This past season couldn't have gone much worse for the Nets at the point guard position. Jarrett Jack went down with a torn ACL in December, and Donald Sloan and Shane Larkin both struggled to fill his shoes. The Nets never even filled the vacant PG spot.
So what's with them ... and prospects for free agency?
--- Jack has a team option. If the Nets keep him, they will owe him $6.3 million and if they let him go, their exposure drops to $500,000. After suffering an ugly ACL tear, his first serious injury, at age 32, this decision seems foregone.
--- Shane Larkin had a player option for $1.5 million, which he will reportedly opt out of. He can negotiate a longer deal with the Nets ... or seek his fortune elsewhere.
--- Unlike Jack and Larkin, Donald Sloan is an unrestricted free agent. He has said he'd like to come back, but would the Nets feel the same? As a backup or third stringer, he might be worth keeping around. Then again, if the Nets draft a point guard, it would seem smarter to give the pick a roster spot, even if he spends much of his time in the D-League
So now, the pressure is on Sean Marks and company to find a capable starting point guard and maybe even a back-up. They simply cannot afford to have the same issues as last year.
So as the offseason moves into high gear -- free agency is a little less than a month away -- we take a look at the Top 10 point guards available this summer. No speculation. No sources. Just some of the options out there on the table should Marks or Atkinson be intrigued by what they see.
1. Mike Conley - UFA - 6'1" - Memphis Grizzlies
Conley made $9,680,000 in the 2015-2016 season, averaging 15.3 points and 6.1 assists per game. At age 28, the veteran point guard is going to get a big raise, especially since he's the most sought out free point guard on the market. Still, after a season-ending Achilles injury, would the Nets take a chance on him? And vice versa. Would Conley take a chance on the 21-win Nets? Money talks and plenty of team will have dough to throw at him.
Shortly after the Nets fired Lionel Hollins, Conley told reporters that Hollins would've been a 'big reason' to look at the Nets in free agency. Hollins departure is not a game-changer. Conley could wind up with a max contract while playing in a big market, whether it be with the Nets or the Knicks.
2. Rajon Rondo - UFA - 6'1" - Sacramento Kings
Rondo's interesting and not just because he's another guy looking for the big payday. After signing a one-year deal in SacTown --which looked more like an audition for other team this offseason-- Rondo averaged 11.9 points, 11.7 assists and six rebounds per game. He's a pass-first point guard and although he might work extremely well with Brook Lopez, the Nets might need guys who can stretch the floor if Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is on the floor as much has we expect. That's not Rondo. Also, talent isn't a problem. It's the character issues. Increasingly, Rondo seems to be unable --or unwilling-- to get along with management. (On the other hand, one of his biggest supporters is former teammate, Kevin Garnett.)
3. Jeremy Lin - P.O. - 6'3" - Charlotte Hornets
Here's another interesting case. Lin averaged 11 points and three assists off the bench for Charlotte this past season, and has even expressed his interest to stay. But with a shortage of free agent point guards, and stellar play in Charlotte, Lin's value has skyrocketed and he's likely to receive a large chunk of money this summer. He has a player option at $2.1 million. He might make five times more in free agency.
The rumors around Lin and the Nets began once the Nets hired their new coach. Lin has attributed much of his success to Kenny Atkinson, his former assistant coach with the Knicks. It was Atkinson who turned Lin from a novelty -- an undrafted Asian-American from Harvard-- into Linsanity. Would both parties seek a reunion? He's 27 years old and can still hit the prime of his career. He works well in the pick-and-roll and that could work wonders for Brook Lopez and the Nets' offense. Not to mention the marketing possibilities!
4. Nando de Colo - RFA - 6'5" - PBC CSKA Moscow
De Colo was named MVP of Euroleague and most recently the Russian Professional Basketball League after averaging 24.3 points, six rebounds and five assists per game playing for CSKA Moscow, the team Mikhail Prokhorov owned a decade ago. A former Spur, de Colo is someone Sean Marks is very familiar with. So is Sergey Kushchenko, who's a member of the Nets board as well as commissioner of the Russian league. He's 28 years old and has some NBA experience. He might be worth taking a shot on. But like most on this list, it would be a big risk.
