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Bontemps: Return to cap hell awaits Nets this summer

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most appealing parts of the proposed Brook Lopez - Reggie Jackson deal last week was that if it had been completed as planned, the Nets would have been under the luxury tax threshold this summer, at least until they gave Jackson a max deal.. Lopez's player option would have been the Thunder's problem. Kendrick Perkins would have gone to Philly for some small pieces and the Nets would have been able to sign and trade players, use the full MLE, which is approaching $6 million and the biannual exception, worth close to $3 million.

It didn't work out and at least for now, there's few regrets. The Nets have looked sharp and Deron Williams looked like the D-Will of old (except when shooting from deep).  But as Tim Bontemps points out, the Nets  are still in cap hell and the summer could be painful: the repeater tax looms.

It starts with Lopez, Bontemps writes...

If Lopez opts out, he will be an unrestricted free agent, and free to sign with any team of his choosing. And while the Nets would retain his Bird rights – meaning they could pay him more money, and give him a longer contract, than any other team – doing so would almost certainly leave them in luxury tax territory for a fourth year in a row. Doing that would put them in position to have to pay the dreaded repeater tax – something every team is trying to avoid.

But if Lopez opts in, taking that $16.7 million one year deal, it could be worse.

If both Lopez and Thaddeus Young opt into the final years of their contracts, the Nets already will have over $88 million committed to 11 players. Add in the salary the Nets will pay to their first round pick and just one minimum salaried veteran player and the Nets would be in the neighborhood of $91 million in salaries for next season with the minimum 13 players on their roster.

And that calculus doesn't include what the Nets would do with Mirza Teletovic.  In fact, the Nets could be in for a reshuffle of their front court.  Not only do Lopez and Young have player options. Not only is Teletovic a restricted free agent. But the Nets have to decide on what to do with Cory Jefferson by July 15. His contract is non-guaranteed up to that point and Jerome Jordan, who will be an unrestricted free agent.

They could, of course, try to move Joe Johnson, who will be an expiring, for lesser salaries, or Deron Williams, who may have more value come season's end. But bottom line is the bottom line.  As Bontemps concludes...

So as Lopez continues to produce for the Nets, and potentially helps them make the playoffs, keep in mind the looming decision he has this summer – one that, regardless of which way he goes, should be the defining moment of the Nets offseason.