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Bench guys hoping for bigger deals, job security in ‘bubble’

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Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets roster is decimated by injury and illness. On a good day, they have 14 healthy players, the smallest number in the “bubble” and five of them were signed in the last six weeks.

For each of them, the remaining four seeding games and (hopefully) the playoffs will be a testing time ... and an opportunity to advance their careers, make some money, get some job security.

For the Nets, of course, the big free agency come October will be that of Joe Harris, who is an unrestricted free agent. But because the Nets have his full Bird Rights, the Nets can go over the salary cap to sign him. (And with each game, it looks like he’s headed for a BIG pay day.) The Nets also have to make decisions on Garrett Temple’s $5 million team option and extending the rookie deals of Jarrett Allen and Dzanan Musa. Those were expected.

But as a result of the wave of “bubble” signings, the front office will have other decisions to make once the season ends officially, in mid-October. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of each of the bench guys prospects. We have to caveat this report to a certain degree. We keep learning about wrinkles in the CBA including those specific to the “bubble.”

Tyler Johnson. Unlike the other late signings, Johnson is a traditional free agent. The Nets waived Theo Pinson to open a roster spot. Johnson will be an unrestricted free agent, but unlike the substitute signings, the Nets hold his non-Bird Rights which give them a little wiggle room if they want to offer something more than a vets minimum. We’re talking about $4 million a year or so. Would TJ give the Nets a discount considering how they changed his life four years ago?

Jamal Crawford. One of four substitute players, Crawford will be an unrestricted free agent and the Nets will have no additional rights. As of now, it’s unlikely that he’d command more than the vets minimum, but he does have Kevin Durant’s endorsement. Although he’s said he’s living in the moment, he’s also said he “loves” the organization. He turns 41 next March. Would health be an issue?

Lance Thomas. Like Crawford, Thomas is a substitute ... and a player who hadn’t played this season until the Nets signed him. A serious FOK (Meet the Fockers?), Thomas may or may not be on the Nets radar as a 14th or 15th player. It’s unlikely they’ll be much competition for the 32-year-old if the Nets want to bring him back.

Justin Anderson. The Nets like the 6’6” swingman. They signed him to a 10-day back in January, then after he went back down to the Raptors G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets traded for him. Finally, in July, they signed him as a substitute. As a result, the 26-year-old, too, is a UFA. Would Nets sign him to keep his good friend (FOJ?) Harris happy?

Donta Hall. Of the four substitutes, Hall is the pure development play. Undrafted out of Alabama, Hall turns 23 Friday. Again, an unrestricted free agent. The Pistons who had him on his second 10-day when the pandemic hit, saw Hall as a 4. It appears the Nets do, too. Could they sign him to a two-way deal? Yes. Would he want that? Hall dominated the G League. He might have other suitors.

Chris Chiozza. The Nets could have waived Pinson and signed Chiozza, then a two-way player, to a standard deal. Instead, they went with Tyler Johnson. Despite that, the Nets have an advantage in that the 24-year-old fan favorite will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Nets can match any offer Chiozza might get. Chiozza seems to like where he is.

Jeremiah Martin. When the Nets signed the 24-year-old Martin to a two-way deal in January, few noticed that the contract was a two-year, two-way deal, so (barring some CBA change we don’t know about), the Nets will hold his two-way rights headed into the fall. He has helped himself a lot in the “bubble.”

There are other names we might think about, like Michael Beasley who the Nets signed then had to drop when he tested positive for the coronavirus. He appears to be in good health. He’s a UFA and an FOK.

Financially, the Nets are over the cap and will likely be over the luxury tax threshold come October, but they will have the taxpayers MLE —about $18 million over three years— which can be used on one player or broken up. They also have a first round pick —the 76ers— that will have to be figured into cap numbers. A pick at No. 18 or 19 (the more likely) will cost the Nets about $2.4 million. Of course, the Nets traded TWO first round picks last year to save cap space for Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan.

A few other numbers to keep in mind: The Nets have $5.6 million available in cash considerations to sweeten deals (or buy a pick) and can contribute $725,000 to an international player’s buyout.