Now that the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled, we have a better idea of where things are at, not just on the court, but on the cap sheets and draft boards the Nets maintain.
So, we took a deep dive into what the Brooklyn Nets did on Thursday and how it affects their strategy for this season and the future in a number of ways. Oh, the intricacies.
The Nets didn’t move nor did they add any first rounders at the deadline. Some pundits and fans had advocated for dumping Mikal Bridges and/or Nic Claxton at the deadline in return for more picks, but the Nets kept both players and dismissed offers of up to five first rounders for Bridges (although there’s been no details on just what that package would’ve looked like.)
The Nets did add three seconds in the Royce O’Neale trade with the Suns. All came from Phoenix but two are Grizzlies selections in 2028 and 2029 while the third is the least favorable of the Pistons, Bucks, or Magic’s in 2026.
By our tally, that means the retooling Nets now have 11 firsts — eight tradeable starting at the Draft in June — along with nine or ten seconds, all of which can be dealt. It’s hard to tell about the seconds, what with swaps and protections but as we predicted Thursday morning, the Nets have a lot more seconds now than they did then, going from six to nine.
Just like the superstar trades of a year ago, the picks acquired Thursday are years away. Indeed, the Nets will have a total of six picks in the 2029 Draft — three firsts and three seconds — and four in 2027 — three firsts and a second. On the other hand, they still have none in this June’s Draft which is seen as weak, particularly outside the lottery.
ProfessorB did a whole analysis on this over on Friday and the bottom line, as he wrote is this:
So far, the Nets have $132.2M committed for next season. (That number will go down a bit if Bates-Diop declines his $2.7M player option.) Assuming they want to re-sign Claxton, his $16.6M cap hold will exhaust their remaining cap space this summer. However, they will still have about $39M under the luxury tax line to re-sign Claxton at a higher price and fill out the roster. He is an unrestricted free agent, but Brooklyn still holds his Bird Rights meaning they can sign him outside cap limits.
Depending on Claxton’s contract, they could use the MLE to add a player starting at up to $12.9M per season. If they had gone over the luxury tax threshold, that option would not have been available. They will also have non-Bird rights that could be used to re-sign any or all of Dennis Smith Jr., Lonnie Walker IV, and Trendon Watford, but only to small raises, which may not be sufficient to keep them. (The Nets plan was essentially throw them all into the deep end of the pool and see who bobs to the surface.)
At the moment, the Nets are $13.2 short of the luxury tax threshold, which is $5.2 million more cushion that they had going into Deadline Day. That’s based on having 14 players under contract. More on that later.
The Nets went into the deadline with seven Traded Player Exceptions — aka TPEs — the most in the league. They were valued at between $1.6 million and $19.9 million. It included the $4.5 million exception from the Kyrie Irving trade as well as the $18.1 million TPE from the Kevin Durant trade, both of which expired on their first anniversaries, as well as the second biggest exception in the NBA, a $19.9 million TPE from the Joe Harris salary dump last July.
Yossi Gozlan, formerly with Hoophype and now with Capsheets.com, reports that Brooklyn was able to manipulate things during discussions, using parts of both the KD exception — just before it expired — and the Harris exception to complete their two trades. By breaking trades into smaller pieces, the Nets and their capologist, Matt Tellem were able to use $12.4 million from the Durant exception to take on Dennis Schroder’s $12.4 million salary and $8.0 million from the Harris exception to take on Thaddeus Young’s.
Beyond that, they generated two new exceptions, a $20.4 million TPE generated by the Spencer Dinwiddie deal and a $9.5 million TPE generated by the Royce O’Neale trade. Sean Marks & co. will have access to through the 2025 deadline. As Gozlan tweeted 20 minutes after the deadline, the Nets still have a wealth of exceptions...
The Brooklyn Nets will save around $5 million through their two trades.— Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) February 8, 2024
They can structure the moves to have these trade exceptions left:
$20.4 million (Dinwiddie)
$11.9 million (Harris)
$9.5 million (O'Neale)
$6.8 million (Mills)
$5.7 million (Durant, expires tomorrow)
That fraction of the KD exception did not get used. Still, the Dinwiddie exception is now the second largest in the NBA. Only the John Collins exception held by the Hawks is larger at $23 million and the Nets four TPEs are second in the NBA to the 76ers five.
