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Roster math: three spots still open with two months to go before camp

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets - Game Four Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Nets open training camp at HSS Training Center two months from Wednesday. With camp rosters limited to 21 players — 15 standard deals, three two-ways and another four Exhibit 10 contracts — Brooklyn still has three openings: a two-way and two Exhibit 10s.

The Nets filled their last standard contract slot on Wednesday by signing Trendon Watford, a 6’8” power forward who last played for the Trail Blazers.

Here’s where the roster currently stands:

Standard guaranteed deals (13):

Ben Simmons, Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, Nic Claxton, Royce O’Neale, Noah Clowney, Dariq Whitehead, Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, Dennis Smith Jr., Lonnie Walker IV.

Standard non-guaranteed deals (2):

Trendon Watford and Darius Bazley. No details yet on Watford’s deal but one league source said it was the same as Bazley, who’s guaranteed $200,000 if he makes Opening Night roster, then $700,000 on December 15 and fully guaranteed at $2.1 million on January 10.

Two-way contracts (2):

Jalen Wilson, Armoni Brooks.

Exhibit 10 (1):

Patrick Gardner

The Nets still have some wiggle room below the luxury tax threshold if they want to add someone on a contract above the vets minimum. They have both the bi-annual exception ($4.4 million) and the full mid-level exception ($12.4 million) which can be broken up into pieces. They are currently at $157 million in salary, a little less than $9 million below the tax threshold of $165 million. It’s highly unlikely they’d get anywhere near the threshold, though. If they are over the threshold by season’s end, they would pay the repeater tax on anything above the threshold. (The same holds true for the 2024-25 season.)

They are nowhere near the second apron, which is $182.5 million.

ProfessorB, who tracks the cap for NetsDaily, offered this scenario as one the Nets could use and still avoid going over the tax threshold:

The bi-annual exception ($4.4 million) and mid-level exception ($12.4 million) can only be used for free agents. That seems very unlikely at this point—the attractive free agents were snapped up weeks ago. But the Nets could use a trade exception to acquire any player in the league making up to $10 million, or Royce O’Neale plus a trade exception to acquire any player in the league making up to $19.5 million, and still stay under the tax threshold. Of course, that would cost some draft capital.

Traditionally, Sean Marks & co. don’t fill the final spots until much closer to camp. Last season, they signed Yuta Watanabe on August 28 to an Exhibit 10 deal, then converted it to standard deal. Two years ago, they signed DeAndre’ Bembry to a standard one-year deal on August 8.

This season, having a two non-guaranteed roster spots could be more strategic than usual. Assuming Damian Lillard and/or James Harden get traded between now and October, the trade is likely to be a multi-team deal and the Nets have been part of a number of four and even five-team trades in the past several years. Having eight first round picks (out of 11) available for trade this summer makes Brooklyn a likely candidate to be included.

No surprise, the Nets roster is a lot younger than the ones the team put on the floor during the “Big Three” era. Last season, they were the sixth oldest team in the NBA, Before the signing of the 22-year-old Watford, they were 10th at 24.7 years with their oldest player, Dinwiddie, only 30 years old. Finney-Smith and O’Neale are also 30. Next oldest is Johnson at 27. At the opposite end, Clowney and Whitehead are the two youngest players ever drafted by the franchise and have just turned 19.

They also now are sixth in lowest amount of salary commitments at a little more than $351 million through 2026-27. The $94.5 million owed Johnson over the next four years is only the 66th largest commitment in the NBA currently, per Spotrac.