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Filling out the roster: Looking at short-term solutions

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Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

In an interview Thursday with Michael Grady, Sean Marks promised to fill out his roster which is now at 14 players, of whom only 11 are likely to be active Saturday vs. Orlando.

“We’re going to have 17 guys by the end of this,” he told Grady, but didn’t provide any timetable. In an interview just after the James Harden trade suggested he would be patient.

“Without a doubt the roster is not done, it’s not yet finalized,” he said on Thursday. “We should be doing our due diligence. We have open roster spots so I have utmost faith in our scouting department that over the years has done a tremendous job for us. We’ll continue to try and add pieces as we go through this season.”

The Nets could go in a number of directions as they look at free agent lists, G League rosters (including their own Long Island Nets) and trade possibilities. And the number of open spots could grow. With 13 NBA games already canceled and COVID taking down roster after roster, the league is considering adding a third two way.

The Nets currently have 12 players under contract, all but Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot guaranteed (and he ain’t going anywhere). Reggie Perry and Chris Chiozza are the current two ways, but they could be moved to standard NBA contracts, leaving others to fill the open spots.

Let’s start in Long Island. Although the Nets have yet to release their roster, reports indicate that Jeremiah Martin and Elie Okobo, two point guards with NBA experience, are on board. There are also two veteran G Leaguers who had training camp gigs in the past: 6’7” shooting guard Kaiser Gates, who at least got his picture taken in Celtics green, and 6’10” center Tariq Owens who was in Suns camp last season. And if the Nets were interested in developing raw talent, there’s 6’8” Cameroonian-Italian power forward who the Nets liked as a potential second rounder before he went undrafted. After the Heat waived him, the Nets picked him up.

The veteran free agent pool is not very deep. On Friday night, Isaiah Thomas told Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports that he’s “in communication with a handful of teams about an NBA return” and has a new agent. The 5’9” Thomas, who hasn’t played since February, underwent hip “resurfacing” surgery in May, then played pick-up ball in southern California with the Nets “Big Three,” reportedly winning accolades for his progress. He’s said he’s pain-free.

Then there’s the two veterans who the Nets signed as replacement players for the “bubble,” only one of whom played ... and he only spent six minutes on the court. Michael Beasley, the 6’10” power forward who calls Kevin Durant his “first friend,” tested positive for COVID-19 during his physical and couldn’t play. Jamal Crawford, who was first held out of seeding games to help with conditioning, strained his hamstring after a few minutes of court action and had to sit. Haynes reported recently the Nets and Crawford are still in contact.

Two 6’7” free agent defensive wings, both with Nets connections, are also available. Andre Roberson is the brother of Spencer Dinwiddie’s longtime partner and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is two years removed from Brooklyn. Roberson played for OKC in the Orlando “bubble” after missing nearly two years due to injury. RHJ was waived by the Timberwolves in December.

Meeting a need, 7-footer Dewayne Dedmon would give the Nets a back-up 5 who can stretch the floor. His last gig in Sacramento ended ugly when he was fined $50,000 for publicly demanding a trade. Two years ago, with the Hawks, he averaged 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 38.2 percent from deep in 67 games.

The Nets wouldn’t have to take a big financial risk on any of the veterans. They could sign them to a 10-day, a two-way, a non-guaranteed deal. And under a new G League rule, they can sign a veteran player, anyone with five or more years experience, to a contract with Long Island, then watch him play in the league’s own “bubble” which starts in three weeks.

Other veterans still available: Shabazz Napier, the point guard; Ersan Ilyasova, the Nets killing PF; Emmanuel Mudiay, another point guard and defensive specialists Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Iman Shumpert, who played with the Nets last season and on Thursday, the day after the Harden trade, tweeted out, “I’m around;”

While It’s difficult to imagine any of these veterans getting more than the vets minimum, the Nets do still have access to the $5.7 million taxpayers exception and perhaps a similar-sized disabled player exception to replace Dinwiddie. No word yet if the Nets have actually filed for the DPE. The league’s medical office would have to certify that Dinwiddie is likely to be out for the season. (If a DPE was granted and Dinwiddie returned to play, it would no effect on anyone signed with the exception.)

A few dates to watch when watching the Nets roster:

February 23 - 10-Day contracts may now be signed. Teams can sign players to two consecutive 10-days before deciding whether to keep them.

February 27 - All non and partially guaranteed contracts become fully guaranteed. Teams looking to save money will often waive players to avoid paying them for the full season.

March 25 - NBA trade deadline. Usually set for 3 p.m. ET.

April 9 - NBA playoff eligibility deadline, aka the end of buyout season. Players waived before April 9 can still qualify for playoff rosters. After this date, no such luck. Look for the Nets to hold on to at least one of their roster openings.

As for that 18th slot, the NBA is currently discussing whether to add it. The NBA would have to get the players union agreement as well, but that would seem like a formality.