The end of the free agent moratorium is Friday and the Nets have made few moves ... at least few moves that could affect them this season. Most of their attention has been focused on 2019 when for the first time in six years, they’ll have their own first round pick and a ton of cap space.
- They chose two young, international players in the first round ... and agreed to keep and develop them in Brooklyn rather than stash them overseas. Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs are both young, 19 and 20, and in the Kurucs’ case, very inexperienced, having played most of his time in the Spanish junior league and Latvia’s junior national teams. At 29 and 40 in a Draft with a deep dropoff after the 10th pick, the Nets decided to go for long-term potential rather than NBA-ready prospects.
- They created nearly $17 million in cap space by trading Timofey Mozgov, a 2021 second rounder and cash considerations for Dwight Howard, who they plan to buy out. Howard may have a larger contract that Mozgov this season —$23.8 million to $16 million— but the former All-Star is an expiring deal, while the Russian center has a year and $16.7 million left. That will give the Nets somewhere between $50 and $70 million in cap space next season.
- They re-signed Joe Harris to a two-year, $16 million deal, thus retaining their top internal free agent. The money may have been (slightly) more than the Nets wanted to pay, they see Harris both as a 3-point specialist with a improving game elsewhere ... and he’s only 26. Moreover, the Nets felt they couldn’t lose a player they had found and developed.
- They found a 6’10” center who can both back-up and mentor Jarrett Allen —- and at a bargain basement price of $4.4 million for one year. Ed Davis is a solid defender and rebounder but with little offensive game. Another solid veteran at 29, he could make up for the loss of other vets like Jeremy Lin or DeMarre Carroll if the Nets choose to trade them now or at the deadline. Also, Davis will be playing for his next —and possibly— last contract.
They still have other needs going into the 2018-19 season, however. While the Nets are banking on continuity and health to give them more wins, they still need more scoring and rebounding up front, possibly a stretch 4 or a traditional power forward. Many thought Julius Randle would be that PF particularly after the Lakers renounced his rights late Monday afternoon. Instead, Randle chose to play with Anthony Davis in New Orleans.
Plus, they still have to make decisions on their four remaining free agents: Jahlil Okafor, Quincy Acy, Dante Cunningham and Isaiah Whitehead. The Nets pushed back the guarantee date for Whitehead’s $1.5 million team option from June 30 to July 30.
Now, the big question is whether they plan to make any moves around the end of Friday’s signing moratorium. Both the Howard trade and planned buyout can’t be completed until Friday. According to Bobby Marks, the Nets currently have $6.6 million in cap space left. The size of Howard’s buyout will determine how high that will go. The Nets would like to get Howard to accept around $16 million on that $23.8 million nut. He reportedly wants more. If the Nets get their way, which looks increasingly unlikely, they’ll have $15 million to play with, which they could use in unbalanced trades, maybe another salary dump. There’s not a lot of big free agents left out there, unless the Nets want to give Jabari Parker an offer sheet.
There was some sign of movement in the Howard camp overnight. Reports suggest that Howard would like to join LeBron James crazy train in L.A. or replace Marcin Gortat in Washington, presumably on a one year deal. If that’s the case, he may want to get something done fast. There is no deadline for him to agree to any buyout.
Next season has always been the Nets target date, with their own pick (in an admittedly weak draft) and all that cap space. The problem is that if the Nets make only minimal improvements in their record, will free agents flock to their doors in Brooklyn next summer when a lot of teams will have a lot of cap space? They seem to believe that their market, culture, facilities, growing reputation for development and (hopefully) an improving young core will do the trick. Will it?
And what if the Nets start off next season poorly? Will they decide at some point to “play the kids” and, dare we say it, tank? That would make selling free agents on Brooklyn tougher and selling tickets tougher still.
As we always say, watch this space.