With all the comings and goings this summer — 10 players headed over the horizon and 11 incoming — the Brooklyn Nets roster has been a work-in-progress ever since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Now with either 90 (or 99 percent) of the bench overhaul now complete, there seems to one big question left: who among the 16 standard NBA contracts will wind up being given a hearty handshake and a fond farewell come Opening Night October 19. There are other issues, like who gets the second two-way and who fills out the last two training camp spots but the big one concerns the 15-man roster.
Of course, it’s always possible that Sean Marks will surprise us — when hasn’t he? — and make a trade perhaps, but as Kristian Winfield writes Tuesday, it seems more likely that there will be three-way competition for the last spot among DeAndre’ Bembry, Jevon Carter and Sekou Doumbouya, all of whom are working out at HSS Training Center as the team gets ready of training camp, now only two weeks away.
There are money issues — Bembry has a partially guaranteed deal at a mere $750,00 while Carter and Doumbouya are the seventh and eighth highest paid Nets, both at around $3.6 million. If the Nets want to dump either of the latter two, they’ll have to either eat their salaries and hope someone else picks them up, reducing their liability, or find a team that would take one of their three remaining second rounders or a stashed player in a salary dump. (Carter has two years and $7.5 million remaining on his deal, a more expensive proposition.)
There’s age and experience issues, too. Doumbouya is 20 (until proven otherwise). Bembry is 27 and Carter 25.
Winfield lays out what’s at stake for all three possibilities, noting a series of numbers games, with money and minutes at the top of the list.
About Carter, the Daily News reporter notes that while the future looked secure for Carter when the Nets got him and the draft rights to Day’Ron Sharpe. But that was before the Nets signed Patty Mills ... and before they knew what they had in Cam Thomas. Moreover, Carter was seen as Bruce Brown insurance if, as was expected, Brown would get a better offer elsewhere. Now, he seems like the third point guard and fifth guard, per Winfield.
Mills is slated to play nearly every point guard minute that Harden and Irving don’t, meaning Carter will be hard-pressed to find minutes at the one on this roster.
It’s also hard to justify minutes for the 6-foot-1 Carter at the two, where he’ll be undersized for the matchup nine times out of 10. Given how loaded the team is at the one, cutting a reserve guard makes sense over any other position.
Of course, that was the situation left in Phoenix where his role diminished throughout the Suns’ surprising run to the Finals.
Bembry, as Winfield notes, is the easiest cut. When signed in August, he got a $750,000 guarantee on a one-year, $1.7 million vets minimum. The guarantee jumps to $1.25 million on December 15 (the first day free agents signed during the off-season can be traded) and then is fully guaranteed on January 10. Bembry’s situation will also be effected by Brown but it should be noted that Brown had already agreed to the qualifying offer before the Nets signed the former Raptor.
After Harris, who is projected to start at the three unless the Nets go big and start two of Aldridge, Millsap or Griffin next to the Big 3, the team doesn’t have a legitimate backup three-and-D wing.
Bembry, too, lacks a reliable three-point shot, making him a more slender rendition of Brown, whose minutes are already etched into the Nets’ rotation after his standout play last season. A role player who mirrors another role player’s skill set can be filed as expendable.
That brings us to the mystery man, Doumbouya. the 6’9” (in sneakers) 20-year-old was a polarizing figure in Detroit having been drafted at No. 15 in the 2019 Draft, the same one where the Nets dumped two firsts to bolster the salary cap resources for the “Clean Sweep.”
But when Doumbouya didn’t produce quickly enough — and the GM who selected him was canned — he became a target in the Pistons’ remake. Of course, he was the youngest player taken in that Draft and he did blow through the NBA Combine measurement drills. It should also be noted that there’s evidence that the Nets liked him. According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Frenchman was part of the initial talks in last year’s three-team deal that produced Brown but the Pistons pulled him.
There was speculation that the Nets would somehow try to dump Doumbouya but that hasn’t happened. He’s in camp with his buddy, Brown.
Complicating matters for Doumbouya and the Nets is his contract situation: He is entering the third year of his rookie deal, which means he becomes extension eligible this year. He is owed $3.6 million this season — a larger salary than several other players slotted higher above him on the depth chart — and if the Nets want to keep him beyond this season, the team option to do so is worth $5.5 million...
The Nets, though, are balancing a championship-contending present with a promising future, ostensibly built around lighting-rod scorer Cam Thomas and big men Nicolas Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe. If GM Sean Marks sees Doumbouya as part of that future, there’s a chance the Nets could move to keep him.
So what’s the bottom line of this math problem? First off, there’s no urgency at the moment. The Nets don’t have to make any decision for a month. Maybe one explodes in training camp or Steve Nash and crew get a better idea of their needs. All three have some defensive chops. Or as noted above, something else intervenes that changes the calculus. That’s our guess. In other words, stay tuned.
- The Nets have to cut one player. Here’s who could hit the chopping block - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News