Brooklyn has been knocked out of the playoffs, Spring is here, and Summer is on its way. What are we to do until next season when there are actual Nets games to watch again? Oh, I don’t know, how about some good old fashioned Wild Speculation and Rumor Mongering! The offseason is one of the most fun times of the entire year. Seriously, would you rather watch a random early-February Nets game or the NBA Draft? The Spring is a time for hope and the Summer is a time for that hope to turn into reality. Or not. We’re often wrong, but sometimes we’re right!
What I’m going to try to do here is put together a little list, a smattering, a whiteboard, if you will, of guys who could be potential targets and fits for the Nets this summer. This list will not include guys like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or even Tobias Harris. We all know how good those guys are, and we’ve been hearing about them for months.
There isn’t much debate about whether they’d be fits in Brooklyn or not, and if Kevin Durant demanded the Nets change their name to the Flamingos in order for him to sign there, think pink! This list will include players in the second, third, and maybe even fourth-tiers of free agents who could help round out the Nets roster next season. This years versions of Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham, basically. Let’s get into it.
The One True Impact Guy
Julius Randle - Player Option -You know that thing that happens where teams miss out on a big free agent and then overpay a worse player in order to make up for it? The Knicks missing out on LeBron and signing Amare Stoudemire is a prime example. Anyway, I think Randle might turn out to be the positive version of this classic blunder. If Brooklyn goes big game hunting and come up short, Randle could be sitting there for the taking. The Nets need a big starting power forward who can score and rebound and set screens and hit threes. Julius Randle fits the bill. He had an under the radar stellar second half of the season where he averaged 24.6 points per game, and he’ll start next season at just 24 years old. He’d be a very solid backup plan.
Three & D Wings
Khris Middleton - Unrestricted - This one is going to be a little pricey because Middleton is going to want starter money and starter minutes after being such a focal point of Milwaukee’s attack the last couple of seasons. He is, however, a little overhyped. At least according to me, which is why he isn’t under the Impact Players list. He’s for sure good don’t get me wrong, but putting Khris Middleton on the Nets two weeks ago doesn’t get them past the Sixers whereas Julius Randle might’ve really changed the conversation. The Nets do value the three ball though, and Middelton can shoot a lot of them with fairly decent consistency, even if he isn’t the 43% from three point deadeye he was a couple of seasons ago.
Al-Farouq Aminu - Unrestricted - I’m a little obsessed with my fake Al-Farouq Aminu-to-Nets scenario. He can play on the wing or be a true stretch four, he can play great defense, he knows how to stay within a system and not overstep, he’s a solid shooter, and he is currently a Portland Trailblazer. Last off-season Sean Marks went out and signed two separate Blazers to bolster the Brooklyn bench and it seems like there is a prime candidate in Aminu for the taking this summer. Portland is good right now, but sometimes that comes with consequences like the fact that they’re going to be paying Mo Harkless and Evan Turner a combined $30 million next season, so Aminu will almost certainly be looking elsewhere for that paycheck.
Rudy Gay - Unrestricted - Ok, so Rudy is definitely more of a Three guy than a D guy, but Gregg Popovich has finally made a productive player out of the famously frustrating wing. Rudy can play a little three, a little four, and was a legitimate offensive weapon this season with 50/40/81 shooting splits. Not bad Rudy!! He’s also 32 which is not Old but also not particularly Young, so he won’t command a gigantic price tag like Middelton or anything. Rudy could be a really nice depth option for Kennys offense, and trusting former Spurs is never a bad bet. Rudy would fit right into the DeMarre Carroll role with probably some better efficiency and worse athleticism. (Oh yeah, here’s a bit of previously undisclosed history. Gay wanted to play for the Nets two years ago.)
Some Big Men Who Can Space The Floor
Nikola Mirotic - Unrestricted - Mirotic has become something of a playoff mercenary over the last couple of seasons, being traded mid season twice in a row to teams who needed a little extra shooting and floor-spacing from their big man rotations heading into the postseason. Mirotic would quite easily be the best Nets power forward were he to be signed today, and even though he’s a little slow for Kennys offense, sometimes you have to compromise in order to reach your full potential. With a career 36% clip from three and experience playing in big series, Mirotic could be a great fit for this Nets team.
Thaddeus Young - Another veteran presence in the frontcourt, Young would be coming back for his second stint in Brooklyn, but this time under a new coach and in a new system that could take advantage of his perimeter shooting and athleticism. At 30 years old, he’s nearing the end of his prime, but he is still a more than capable power forward in today’s NBA and he plays hard, smart basketball. He’s been a starter basically his entire prime, so he might not be willing to take a bench role, but if the Nets still have a hole at 4 in late July, Thad might not be a pretty good last minute answer.
JaMychal Green - Unrestricted - A pretty similar player to Thaddeus, Green is an athletic stretch four with a big body and some solid defensive chops. He’s also a solid rebounder and can set some hard screens for the young Brooklyn guards. He mostly came off the bench last season, but he could be a starting caliber player in the right system, such as Brooklyns where he wouldn’t have to be a focal point of an offense or anything. Green is the kind of player you could plug onto any roster anytime and he’ll find a way to make it work.
Marquese Chriss - Unrestricted - Chriss is a young guy, he’ll play all of next season at 22 years old, and he is very much unproven.. He is, however a long 6’10 with some shooting range, and feels like the kind of guy Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson might be willing to take a chance on.
Furkan Korkmaz - Unrestricted - The Sixers have Korkmaz buried pretty deep on their bench, but at just 22 he could be a Joe Harris-type reclamation project.
Dragan Bender - Unrestricted - Another reclamation project, and another guy who is somehow still somehow impossibly young at just 21. His time in Phoenix has not worked out very well, but he is a gigantic forward with decent touch and a lot to learn.
Trevor Ariza - Unrestricted - Ariza still has some juice left in him, and he played well in his time with the Wizards this season. He could be a great piece with this young team, and with a ton of playoff experience and a ring under his belt, he could also be a great addition to the locker room.
Justin Patton - Unrestricted - A seven-footer who was good enough to be taken at No. 16 by the Timberwolves two drafts back, then had problems with both his feet, undergoing surgery on the fifth metatarsal of his left foot in 2017 and on the same bone of his right foot in 2018. The 21-year-old finally made it back on the court in January of this year after being traded to Philadelphia. He played 11 games in the G League and three in the NBA, then in March, Philly waived him to make room for Greg Monroe. Could this be another Dr. Martin O’Malley consultation? O’Malley, the Nets foot/ankle surgeon, did both surgeries (as he did all of Brook Lopez’s and Caris LeVert.)
It’ll be interesting to see whether the Nets lean more towards young reclamation projects or proven veterans this summer. They did make the playoffs with a very solid foundation of a young contender, but they also are probably going to be wary of skipping steps in the rebuild. Maybe they try to walk the line and do a little of both, but regardless of their choice there will be plenty of options available to them on the market in July.