The Nets will have five free agents of their own heading into July — barring a move on Draft Night. There are the three players acquired in trades during the season: Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and Dante Cunningham, plus two guys who’ve been on the roster for two years: Quincy Acy and Joe Harris.
With the exception of Harris, they could all be retained, if that’s what the front office wants, on a small, even veteran’s minimum deal, roughly a million dollars worth of cap space each. Harris is a different case. His improvement has turned heads in the NBA and at 26, he’s about to enter his NBA prime.
Recounting, here’s what Alex Labidou of the Nets official site wrote this week...
The Nets reserve swingman had a career-year in his fourth season in the NBA, averaging personal bests in points (10.8), rebounds (3.3), field goal percentage (49.1), three-point percentage (41.9) and free throw percentage (82.7). More impressively, he was the best player in the NBA in scoring on drives to the rim (62.7 percent), topping second-placed LeBron James.
And he got better as the year went on. He led the NBA in 3-point shooting after the break, hitting 47.1 percent, going 6-of-7 from deep in scoring a career high 30 points vs. the Cavaliers on March 25.
So what’s he worth? Well, before getting to that, let’s get one thing straight: both sides have been quite clear in recent weeks that they want him back in the black-and-white next season.
“My hope and I know what I have kind of expressed to everyone is that I have enjoyed being here, I enjoy being in Brooklyn and I like being a part of this organization,” Harris said the day after the season ended. “I think they’re about the right stuff and I don’t really envision myself being anywhere else.”
A few days later, Sean Marks reiterated his desire to bring Harris back.
“I think Joe made it pretty clear from statements he made that he’d love to be back here. That’s how the organization feels about him too,” said Marks. “As Kenny alluded to before, we’ve got some decisions to make on several, and definitely Joe is a guy we see in a Nets uniform.”
So how much? It’s hard to tell with only nine teams having more than $15 million in cap space ... and 12 teams in danger of paying the luxury tax ... and not all of them title contenders. The market will be tight.
One gauge could be what Lou Williams got in an extension mid-season. He signed a four year, $31 million deal, starting at $7 million ... and the 31-year-old Williams averaged 22.6 points and 5.3 assists. On the other hand, Robert Covington’s extension was a four-year, $62.9 million deal, but Covington’s contract was a bit apples and oranges compared to Harris (and Covington’s production dropped after he signed the deal).
So, let’s put it all together and add in Michael Scotto’s conversations with NBA executives. “According to eight NBA executives, who spoke to The Athletic on the condition of anonymity, Harris could command anywhere from $4 million to $7 million annually this summer,” Scotto wrote at the end of March.
So let’s say a starting salary of $5 million. How does that effect the Nets cap space? Luckily (or as a result of good planning), not much.
The Nets have Harris’ Early Bird Rights, so they can, in effect, sign him outside the cap ... (and under the CBA, they can’t sign him to a contract starting at more than $8.2 million,) As long as Harris is willing to be patient, he and the Nets can wait to sign him until after they make big free agent moves, if that’s what they want. His cap hold is so low —$1.5 million— that they don’t need to renounce it except in extreme circumstances. (IF they did, they would lose those Early Bird rights and he’d have to signed with cap space. Unlikely.)
It would all be about timing the signings, just as the Nets did in the summer of 2012, when they had to re-sign Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace, and add a mini-MLE in Mirza Teletovic.
No one expects the Nets to go over the cap this summer, but because of Harris’ Early Bird Rights and low cap hold, they could keep Harris and make a big deal. And thanks to Billy King’s foresight, the Nets aren’t stuck with big cap holds for high draft picks. The 29th pick will be paid only $1.35 million.