets received a $788,872 TE in the Tyshawn Taylor traded. For the purposes of a trade, $100,000 can be added, making value $888,872, or enough to acquire most players on vets minimum deals without sending out a player. For example, there is nothing to stop the Nets from trading Bavcic's rights along with the TE. On the other hand, the Boston deal was arranged so the Celtics came away with a maximum TE or $10.7 million.

Disabled Player Exception:

With Lopez out for the season, the Nets applied for and received a DPE of $5.15 million, the max. For trade balancing purposes, $100,000 can be added to the exception, making its effective value in a trade $5.25 million. For the purposes of signing a free agent, the value is $5.15 million.

The DPE has a lot of limitations. Like a TE, it cannot be combined with a player. But the limitations don't end there. It can only be used on an expiring contract in a trade (and only one). It can only be used to sign a player to a one year deal ending in July. It must be used by March 10 free agency or February 20, the trade deadline, in a trade.

Where could the DPE come in handy? Every year, players with expiring deals on bad teams asked to be waived so they can sign with a contender. The player must be waived by March 1 in order to be eligible for the playoffs. (Players don't have to signed by March 1. They just can't be on an NBA roster.) Aaron Brooks was waived by the Kings on March 1 of last year, then signed by the Rockets on March 4, making him eligible for the playoffs in Houston. No doubt, the Nets would like to sign anyone in that situation for the vets minimum. But the DPE gives them flexibility to give a free agent more than the minimum. Of course, it would cost them in luxury taxes.

Mid-level and Low-level exceptions:

The Nets had a mini-MLE last year and used it to pay Teletovic. This year, they used it to pay Kirilenko. The Nets don't have access to the Bi-Annual Exception, which starts at $2.6 million because of the size of their payroll. Assuming they can't get under the luxury tax, they won't have one next summer either.

Cash Considerations:

Although the Nets have the richest owner in the NBA, new restrictions on cash considerations limit how much Mikhail Prokhorov can spend in deals. Under the new CBA teams are limited to sending --or receiving-- $3.2 million in cash during the fiscal year, July 1 through June 30. The Nets reportedly gave Houston $1.2 million in the Taylor deal, leaving them with $2 million to use on Draft Night. They were able to buy second round picks in the 2012 draft, paying Portland $2 million for the rights to the #41 pick, using it on Taylor. If they had kept the whole $3.2 millionm that wouldn't be enough to move into the first round, not in this draft!

Springfield Armor:

The Nets not control the NBA rights to anyone currently on the Armor roster, just their D-League rights. Like any other team, the Nets could call up players to either a 10-day deal or a contract for the rest of the season. The best prospects in Springfield are bigs Dennis Horner and Willie Reed, swingman Adonis Thomas and the recently acquired guard Darius Johnson-Odom.

Bottom line?

If the Nets continue to play at their current level, it's unlikely they will make any moves --or certainly any major moves-- at the deadline. There's no real interest in Reggie Evans. They don't want to deal either Brook Lopez or Deron Williams now, when injuries have diminished their trade value. Nor are they likely to deal the players who've developed most this season: Mason Plumlee, Mirza Teletovic or Shaun Livingston.

Of course, things could change.

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