Getting from, as DeMarre Carroll tweeted, “from an irrelevant ball team to being a Free Agent Fantasy,” wasn’t easy and a long process Sean Marks et al have gotten a lot of credit for what they’ve accomplished since the former Spurs executive walked into HSS Training Center in February 2016.
So much attention has been focused —and rightfully so— and what Marks, Kenny Atkinson and their staffs have done since 2016 ... but not enough on how they manipulated the system in the last month, carrying out some subtle moves that put them in position for the big ones that got them Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant ... without giving up the store.
Call them Secrets of the Clean Sweep, Adrian Wojnarowski’s description of the Nets weekend.
—Dumping salary early. The Nets traded Allen Crabbe’s $18.3 million expiring contract to Atlanta on June 6 ... although the deal won’t be official till Sunday. As Nate Duncan tweeted Monday, “The Nets identified the one team that was taking on bad contracts, realizing that market would tighten up.” Indeed it did. Prices for cap space jumped after free agency opened. Duncan noted that the Nets paid less than what other teams did to dump the contracts of Andre Iguodala and Maurice Harkless.
—Expanding the Crabbe deal. Everyone expected the Nets would have to give up a first rounder to dump all that salary, but Marks surprised everyone by expanding the deal, giving up two firsts, one in 2019 and a protected first in 2020, and coming away with Taurean Prince. Not only did they get a valuable player, they got another FOK, Friend of Kevin. Prince and Durant have worked out together in the off-season and shared, as Prince told FOX Sports, “things I can do to help my preparation, ways to be better off the court.”
—Trading out of the first round. The Nets surprised virtually everyone on Draft Night by dumping their other first rounder, the 27th pick, sending it to the Clippers, for a lottery-protected Philly first rounder in 2020, making up for the pick they sent away in the Crabbe deal. As a bonus, they also got the 56th pick that night. The move was about all about the cap. The 27th pick carried a cap hold of nearly $2 million. Dumping it freeed up even more cap space. Moreover, they believed that Nic Claxton, who was a high on their internal mock draft, would still be around when they picked at No. 31. He was. They also drafted Jaylen Hands with the bonus second rounder.
—Getting superstars to give up money. Both Durant and Irving wanted the Nets to add DeAndre Jordan to the mix. All three were teammates on the 2016 Team USA that won the gold medal in Rio de Janiero. Jordan, an unrestricted free agent, would have commanded more than the $4.8 million room exception on the open market. So in a complicated maneuver, the Nets apparently added unlikely but possible bonuses in both Durant and Irving’s contracts, as much as $5.7 million for KD and $4.9 million for Kyrie. Bobby Marks tweeted, “How Brooklyn times each contract would allow Jordan to sign for a $10 milliion per year contract and Brooklyn won’t have to make any trades to the roster.”
—Turning the Durant acquisition into a double sign-and-trades. It accomplishes two things. It got D’Angelo Russell an ideal landing spot in San Francisco and a $117 million max deal. It also got the Nets another first. Woj has described it only as “a future protected first-round pick.” We should know specifics by Saturday, but don’t expect much. Acquiring that first from Golden State essentially made all those Nets moves this month pick-neutral. They went into June with two firsts and a second in the 2019 Draft and their own first in 2020. They came out of it with two seconds in the 2019, a lottery-protected first in 2020 and whatever they got from Golden State ... plus a player, Claxton, who they saw as a mid-first rounder. Also included in the deal: Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham, whose team options the Nets would have had to dump this week to maximize cap space needed for the two superstars. The Warriors have since moved them to Minnesota.
In a series of tweets Wednesday, Miami-based “capology enthusiast” Albert Nahmad thinks he figured out how the last two interconnected.
The Nets will first exhaust all $68.8M of their cap room by signing their free agents and draft picks. They’ll sign D’Angelo Russell, DeAndre Jordan, Nicolas Claxton, and, finally, Kyrie Irving (who will need to take a small discount from his $32.7M max – as little as $420K).— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) July 3, 2019
Think about what just happened… The Nets need $70.0M cap room just to sign Durant ($38.2M) and Irving ($32.7M), let alone add Jordan ($9.3M). They can only create $68.8M, by waiving Napier and Graham (NGs). Instead, they’ll keep Napier, Graham and Russell to exhaust cap room.— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) July 3, 2019
The Nets will then guarantee $3.2M of the combined $3.5M salaries of Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham, so they’ll count as outgoing salary in trade. They’ll then combine Napier, Graham and D’Angelo Russell to trade-match for… Kevin Durant (who could get his full $38.2M max).— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) July 3, 2019
The Nets will end it all $8.3M over the salary cap – having artificially created $9.2M in cap room by exceeding the salary cap to trade-match for Kevin Durant, rather than sign him outright. And they’ll give that extra money to… DeAndre Jordan!— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) July 3, 2019
And that’s why the Warriors will need to acquire Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham in the D’Angelo Russell trade, even though their salaries were non-guaranteed. And it’s also why they’ll need to pay the Wolves cash just to get rid of them!— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) July 3, 2019
In short, tweeted Nahmad Thursday, the moves were “brilliantly sequenced”...
And that’s what we know about! There may be other twists we will find out when all the deals become official and public on Saturday. Things may not be quite what pundits and the amateur capologists suggest. Then again, for all we know, as well, there may be MORE surprises.