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Caught between 2018 and 2019, Nets push future over present

The final numbers are in. The Nets gave up a lot to open up a vast cache of cap space next summer.

In order to dump all of the $32.7 million they owed Timofey Mozgov, including $16.7 million in 2019-20, the Nets agreed to pay Dwight Howard $18.8 million in dead money and sent the draft rights to Hamidou Diallo; a second rounder in 2021 and $5.1 million in cash to the Hornets (who turned around and traded Mozgov to Orlando.)

That not only sounds like a lot. It is a lot particularly if Diallo becomes the next Kyle Kuzma, but the risk-to-reward ratio could be quite low. The Nets, as things stand now, could have the most cap space of any NBA team next summer, somewhere between $50 to $70 million. That too is a lot.

The big question is how much of that cap space will be utilized on top flight talent. Will free agents flock to a team that is unlikely to be a contender? As Brian Lewis notes...

Putting their eggs in that basket is risky, considering the Nets don’t have a star in-house or a championship pedigree to pitch. But eschewing moves today to keep flexibility tomorrow is sensible. And once losses pile up by midseason, trading away veteran pieces will look sensible as well, if not inevitable.

The Nets say they are not giving up on next season, that they want to remain competitive and the players think they have playoff potential.

“Anything’s possible. I think the opportunity is wide open — we’ve got a lot of young guys that are capable,” D’Angelo Russell told NBATV. Of course, DLo’s play and health will be a big part of any playoff push.

“God willing everyone stays healthy, we’ll surprise people. I believe it, we’re going to achieve it,” said Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, agreeing with Russell. “I think so, too. I’m just being straightforward, being honest. If everybody was doing what they say they were doing [this offseason], and all the chemistry is there. We’ve got a good group of guys.”

Indeed, the Nets are betting a lot on continuity and chemistry. By the looks of it, they’ll be bringing back nine or ten players from last year’s roster. And no one is disputing just how much the players like each other, as the team gathering in Los Angeles back in May proved.

The Nets still have $10.5 million or so left in cap space available for deals this summer and they have made some improvements, getting Joe Harris’ signature on a two-year deal and bringing in Ed Davis to back-up Jarrett Allen. Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs may be young, barely 19 and 20 years old, but the Nets are very high on both, particularly over the long term.

Expect individual improvement as well from young players like Russell, Allen, Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert.

But do not expect big moves the rest of the way for two reasons: almost all of the top free agents are spoken for and Marks does not want to spend on long-term deals that would cut into that precious cap space, whether by signing a free agent or trading for a player.

It appears a lot of the upcoming season may be spent looking forward, to free agency and to a Draft where the Nets will have control of their first round pick for the first time in six years.

Some pundits think it all can work in their favor. In an interview on Howard Beck’s Full 48 podcast, former Hawks executive Wes Wilcox thinks Brooklyn could be the next super team venue, even suggesting it could be the next home of Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler who seem intent on teaming up next summer.

“There are a couple teams that could have multiple spots. There is one team that’s really interesting with all these rumblings of Kyrie [Irving] and Jimmy Butler, they want to play together. Brooklyn could be that home,” Wilcox told Beck. “Brooklyn, they’ve done a great job of kind of rearranging their books, and that was the [Timofey] Mozgov trade. That’s why they took Dwight: They cleared up 2019.”

And so we wait, as we have now for a while ... and trust there will be progress.