Just as they did last season, the Nets will have a big decision to make on a developing player at the end of his rookie contract. In the weeks leading up to the 2019-20 opener, the Nets extended Caris LeVert to a three-year, $52.5 million deal, now seen as a bargain, and Taurean Prince to a two-year, $29 million deal, now seen as an overpayment. Both those deals come into effect this season.
Now, Jarrett Allen is up for an extension at a time when the Nets are staring at years of luxury tax payments. In fact, it’s hard to imagine the Nets won’t be in luxury tax territory through the remainder of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s deals which will end in either 2022 or 2023 depending on whether they exercise player options. The Nets must make a decision on Allen by December 21 (assuming he isn’t included in any real trade machine scenarios) or have him become a restricted free agent in July —or August— 2021.
How much is Allen looking for? In the Hoop Collective podcast, Bobby Marks, the former Nets assistant GM hears the 22-year-old has a number in mind ... a big number.
“He’s looking for a Clint Capela-type of money,” Marks told Brian Windhorst.
For those who have forgotten how much the then-Rockets center received, here’s your reminder: Capela signed a five-year, $90-million extension deal with Houston in 2018. He was 24 at the time of the deal. Daryl Morey traded him to Atlanta in a four-team, 12-player deal not long before COVID-19 hit. Houston received Robert Covington in the deal and went small ball (under now Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni) to an extent not seen before in the NBA.
Capela had been more productive than Allen in the lead-up to that deal, comfortably averaging a double-double and two blocks a game. Allen has not yet had that success but in the Orlando “bubble,” he excelled, his game developing across a number of areas. In six seeding games, he averaged 15.7 points and 11.0 rebounds along with 1.2 blocks and most surprisingly, 4.2 assists. Then, in the Raptors four-game sweep of the Nets, he averaged 10.3 points, 14.8 boards (the highest in the NBA playoffs), 1.8 blocks and 2.3 assists. Those are Clint Capela numbers. Moreover, Allen is the Nets most durable player, missing two games in the “bubble” to rest after having played every game prior to the hiatus. He missed two games in 2018-19 as well.
Bobby Marks said he believes the Nets will not sign Allen to an extension but will instead wait and see how he does this season.
“I would think it’s hard for me to extend him to that type of number and the other thing is if you extend these guys, you’re basically off the board for a year because of the poison pill restriction in your contract. So it’s not like he’s tradeable so I think if I’m Brooklyn and if I can get him in that $12-14 million range, I’m looking for a below-market type of deal here,” Marks added.
Complicating matters of course is the presence of DeAndre Jordan and to a lesser degree, Nicolas Claxton. How do they all fit?
As Nets fans will recall, the first move Jacque Vaughn made after replacing Kenny Atkinson was moving Allen out of the starting line-up and replacing him with DeAndre Jordan, whose credentials include three All-NBA team slots, two All-Defensive Team slots ... and an Olympic gold, earned along with his friends, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He is 10 years older than Allen who after all would be senior at Texas if he didn’t come out in 2017.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, who appeared with Marks and Windhorst, touched on Jordan’s friendship with KD and Kyrie in the podcast.
“The other thing is the strange dynamic with KD and Kyrie’s guy, DeAndre Jordan, as $10-million a year dude, paying him that much to play 18-20 minutes a game. Do they want DeAndre in the starting lineup? You can’t ignore that whole dynamic when you’re making these decisions and obviously, the Nets’ front office isn’t ignoring anything that KD and Kyrie have to say when it comes to making major decisions,”
However, does Jordan, who by some measures is the most immobile big in the NBA, fit in a Steve Nash-Mike D’Antoni offense as something other than a spot player? Will Kevin Durant play a lot at the 5, limiting minutes for both Allen and Jordan? Hard to say at this moment, but Nash was positively effusive about what he saw from Allen in the “bubble” when asked about him in his “Town Hall” two weeks ago.
“I thought his performance in the bubble showed some big growth at both ends of the floor. He was more dynamic at the defensive end, expanding his game there, getting out and player farther out on the floor, covering guards, moving his feet for stretches that we hadn’t seen in the past, and then his rim protection I think has been his cornerstone,” said Nash of Allen when asked about him and LeVert.
“Offensively, I think he’s getting better in traffic. He’s getting a better feel, and he’s going to continue to grow there too. So, two very talented players who have youth and a lot of upside and are great pieces to put in the mix here for this team.”
What’s the Nets alternative if they want to keep him ... and don’t want to risk losing him to free agency, restricted or not? They could sign him to a reasonable two-year deal to get everyone to 2023 when the situation with their superstar contracts will become more clear.