In the last year, NBA teams have tried to free up restricted free agents five times. The Nets have done it four times. The only attempt came Thursday night when after the Nets sent their offer sheet for Otto Porter to Washington, the Knicks sent one for Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Hawks.
Three of the four attempts, of course, failed. Here’s thumbnail descriptions of each.
July 7, 2016: Tyler Johnson
The first swing for Marks in the restricted free agent field. The Nets made it known they were players despite limited resources, offering Tyler Johnson a four-year, $50 million contract. Johnson was 24-years-old and Brooklyn thought he’d fit the script as Jeremy Lin’s backup and sixth man. The Heat, however, matched the offer and Johnson had a big season. Still they’re stuck paying Johnson nearly $20 million in each of the last two years of his contract. Marks included the "poison pill" offer sheet but it failed to deter owner Mickey Arison, who accused Marks of “poaching.”
“I was ready to go over there [Brooklyn]. Obviously I love Miami, but I was ready for Brooklyn,” Johnson told NetsDaily. He’s also admitted that after he saw the eight figures on the Nets offer sheet, he threw up ... twice.
July 7, 2016: Allen Crabbe
This was, until Thursday night, Marks’ biggest move as GM. The Nets signed Crabbe, the 6'6" Portland shooting guard, to a four-year, $75 million offer sheet, daring the Blazers to match. The Blazers did and a year later it remains a lingering problem for Portland. They have too much money committed in people they either don’t need or have too many of (Crabbe, Turner). Unlike the Johnson offer sheet, the Crabbe deal did not contain a '"poison pill," a big payout in the third and fourth year. It was a straight four year deal, meaning an annual salary of $18.75 million. That’s a whole lot for a young player like Crabbe who was a second round pick coming off a rookie contract.
“When they told me that (pauses with impressed face) I had so many feelings. I was excited, happy. It was a crazy feeling just knowing that a team wanted me like that. It felt really good,” Crabbe told NetsDaily.
December 2, 2016: Donatas Motiejunas
Sean Marks was 0-for-2 in his quest to nab a restricted free agent. If you keep offering, somebody will eventually cut the rope loose. Buuuut… better luck next time. Motiejunas signed off on a four-year, $37 million offer sheet with the Nets, which was soon matched by Houston. After a big snafu involving bonuses and physicals and bad blood all around, he was traded to New Orleans. Houston initially offered Motiejunas a two year deal starting at $7 million.
It was complicated with a lot of out’s for the Nets and eventually the Rockets and Pelicans. The first year started at $9.3 million and if by March 1, everyone was happy, they moved on. Then, prior to the 2018 and 2019 seasons, there new trigger dates.
July 6, 2017: Otto Porter Jr.
Porter had an impressive 2016-2017 season after averaging over 13 points per game on 43 percent shooting from deep. He poses at a good wing defender too. He’s the ideal fit in Kenny Atkinson’s offense. At 24-years-old, he’s one of the most efficient three-point shooters in the game. His size fits the script of lanky players that can handle the rock. And so, Marks offered him four years, $106.5 million. It was perhaps the biggest known secret in the NBA all off-season.
The deal had the normal disincentives, a trade kicker of 15 percent and a player option in the final year. But in a bit of nastiness, the Nets added a requirement that called for whoever wound up with Porter would have to pay him half of each year’s salary by October 1. They hadn’t included that provision in any of the previous three.
What’s the bottom line on all three? You can argue it’s a fools’ errand rather than a strategy. In recent years, only Chandler Parsons got what he wanted out of free agency and that was three years ago. But you can also look at it this way: Despite all their issues, the Nets were able to get top free agents’ signatures on their offer sheets. You can say they overpaid or over offered, but note that the Kings offered Porter the same deal and he chose the Nets instead.
All in all, these four guys signed with the NETS. They CHOSE Brooklyn. Otto Porter Jr. CHOSE Brooklyn over Sacramento, who had a pretty solid offseason. The same goes for Motiejunas, Crabbe and Johnson – all who were ready to take on BK.
With no picks in 2018, the Nets can overpay and take risks. In fact, you can argue they have to. As Nets fans, we’re used to impulsive risks without considering the consequences. Now it’s other teams who have to consider their situation and consider the consequences.
While the owners don’t like it, agents and their clients seem to appreciate it. Marks is ingratiating himself with them in a number of ways.
Take the last weekend of April when he fulfilled promises to Cliff Alexander and Prince Ibeh, one repped by a huge agency, the other by a smaller one. The Nets had hoped to give each a 10-day deal with the big club, but roster issues prevented it. Then in a flurry of moves, first Alexander, then Ibeh, was given a “quickie” 10-day that got them $75,000 for an afternoon’s work. But it also gave them another year of service increasing their earning power on any future vets minimum deal.
Marks may have been dealt a tough hand, but he’s handling it like a crafty veteran who belongs at the table.