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And now, a look ahead to free agency and what it will take to re-sign D’Angelo Russell

Brooklyn Nets v Sacramento Kings Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In an interview with USA Today’s Trysta Krick Friday, D’Angelo Russell once again said his heart belongs to Brooklyn.

“I plan on being in Brooklyn for a long time,” said Russell. “You can forget about my Lakers days if I do it right. Make new headlines. That’s my goal.”

The Nets PG also contrasted the Nets situation, with its stability, to the Lakers.

“It’s the type of organization that will trade you to bring in what they want,” he said of the operation Magic Johnson runs.

Sounds good, but how will it work? Eric Pincus, writing for Bleacher Report, took at stab at DLo’s free agency. There are, obviously, a LOT of variables to be sorted out with cap space and timing, etc, but if he wants the Nets and the Nets want him, that’s a good start.

For openers, what’s the max for Russell? It’s the same as what the Suns gave Devin Booker last summer: a whopping $158.1 million over five years, starting with a $27.3 million next season. There are of course different ways to play it. The Nets, Pincus notes, could give him a four-year, $117 million deal, too.

Or the Nets and DLo could agree to something less. To preserve cap space for other free agents, the two sides could work out a deal as the Nets did with Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie. Both agreed to less-than-market deals. (Harris in fact agreed to configure his deal so that he got more money up front this season, helping the Nets save $600,000 in space next season.)

Pincus breaks things down this way...

The Nets have a favorable salary-cap position this offseason. Spencer Dinwiddie’s $10.6 million is the largest fully guaranteed contract, although more likely than not, Allen Crabbe will opt in to the final year of his deal at $18.5 million. If so, Brooklyn will have roughly $50 million in spending power (without Russell).

Unsigned, Russell will take up another $21.1 million of the Nets’ space, leaving the team with about $30 million to go star-chasing. Outside of Golden State Warriors All-Star Kevin Durant, who can sign for a contract starting at $38.2 million this summer, most of the top free agents (like Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler) will be eligible for deals beginning at $32.7 million.

There of course ways of changing that, starting with a deal to dump Allen Crabbe’s $18.5 million expiring, perhaps bundling the Nuggets first, now No. 28, and maybe something else. The Nets have a couple of extra second rounders they could deal. The Nets could, in theory, waive and stretch Crabbe’s deal, but that doesn’t seem likely. The Nets are still on the hook next season for Deron Williams’ stretch payment of $5.5 million. Crabbe would add another $6.2 million in dead money each year for the next three. Sean Marks has had opportunities to stretch deals, from Dwight Howard to Greg Monroe, but hasn’t. The DWill stretch has left a bad taste.

The other issue, Pincus notes, is that some other team could set DLo’s value by signing him to an offer sheet and asking the Nets to match. Brooklyn of course would have the right of first refusal. He suggests Phoenix and Dallas as possible suitors.

Of course, it is entirely possible that the Nets and Russell has some sort of range already. Teams are restricted from negotiating deals until July 1, but that rule is hardly enforced and it would be close to malfeasance if the Nets don’t have some idea what’s going on.

Pincus thinks a DLo deal will likely fit between Eric Bledsoe’s four-year, $70 million extension with the Milwaukee Bucks and Zach Lavine’s four-year, $78.8 million contract with the Bulls. With a deal like that, Pincus writes, “the Nets will still have significant money to spend to improve their roster, especially if Crabbe opts out, is traded or waived and stretched.”

It is of course all speculation ... and Russell has proven himself a better player than either. Younger too.

Bottom line for Pincus?

“He will be well-compensated this summer, presumably by Brooklyn, as the franchise looks to move from a low-seeded postseason entry in the East to viable contender.”

One this is certain: The Nets front office no doubt will be prepared. It’s hard to imagine a bigger decision for the franchise. And no one has ever accused Marks of being unprepared.