The Brooklyn Nets may have exhausted their current roster with all their injuries. And now they need help. No, this isn’t ‘it’, but with five players down, the team has an obvious gap to fill if they wish to continue their run to the playoffs.
Since their infamous 8-18 start, the Nets have gone 20-8, but following their loss in Orlando on Saturday, they’ve dropped 3-of-4 and two straight for the first time since December. This coming week, they’ll be at home for match-ups against Milwaukee, Denver and Chicago. The injuries and schedule are starting to take a toll.
At 28-26, Brooklyn is 3.5 games ahead of eighth place Miami, but unlike the Heat, Brooklyn has had an extensive injury report since opening night. Allen Crabbe (knee), Spencer Dinwiddie (thumb), Jared Dudley (hamstring) and Caris LeVert (foot) are all still out, each without an official timetable. Dzanan Musa (shoulder) is on a rehab tour with Long Island.
With all that, an obvious hole in their roster is magnified. The Nets are sending four of their five starters to Charlotte, D’Angelo Russell in the big game; Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs in the Rising Star Challenge and Joe Harris in the three point shooting contest. But none of the Nets who play the 4 will join them. Treveon Graham, the current starter and the two vets who back him up, DeMarre Carroll, who’s best at the 3, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who’s been injured as well, will likely be staying home.
This is the deepest the team’s been since 2014, but their depth is being tested, and on top of that, as great as Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis have been in the post, neither is a perimeter threat. A stretch big is what Brooklyn has lacked under Kenny Atkinson since Brook Lopez developed a three-pointer in a throwaway 2016-17 season. They tried with Dante Cunningham, Quincy Acy, Luis Scola and Justin Hamilton, all but Cunningham are out of the league.
Speculating is fun, and it’s trade deadline week! They have options, so let’s look at some possibilities.
Thon Maker, Milwaukee Bucks
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on the 7-footer’s status last week, indicating that the 2016 lottery pick is seeking a trade from Milwaukee in hopes of a bigger role. Currently, he’s averaging 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11.7 minutes per contest, and was the only healthy ‘DNP’ in the Bucks win over the Wizards on Saturday as Milwaukee tries to move him...
Maker remains in play in several trade scenarios, league sources say. Bucks are talking to several teams on possible deals. https://t.co/DjOffpJhQz— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 3, 2019
The Nets have excelled in reclamation projects – the roster is littered with them. Maker turns 22 on February 25, two days after D’Angelo Russell turns 23. He’s been a back-up big man for much of his three-year career, and for a young player without a sense of direction, Brooklyn would serve as an ideal destination, as we’ve learned.
Maker is also career 33 percent from three in limited minutes, and is due to make $3.6 million next season before hitting 2020 restricted free agency. Would Nets cut into their cap space hoard?
Take a look...
Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls
Portis broke Nikola Mirotic’s jaw early in the 2017-18 season, which had some of you nervous on Twitter when Portis’s name gets tossed around in hypotheticals. He and Chicago did not agree on an extension prior to this season, making him a restricted free agent this coming July.
What’s telling about the incident is that Mirotic essentially offered an ‘it’s either him or me,’ ultimatum, and Chicago – players included – backed Portis in the incident. Portis has also displayed toughness on some other level. But no matter who was at fault, is that a Markinson player?
He’s struggled with injuries this season, but the 2015 first-rounder, who was picked 22nd – one spot ahead of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – has produced when healthy. Following a 33-point outing at Charlotte on Saturday, he’s averaging a career-best 14.1 points per game, while only limited to 24 minutes per night. He’s only started six of 22 games after returning from a sprained MCL, and then this elbow injury, which he said Kevin Durant inflicted on him, purposely.
Along with his scoring prowess, Portis is pulling down over seven boards per contest, which brings him to about 21 points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes. He turns 24 on February 10, and continues to progress as a stretch big. The 6’11” Arkansas alum is a career 35 percent three-point shooter, and is up to 39 percent this season after going 4-for-8 from downtown in his last outing.
He would be the team’s best scoring big since Lopez. But he would be costly. The Bulls, in a deeper rebuild than the Nets, would almost certainly want a player and a pick for him.
Taurean Prince, Atlanta Hawks
Not technically a ‘4’, but who cares about positions in this new NBA? A few pundits have mentioned Prince’s name as a trade target, most recently Zach Lowe of ESPN. Prince was selected 13th overall in 2016, three slots after Maker, and is also scheduled for restricted free agency in 17 months.
Here’s the case for Prince – listed as a 6’8” ‘small’ forward – making sense for Brooklyn. After all, he did play five games with the Long Island Nets as a rookie, thanks to an assignment from the G League team-less Atlanta Hawks.