He's a restricted free agent. His last NBA team, the Raptors, hold his rights, but it's unlikely they would match any offer the Nets made de Colo. They have three point guards now.
5. Brandon Jennings - UFA - 6'1" - Orlando Magic
After rupturing his left Achilles tendon in the 2014-2105 season, Jennings hasn't been able to find the groove he had before the injury where he averaged 15.4 points and 6.6 assists per game with the Detroit Pistons. He's likely to go cheap (whatever that means in the era of inflated salary cap), but is it worth taking the risk? He's only 26.
This is as big a job for the Nets medical and training staff as it is for the front office. How bad was the injury? How well has he recovered? If not, when will be back to form?
6. Jordan Clarkson - RFA - 6'5" - Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers can match what other teams offer Clarkson, but it'll be interesting to see what his value really is. He's only 23 years old and averaged 15 points and just 2.4 assists per game on a rebuilding Lakers team. His lack of distributing makes you wonder whether he's a true point guard, but under Atkinson, aka "the point guard whisperer", Clarkson might be an ideal piece for the Nets to develop over the next couple of years.
The problem is that Clarkson is covered by the "Arenas Rule." As cap guru Larry Coon writes, teams are now limited in the salary they can put in an offer sheet to a restricted free agent with one or two years in the league. The first-year salary in the offer sheet cannot be greater than the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception. Moreover, Clarkson has said he wants to stay in L.A.
7. Seth Curry - RFA - 6'2" - Sacramento Kings
Although it may be hard to believe, Seth is much more than just Steph's brother. In his three seasons in the league, Curry excelled mostly in the D-League where he averaged close to 20 points and five assists per game. After an impressive showing at the Las Vegas Summer League, the Kings took a chance on him. He averaged 6.8 points and 1.5 assists in 15.7 minutes per game, but in the final seven games of the season he averaged close to 16 points on 49 percent shooting from three.
Point is: he has potential. And the whole Curry thing doesn't exactly hurt. This might be a good chance for the Nets to find a young backup point guard whom Kenny Atkinson can groom into a starter over the next year or two.
8. Ty Lawson - UFA - 5'11" - Indiana Pacers
This is one of those times where the "Bronx Tales" famous line, "The worst thing in life is wasted talent" rings true. Lawson was a borderline All-Star in years past, most recently in the 2014-2015 season where he averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists. Since then, off-court issues plagued him. He's been arrested four times from DUI, twice in the last year. On top of that, his short time with the Rockets and Pacers was considered a clear fail. He's 28.
9. Matthew Dellavedova - RFA - 6'4" - Cleveland Cavaliers
Dellavedova is that guy you love if he's on your team but hate if he's not. He only averaged seven points and four assists off the bench this season, but his ability to get under the skin of opposing players makes him the type of guy you want on your team. He's a fun player to watch, but it wouldn't make sense for the Nets to chase after him as a starting point guard. There's also the question of how well he would play if not surrounded by future Hall of Famers
10. Malcolm Delaney - UFA - 6'3" - Lokomotiv Kuban
Delaney, 27, grew up in Baltimore, went undrafted in 2012 after a solid career at Virginia Tech and has been one of Europe's top point guards since, A shoot-first PG, Delaney said recently that the NBA is his priority. When his season ended with a loss to CSKA in the Euroleague Final 4, Prokhorov sat courtside for the game. Assistant GM Trajan Langdon was also reportedly on hand. Delaney is a tough customer, having set the Euroleague record for fouls drawn and minutes played. The Nets supposedly contacted him last month.
Some other names worth noting: Randy Foye (UFA), Mario Chalmers (UFA).
Sean Marks is faced with a tough task in his first off-season as GM, a lot of them in fact, but point guard is the top priority. Whichever point guard the Nets snag will set a goal and expectations on what they're trying to do and how long the fix-up will take. The free agent class is underwhelming at the point. And with the inflated salary cap and a record of impulsive spending, the pressure is on him to use the money wisely.
The process starts with finding the right point guard.