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What to look for as Nets head into free agency

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Move away from the trade machine. Put aside your James Harden dreams. Free agency is upon us. Starting at 6 p.m., teams can officially start negotiating with free agents. But as we all know, those talks have been underway for a while, through third parties, etc. Tampering? Never heard of it but make sure you’re online at 6:01 p.m. If history is any guide, you’ll see Woj Bombs and Shams Bams flying with details on deals big and small.

For the Nets, the top priority was and is Joe Harris, who is an unrestricted free agent. The Nets hold his Bird Rights Nets meaning they can sign him for any amount (up to $30 million a year) without having to worry about going over the cap.

In Friday morning’s press availability, Sean Marks once again said he wants the 6’6” sharpshooter back. “It would certainly be great to have him continue the ride with us,” said Marks.

How much will it take? The latest scuttlebutt is that it will take a contract starting at $18 million a year to keep him in Brooklyn. The Nets can give Harris a longer contract (up to five years rather than four) with bigger annual raises (eight percent instead of five) than any other suitor.

NBA pundits, both local and national, believe Harris will be back. He has said a return to the Nets would be “ideal” and Joe Tsai has said on more than one occasion that he’s willing to pay the luxury tax, which will be required if the Nets sign Harris to a big deal.

Bobby Marks, speaking on ESPN Thursday, typified what pundits are saying.

“We have Joe Harris here; he’s not going anywhere,” Bobby Marks said on ESPN. Mike Scotto of Hoopshype and Ian Begley of SNY have made similar comments.

So who else would the Nets be interested in? The other big name is Raptors free agent center Serge Ibaka who Kevin Durant (and reportedly others in the organization) have been recruiting. The Nets can offer no more than the taxpayers MLE —$5.7 million to start and $18 million over three. That would be a big shortfall if you think that the 31-year-old seven-footer could attract $12 to $15 million, as some reports have indicated. He made $23.2 million last year

Still, Ibaka has over the course of his career earned $120 million and there are those who think his top priority may not be making more money but winning a ring with a friend. KD and Ibaka are friends and played seven years together in Oklahoma City. Ibaka, Durant and James Harden played two years together in OKC. And is there another veteran who might be willing to “ring chase?” Danilo Gallinari, who liked playing in New York, has said that winning will be a priority in his free agent decision.

And if Ibaka says thanks, but no thanks, Kev? And Gallo says, show me the money? Will the Nets even use the TMLE? It would be a big charge on Joe Tsai’s checking account. There have been reports that without using the exception, the Nets could be looking at a $50 million tax charge if they give Harris $12 million.

Power forward is indeed a Nets priority. There were reports on Draft Night that the Nets were looking to get into the lottery to take one of the Draft’s top bigs: Patrick Williams of Florida State, who went at No. 4, Isaac Okoro of Auburn who went No. 5 and Onyeka Okongwu of USC who went No. 6. Who were they dangling? Logic would suggest Spencer Dinwiddie. (They’re not unhappy with their pick in the second round, 6’10” Mississippi State big Reggie Perry, but he’s a long-term prospect.)

By trading for Landry Shamet and Bruce Brown in this week’s rolling three-team deal, the Nets did fill big needs on the perimeter. Shamet is a 6’4” shooter with big game experience while Brown, also 6’4” with a bigger body, is more of a defender who can also shoot the three. Both are are rookie deals and will be paid $3.4 million combined this season, exactly the kind of deals teams in win-now mode like to acquire.

Officially, free agents can’t be signed until Sunday at 12:01 p.m. but players can be traded at any point.