The question, as always, is whether Bobby Marks is speculating ... or working.
In a lengthy discussion of the Nets situation at the deadline, Marks lays out a number of speculative (we think) moves Brooklyn could make, all of it geared toward next year when everyone including Kevin Durant will presumably be healthy. In short, the former Nets GM agrees with Kyrie Irving’s comment that the Nets are one, maybe two pieces away.
Despite the sub-.500 record, any move at the deadline should prioritize long-term contention. The Nets are likely to snag one of the final two playoff spots or end up in the lottery when the season ends. Even if they do make the postseason, a first-round exit probably awaits.
So Marks proposes that the Nets look at players who can help them both this season and down the line. The names he mentions first is fan favorite Aaron Gordon. He suggests that the Nets would have to give up two guys who’ve started a lot of games for Brooklyn and are popular with fans.
For example, if the Nets want to upgrade at power forward by acquiring a player such as the Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon, it probably would cost them Spencer Dinwiddie or Joe Harris (and possibly both) along with draft assets. And that alone might not be enough to get a deal done. That hypothetical trade fills a need at one position, but it would leave the Nets exposed at point guard and shooting guard. The safety net that Brooklyn had when both Irving and LeVert were injured would be gone.
But Gordon would be the perfect complement to this Nets roster. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe noted, “The best version of Gordon on a good team is something like his take on Draymond Green: screening and rolling as a power forward, spraying passes (Gordon is an underrated playmaker), defending like all hell across every position.”
Marks notes that it’s unlikely the Nets could move Caris LeVert or Taurean Prince because of how the CBA works re contract extensions, pointing out ...
Although both technically can be traded, history has shown that no player in the last year of his rookie deal was traded in the same season after agreeing to an extension. With a gap between how incoming and outgoing salary is counted, the math is too complicated.
Of course, where does Gordon fit when Kevin Durant comes back? They already have Prince who Marks hints could be moved to the 3. Maybe. Marks also thinks the Nets may be willing to trade their first rounders, as they did last June, dumping both the No. 17 (in the Allen Crabbe salary dump) and No. 27 (to save on cap space.)
Sean Marks [no relation] was willing to sacrifice draft assets to improve the roster now. That type of trade wasn’t on the table from 2016 through 2018.
Despite sacrificing some draft assets, if the first-rounder is conveyed to Atlanta in 2020, the Nets will have seven first-round picks of which four can be used to improve via trade. They also hold multiple second-round picks moving forward.
He also hints that the Nets might be willing to return Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot back to Long Island when his 10-day ends on Monday. That way, they will have a roster spot free at the deadline should they need to make an unbalanced deal.
The priority for the Nets should be to hold an open roster spot and explore minimum-contract players on non-playoff teams in deals where they would not have to send back a contract to make the money work. The Warriors’ Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III would be good fits. But this confluence of factors makes it unlikely Brooklyn can or should swing for a major upgrade before the deadline. The Nets will have more options this summer.
What Marks doesn’t mention is that the Nets can now use the Disabled Player Exception they got after David Nwaba went down. Marks also lays out a series of off-season questions, starting with Joe Harris’ expiring contract and Jarrett Allen’s rookie contract extension.
While Joe Tsai has said he’s willing to pay the luxury tax, Marks asks how much?
If Memphis or New York drives up Harris’ price, Brooklyn might need to walk. Remember that Brooklyn is under new ownership with Joe Tsai, and paying a substantial tax bill would be the billionaire’s welcome to the NBA moment. But as Marks said, Brooklyn knew the cost would be substantial to compete for a championship.
Marks also notes that Dinwiddie is eligible to sign a new contract extension with the Nets on December 14, but thinks the smart move for him will be playing the field. He doesn’t sound optimistic that the Nets will be able to meet his demands.
The Nets do have Dinwiddie’s full Bird rights and could sign him to a new contract in 2021, but are they willing to commit $50 million combined to Irving and Dinwiddie at point guard?
Bottom line for Marks is that if the Nets are willing to sign one or two big pieces as Irving suggested, it will require some big decisions.
So adding a major piece like Irving referenced earlier this month will not be easy. Brooklyn needs to find a free agent willing to take a discount like Serge Ibaka or Jae Crowder, a hidden gem in the draft (don’t forget Memphis took Brandon Clarke at No. 21) or decide it’s OK sacrificing draft assets along with a combination of LeVert, Dinwiddie and Prince for a third star next to Irving and Durant. That will be a massive decision for this franchise, but one it should wait to make until closer to the draft and free agency.
So we wait. The deadline is now a week away. Sean Marks has made a deal in each of the three deadlines he’s been GM. In 2018, he made two in the three days prior to the deadline. But in each case, he did a salary dump that resulted in the Nets getting a draft pick, a first that became Jarrett Allen and two seconds.
- Do the Brooklyn Nets need a title-contending trade? - Bobby Marks - ESPN+
- Sources: NBA says luxury tax threshold lower - Adrian Wojnarowski & Bobby Marks - ESPN