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The Brooklyn Nets approach: Be aggressive on the mid-level, the young free agents


When Kenny Atkinson was asked Tuesday what the Nets were looking for in Friday's free agency, he was ready.

"I think more veteran leadership is important," Atkinson said outside the Nets Shop in Coney Island,  "I think undervalued guys, guys that might be under the radar and can produce -- and maybe not necessarily the big star, maybe we’re not in a position to get a guy like that."

Marks has been dishing similar lines in interviews since February. Getting the big stars "will be difficult" so the Nets will seek "character" guys to help change the culture.

That sure looked like truth-telling by Friday morning as the Nets went for the unconventional, both in terms of the players and the methodology they are using.

First of all, for the most part, the Nets more obvious targets are young: Allen Crabbe, Dion Waiters and Tyler Johnson are 24; Brandon Jennings is 26; Lance Thomas is 28. Only Jared Dudley is 30+.  They are also athletic and in the case of Jennings, they represent injury risk, just as Caris LeVert did on Draft Night.  Indeed, they all carry risk, whether it be injury or youth or big bucks payout.  But consider the risks the previous regime took, these are welcome.

The Nets are also taking different tacks in pursuing their targets.  Crabbe and Waiters are restricted free agents, meaning their current teams, the Blazers and Thunder, will have to match to keep him. Tyler Johnson is covered by the Arenas Rule, meaning  the Nets are limited in what they can give him in the first two years of a deal, but can go as high as they want in back-loaded deal. Jennings will need to convince the front office his surgically repaired achilles tendon has healed later Friday.  Expect him to be low-balled ... or provided a deal with protections for Brooklyn.

The maneuvers also confirm what was increasingly obvious the last week: the Nets were creating as much cap space as they could. They traded Thaddeus Young for Caris LeVert's draft rights, gaining a net of $10 million. They dumped Jarrett Jack's team option, saving another $5.8 million -- his $6.3 million salary minus a $500,000 guaranteed.  They will reportedly stretch Jack's guarantee over three years, just to save them another $333,333 in space.

By midnight Friday, the Nets had an estimated $55 million to play with, second in the NBA to the Lakers. A week earlier, they were seventh in the league with $10 million less on the table.

How much are they going to offer these targets and others?  Don't know yet ...and there was no indication that the Nets have stopped pursuing others like Jeremy Lin, Sergio Rodriguez and (maybe) Rajon Rondo at the point, or Kent Bazemore at the 2.  The front office seems to realize it's going to be difficult.  Rather than focus on one or two free agents, they started making calls to a number of them.

By some estimates, Crabbe could get $15 to $17 million, which may or may not make Blazer owner Paul Allen blanche. Waiters may get near that.  Johnson can't get more than $5+ million in the first two years of his deal, but could jump up into eight figures in years three and four. Jennings numbers will be even more intriguing. If healthy, he would be close to a max player but the Nets need to see how healthy he is before making a deal.

The night may not be young anymore, but free agency is. Just like the Draft, expect the unconventional ... and be patient.