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Will Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot’s rise jeopardize Garrett Temple’s return?

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

In two recent reports, The Athletic’s John Hollinger questions whether the Nets’ investment in developing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot may mean an end to Garrett Temple’s time in Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, Hollinger, the former ESPN writer and Grizzlies executive, painted a very positive picture of TLC’s future, calling him one of the “Tyler Herro All-Star Team,” nine players who distinguished themselves in Orlando and dramatically improved their NBA standing.

The 25-year-old Frenchman, signed to a non-guaranteed deal in January, averaged 15.2 points in the 12 bubble games: eight seeding games and four first round contests vs. Toronto. Moreover, he showed a deft 3-point touch, shooting nearly 40 percent from deep. The sample wasn’t small either. He put up eight three’s per game.

Hollinger wrote...

The Nets have done a brisk market in reclamation projects (most notably Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie) and Luwawu-Cabarrot may be the latest example. Despite all the bouncing around he’s done, he’s still young at 25. He’s on their books for the minimum next season, too, which is important when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both have max deals and Harris is an unrestricted free agent. He appears to have established his place in the NBA, and because of the Nets’ tax issues, his deal may also impact the future of Garrett Temple.

Temple, 34, has a team option worth $5 million that the Nets must exercise before the beginning of free agency (whenever that is). In case you forgot, Temple agreed to his two-year deal the same night as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan. The $5 million would be fully guaranteed.

Luwawu-Cabarrot will be a lot cheaper. His contract is non-guaranteed, with two trigger dates when he’ll get paid modest sums, first $150,000 before training camp, then $250,000 on Opening Night. Luwawu-Cabarrot won’t be fully guaranteed until about a third of the way through the season. Then next summer, the Nets will have his Early Bird Rights. Not bad.

Of course, the two aren’t the same player and there’s almost a decade difference in age, but both are essentially wings. Temple can and did play some point guard when injuries hit early in the season while TLC can and did play some power forward late. Also, both had their best seasons statistically.

But as Hollinger explained six days back, it may come down to numbers for Temple ... luxury tax numbers.

The Nets are already $5 million over my projected tax line before they add Temple, or pay a cent to free agent Joe Harris, or use any of their other exceptions. Brooklyn could easily be looking at landing $20 million into the tax and cutting a $45 million check to the league while operating in a rickety financial environment.

Bobby Marks has written that any starting salary above $12 million for Joe Harris would result in a $50 million tax bill (assuming nothing much else happens.)

Putting that aside as well as statements by Joe Tsai and Sean Marks about the Nets willingness to pay the luxury tax — and that Tsai’s net worth jumped $178 million TUESDAY, giving him a fortune of $15.6 billion — Hollinger’s question is how much luxury tax are the Nets willing to pay and is it worth it? TLC’s rise gives them some flexibility in dealing with Temple’s option, he argued in the earlier report.

The other wild card here is Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, the young wing who played well enough in the bubble to make the Nets ask questions about whether keeping him instead of Temple — at a third of the cost — is palatable.

Hollinger also suggests that the Nets could decline the option and then try to negotiate a more favorable deal with Temple. However, he thinks that only happens if the Nets fail to sign Harris.

[T]he Nets could have a fallback position where they still re-sign Temple in free agency if they lose Harris. I doubt his market gets anywhere beyond his $5 million salary of a year ago, so the Nets could keep him as a non-Bird free agent without using exception money.

Another possibility raised by Alex Schiffer, Hollinger’s colleague Wednesday, is that the Nets could move their first round pick, No. 19, and conserve money to re-sign Temple. The Nets could as they did in June 2019, trade their pick for a future first. The Nets already have one first and as many as four seconds in the 2021 Draft which is seen as offering a better selection.

The Nets will have to make a number of decisions this off-season, some of which will affect their long-term prospects. If they want to extend Jarrett Allen, as they did with Caris LeVert and Taurean Prince last year, they’ll have to do it before Opening Night. That contract wouldn’t kick in until 2021-22 but if they decided not to extend him, Allen would become an unrestricted agent a year from now.