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Anyone see any flexibility out there? No? Okay, move along


Every year, we take a deep dive into the numbers that define the Nets' flexibility in the off-season. In the New Jersey days, there was plenty of flexibility, but no money. Now the opposite is true. The Nets will have a lot to do this season if Mikhail Prokhorov's goal of an NBA championship in five years is reached. Not to mention his continuing bachelorhood.  We can't vouch for all the specifics, but we think we got enough of it right to help fans see what's in store.

Cap space:

They have none and won't have any for years to come. Mikhail Prokhorov doesn't seem to mind. When he writes the luxury tax check four close to $90 million in July, it will mean he has spent $100 million in taxes since the team moved to Brooklyn.

Here are a lot of numbers to chew on:

The Nets owe their current roster a grand total of $182.5 million in fully guaranteed deals over the next four years  (down from $340.3 million in 2012-13). That's the second highest total in the NBA (surprise!), according to ShamSports. The Clippers owe $236.7 million, and they a lot more problems than the Nets! Even if you add the $4 million the Nets still owe Travis Outlaw, they can't catch Clippers.

One trumpeted advantage from the Celtics trade was that the Nets dumped Gerald Wallace's contract, with its $10 million salary in 2015-16. That was supposed to help them avoid the dreaded repeater tax in 2015-16 and maybe even get under the luxury tax apron in the summer of 2015. But if the Nets give Paul Pierce a big deal, that advantage goes away.

A lot depends on two things: 1) whether the Nets and Paul Pierce can reach a deal that satisfies his desire to be paid what he believes he's worth and their desire to get under the apron and avoid the grim repeater and 2) how high the cap and luxury tax threshold goes. NBA revenue projections are on the rise, but not rising fast enough for the Nets. They're likely to go $2.3 million  higher than originally projected for 2015-16, perhaps $66.5 million for the cap, $81.0 million for the luxury tax threshold and $85 million for the apron. The Nets, we're told, are not optimistic they can make it all work.

In the summer of 2015, unless there are dramatic changes in the roster, the Nets will have $64 million committed to four players: Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee.  Add Pierce at, say, $8 million and it's five and $72 million.  How do you fill out 10 more spots, stay under the apron, avoid the repeater tax --even if the luxury tax threshold is in the low 80's-- and still WIN?  Won't be easy.

Don't expect the Nets to take on much if any cap space beyond next season. One reason they took Marcus Thornton over Jarrett Jack at the deadline was Jack's contract extended into 2015-16.  So if you're looking forward to free agency, probably best at this point to look at 2016 rather than 2015.

The big problem being so capped out for so long goes beyond the luxury and repeater taxes, which Russian ownership seems to see as the cost of doing business, an investment, is the Nets can't accept any players in sign-and-trade deals if they're over the apron.. 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 signed him to a big number to make the deal work. But by losing Tyshawn Taylor and Tornike Shengelia, they are limited in putting together Bogans-like contracts. They have Early Bird Rights on Andray Blatche but that's about it.

Not a lot of flexibility there.

Expiring contracts:

Last summer, the big expiring contract was Kris Humphries, who was paid $12 million in 2013-14 but 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 less money. 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 what if a Western Conference contender wants to take him on? One thing that should give people pause when they speculate he could return to Boston or move in with Doc Rivers in L.A. He sold his house in Boston and moved his family to New York.

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 $1.73 million. His agent is Jeff Schwartz.

Jason Collins is also a free agent. He has no options, player or team, no guarantees. Don't be surprised to see him move on. He has made history and helped players like Michael Sam and Derrick Gordon, along with a host of college athletes, come out.

The Nets have four players who are on two-year deals with player options in the second year: Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche, Alan Anderson and Jorge Gutierrez. Kirilenko is being paid under the mini-MLE, the other three are vets minimum deals. Kirilenko, Blatche and Anderson are fully guaranteed. Gutierrez is non-guaranteed. If he is still on an NBA roster by the first week of February, he will be guaranteed (and have Early Bird Rights next summer).  Since he will be making $816,482 next season, with none of it guaranteed, he is ideal trade ballast.