In a "weak" draft, if you're Brooklyn, would Taurean Prince not be worth Denver's first-round pick, considering the second-rounder you have will only be a few spots afterward?— Bryan Fonseca (@BryanFonsecaNY) January 23, 2019
Plus, Prince isn't an RFA until 2020.
6'8" plus he can shoot and play 3-4.#Nets#Hawks#NBA
In five games with Long Island two years ago, Green averaged 28.3 points and 7.6 rebounds a game, hitting 36 percent of his three’s.
Not much has changed since, and Prince may carry the biggest price tag of the group thus far. The Baylor alum, who turns 25 in March, will make $3.5 million next season. Again, how much more does Sean Marks want to add to his payroll.
Trey Lyles, Denver Nuggets
(Shoutout to @GNYR_82, this is your boy.)
Lyles is struggling from three this season and is also dealing with the esteemed depth of the Denver Nuggets, for whom he logs 18.7 minutes for on a nightly basis. Despite shooting 41.3% from the field and 24.5% from three, he averages 8.9 points per game, the second best of his four-year career – down from 9.9 registered last season.
Having been a first-rounder in 2015 – selected 12th overall – Lyles will hit restricted free agency this summer. The 6’10” Canadian big also turned 23 back in November.
Is he on the market? Our friends in Denver have speculated in great detail.
Noah Vonleh, New York Knicks
On some nights, the resurgent Vonleh has been the best player for the lowly Knicks. Already in his fifth season, the versatile 6’9” big is having a breakout season across the bridge, and according to the Knicks beat reporters, seemingly everyone is on the table as we saw with Kristaps Porzingis a few days ago.
The 2014 ninth overall pick signed a one-year non-guaranteed “prove yourself” deal with New York for this season worth just over $1.6 million. The former Hornet, Trail Blazer and Bull is averaging 8.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, nearly one steal and one block per game as the team’s starting 4.
In 26.6 minutes per night, he’s shot the ball well, hitting 45.6% from the field, 36% from three and over 71% on free throws. The Nets were interested at one point this past summer, but opted to sign Davis. Problem is that his contract has no team options. He will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
Vonleh displayed his range and recently dropped a career-high 22 points in an auditi … ahem … game in Brooklyn on January 25, which was accompanied by 13 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. The Knicks are desperate for draft assets, making Vonleh – who is still only 23 years old until August – super obtainable. Maybe for the Knicks own pick, which the Nets control and as of today is No. 31?
JaMychal Green, Memphis Grizzles
The old man of this particular group – the green grizzly turns 29 this coming June, and is on a one-year deal worth about $7.9 million this season. If the Nets traded for him, they’d have his full Bird Rights.
Initially, Memphis wanted to give it another shot with a core led by Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but recently shifted their thinking.
Conley may head to the Utah Jazz, according to Marc Stein. In fact, the (should’ve already been) All-Star point guard was a healthy scratch for Memphis at Charlotte on Friday, possibly indicating a deal is close.
Given that Memphis is selling, what sense does it make to keep Green? None.
Lowe reported that the Houston Rockets are among those in the market for Green. Green is a 6’9” forward, who has added a three-point shot to add years to the back-end of his career, and is enjoying individual success as a result. In 22.3 minutes per contest, Green is hitting 48.7 percent from the field and close to 40 from three on 2.4 nightly attempts.
The undrafted Alabama native is good for 10.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, translating to a career-best 16.3 points per 36 minutes, along with 10 rebounds.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Yeah, I know, relax.
Again, you’re not gonna like where these negotiations would probably have to start, especially considering all the turmoil surrounding Davis’ current situation.
If you're New Orleans, an incoming package for Anthony Davis would start at Jarrett Allen *and* Caris LeVert *plus* draft picks.— Bryan Fonseca (@BryanFonsecaNY) January 28, 2019
And if you're a Net fan, you have blockbuster trade P.T.S.D.#NBA https://t.co/irXjA6nG2P
So, let’s keep this short: It would be unlike Brooklyn to mortgage a lot for Davis … but let’s not ignore the possibility. The Nets are clearly trying to get in the game of acquiring elite players, and this would be a seismic step, accompanied by a loaded deal of risk.
You don’t need numbers and you don’t need highlights (but we’ll provide some enticing ones nonetheless). Just know that Davis is due to make over $27 million next season, and has a player option for $28.8 million for 2020-21.
I wouldn’t even want to know what goes through a Net fans mind when thinking of a D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Davis pairing, especially as I write this at 3:10 a.m.
It’s probably nasty.
If not him, maybe one of his teammates — Julius Randle or Nikola Mirotic — would suffice. Both are having exceptional seasons and are on expiring contracts for the rebuilding Pelicans.
So there you have what’s out there. Are the Nets interested in any of them? How far would they go to bring any of them in? We will know in five days.