Blatche, as always, is unique. He still a year to go on his amnesty payments from Washington. If he doesn't opt out, he will be paid roughly $9.5 million next year between his Nets salary and amnesty payments,. Because he's in his second season with the Nets, he will have his Early Bird rights this summer. That makes him eligible for a four-year $25 million contract outside the salary cap. He could be in for a big payday ... or not. He has some baggage left over from his Washington gig. 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 three years and $63.1 million left on his contract with an early termination option --a player option-- in the last year, when he'll make $22.3 million; Joe Johnson, two years and $48.1 million left; Brook Lopez, two years and $32.5 million left, with a player option of #16.7 million in the second year; Kevin Garnett, one year and an even $12 million left; Marcus Thornton, one year and $8.6 million; Mirza Teletovic, one year and $3.4 million left with a qualifying offer of $4.2 million in 2015-16;

Mason Plumlee and Marquis Teague are on rookie contracts. The Nets have to make a decision early next season on whether to extend them. In 2014-15, Plumlee will make $1.4 million; Teague, $1.1 million. The Nets could pay Plumlee $5.3 million over three if the Nets exercise his third and fourth year options. Teague is owed  $1.1 million next season. The Nets will have until next October 30 to decide whether to pick up an option on both. Williams and Lopez have 15% trade kickers that would be paid by receiving teams, making their deals even less attractive.

Special situation:

Garnett's contract is going to be the most interesting challenge. He considered retiring last year.  Under his contract, he was guaranteed $6 million of the full $12 million in 2014-15. As part of the trade, it's been reported, the Nets agreed to pay him the full $12 million. It's hard to imagine KG, who has made $315 million in career through some deft contract maneuvers, walk away without asking for that $6 million as a buyout. That $6 million would stay on the cap.

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 30-year-old 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. A teammate of Teletovic on the Bosnian national team, he would like the opportunity to play in the summer league.  Doubt that.

Bogdanovic, a 6'8" Croatian swingman, won't be arriving in 2014-15.  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.

As a second round pick --#31 in 2011-- Bogdanovic can negotiate a contract outside the rookie minimums. According to some reports, Bogdanovic would have been paid $3.2 million in 2013-13 and $10 million over three years if the deal had gone down. According to others, the number would have been around $2.5 million and $8 million. A difference of $2 million, the value of his buyout.

There are reports that he was angered by the failed negotiations. He did fire his agent.  He currently is a free agent and has no buyout. But he is reportedly ready to sign a two or three-year extension with Fener with small NBA buyouts after each year. He has told Croatian websites that he still wants to join the Nets at some point and league sources told NetsDaily at the end of the summer they looked forward to getting his signature on an NBA contract. No matter what, the 24-year-old decision to stay in Europe limits his trade value.

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. Problem is he hasn't played this season, at all.  He is still recovering from double knee surgery he had over the summer and has yet to play this season. He was expected back at the end of February, but his return date has been repeatedly extended. His agent is Jeff Schwartz.  Do his draft rights have any value? Not really. Word is that he is quite a way from being an NBA quality player.

Draft picks:

The Nets have first round picks in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2020, the furthest year a pick can be traded, and have none from other teams. The picks in 2015 and 2017 can be swapped --to the Hawks in 2015 and the Celtics in 2017. BUT the Nets will have a pick in those two years.

They traded their first round picks --unprotected-- in 2014, 2016 and 2018 to the Celtics.  Unless they can acquire a first round pick in the years they traded to the Celtics, they won't be able to trade their first round picks in 2015 and 2017 under the NBA's Stepien Rule. That rule prohibits teams from trading first round picks in successive years.  Their 2015 and 2017 picks must be swapped ONLY if they're higher than the Hawks (2015) and Celtics (2017) picks.

So if the Nets finish with a higher pick (after the lottery) in 2015, their pick goes to Boston and the Celtics' pick goes to the Nets. If the Celtics, who are likely to still be in rebuilding mode, have a higher pick, the Nets first round pick stays in Brooklyn. So, in either case, the Nets will have a first round pick.  The same is true in 2017, with the Hawks pick. Nets get a higher pick, they give it up to Atlanta and use the Hawks' pick.  If not, the pick is their own.

They have four second round picks in the seven drafts between 2014 through 2020 but one is heavily protected and is likely to wind up with Clippers.. They could pick one up from the Celtics in 2017, but there are protections favorable to Boston on that one. 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. The Clippers have the option to swap picks with the Nets if the Clippers pick is #31-55. 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.

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.

The Nets picks traded away since 2010 have yielded Enes Kanter, Damian Lillard, Darius Morris, Gorgui Dieng, Draymond Green and Shane Larkin. In return, they have received Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson. But that is really hindsight, a look at the worst 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.  They have $2 million to use to buy a pick in the second round.  That could get them a pick in the mid-40's.

Trade Exceptions:

The Nets would appear to have acquired 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 to acquire a veteran. It will expire at next February's trade deadline. The likelihood it will be used? Near zero. There are other, simpler ways to acquire players on vets minimum deals.  On the other hand, the Boston deal was arranged so the Celtics came away with a maximum TE or $10.7 million.

Mid-level and Low-level exceptions:

The Nets had a mini-MLE last season and used it to pay Teletovic. This seaon, they used it to pay Kirilenko. Good value with both. With Bogdanovic gone, the Nets are likely to offer it to Shaun Livingston, who Billy King has said 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 New Orleans $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 and sending $750,000 to Philly later that night so they could take Shengelia.  If they had kept the whole $3.2 million that wouldn't be enough to move into the first round, not in this draft!


The Nets no longer have a hybrid relationship with a D-League team. The owners of the Springfield Armor sold the club to a group of investors in Grand Rapids, Michigan. All the Armor draft picks --including the first overall in this year's D-League draft and D-League player rights (several with NBA experience) went with the club to Michigan -- and the Pistons who have a single-team agreement with Grand Rapids. So what will the Nets do with the D-League? Probably nothing. The team will have to share an independent D-League team with a number of other NBA teams without single affiliations.

So unlike Springfield, the Nets will not be able to choose a coach, install their system, just their own jargon, etc. Not conducive to development.  Team officials say they will use the money saved on D-League operations, around a half million dollars, on other development aspects, like providing guarantees to player they invite to training camp.

The Nets are reportedly interested in Adonis Thomas, a 6'7" swingman with a 40" vertical leap and 40 percent stroke from three who flourished at Springfield. He will be pursued by other clubs, particularly Philadelphia who brought him up at the end of the season.

Bottom line?

You had to ask? Expect a lot of rumors about trade possibilities for Deron Williams and Brook Lopez this summer. Seems difficult to believe that either could bring much value right now. The Nets appear ready to push D-WIll to have ankle surgery and Lopez is still weeks or months away from basketball-related activities. So both are question marks with big salaries.  If all goes well, the team should have a nice core. If not, they're two albatross contracts.

We expect Pierce will be back and in fact, will be surprised if he's not, based on what we've heard since the big trade. Is there a handshake deal to offer him a deal? We wouldn't be surprised. You don't be surprised at a two-year deal with a partial guarantee in the second year.

KG?  It's anyone's guess what he will want, but he did consider retirement last year after averaging 12.7 and 13.7 vs. the Knicks in the playoffs. He averaged 6.9 and 6.3 this post-season. He turns 38 on Monday.

Hope for the best with Livingston who does have a great relationship with Jason Kidd. If they can get him cheap --$1.73 million-- and not use the mini-MLE on someone else, that could be a coup.  Or if he gets a bigger deal somewhere else, the mini-MLE could yield a good player.

Hope for the best in the draft as well. It's a great draft. As history shows, the second round can produce gems. In recent years, second rounders included DeAndre Jordan, Chandler Parsons, Goran Dragic, Danny Green, Lance Stephenson, Kyle Singler and Draymond Green (taken with the Nets pick traded with Troy Murphy for Dan Gadzuric and Brandan Wright in case you forgot.)

Finally, hope that the lure of bright lights, big city and an owner with deep pockets will lure players willing to take less for a chance to succeed on the big stage at Barclays.