There are a lot of ways to use trade exceptions so it’s better to have them than not. Two years ago, for example, the Nets sent a Philadelphia 76ers first round pick they acquired in the James Harden exit trade and a TPE generated by that same trade to the Utah Jazz for Royce O’Neale’s $8.8 million deal. Then, they traded him to Phoenix Thursday in such a way that generated a new, $9.5 million TPE.
John Hollinger of The Athletic explained the process and why it could be a big deal for Brooklyn:
Brooklyn was the big winner here, keeping alive a $20 million trade exception from the Kevin Durant trade by flipping Spencer Dinwiddie for Dennis Schröderand Thaddeus Young. With Young fitting into the exception they created in the Royce O’Neale trade with Phoenix, and Schröder fitting into Durant’s exception that was about to expire, the Nets created a new exception worth $20.3 million for Dinwiddie.
Thus, while the Nets don’t have cap room, they can play in the trade market for players who make well north of the nontaxpayer midlevel exception, possibly positioning themselves to grab another starter-caliber player.
And consider this: It the Nets used the Kevin Durant trade exception and the key player from the Kyrie Irving trade to acquire Dennis Schroder, does that make Schroder the final piece of last February’s superstar trades?
By waiving two of the players they acquired in the trades — Thaddeus Young and Jordan Goodwin — as well as Harry Giles III, the Nets have netted a roster opening. They also have a two-way opening created when they waived Armoni Brooks on January 7.
They can use that open spot on the 15-man roster in a number of ways: they can give Jalen Wilson a standard deal, elevating him from his current two-way status. Remember, two-ways can’t play in the post-season. They can use the spot to sign 10-day deals that serve as audition for players seeking either a standard deal or the two-way opening or they can bring someone in. Marks said the team is “canvassing” the league looking for possibilities and there’s no deadline. (Also, if the Nets get into a bidding war for a player, they have some MLE money available. That’s not likely though.)
The Nets picked up a stash in the Royce O’Neale trade as well as three second rounders. It appears that the addition of Vanja Marinkovic’s draft rights was needed to manipulate the deal in a such a way that Brooklyn could wind up with the new trade exception. We’ll leave that level of detail to the cap nerds. Enter ProfessorB...
The Suns needed this to be a three-way trade, because they weren’t sending the Nets enough salary to match O’Neale’s $9.5M (but they sent more salary to the Grizzlies than they took back, so matched salary overall). In a three-way trade, each pair of teams has to “touch,” so the Nets had to give or get something from the Grizzlies.
Marinkovic is a 6’6” shooting guard from Serbia who currently plays for Baskonia in Spain, long a European powerhouse. He was the 60th and last pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Since then, his rights have been traded around from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Sacramento Kings to the Memphis Grizzlies and on Thursday to Brooklyn.
He’s currently averaging 11.5 points in 21 Spanish League games on 55/39/72 shooting splits, and 10.7 points in 24 Euroleague games on 44/27/81 shooting splits. He picked up a silver medal at the FIBA World Cup last summer, coming off the bench for Team Serbia. He averaged 7.8 points over eight games, including nine points vs. Germany in the gold medal game where he spent some time guarding MVP Dennis Schroder.
At 27, he’s a solid European player but unlikely to ever make an appearance in an NBA uniform. No doubt the Nets will keep track of him as they do all their stashes, but that’s probably it.
So what’s the bottom line? Flexibility now in the future as the team tries to compete within the confines of the dictate that they don’t go over the tax threshold this season or next, avoiding the repeater tax and CBA restrictions on roster-building. That hasn’t changed
“I think we go into these days always thinking about future flexibility, try to maintain some level of sustainability when we’re looking at how does the team look this year,” said Marks in talking to reporters Thursday evening. “How’s it gonna look in six months time from now? How’s it gonna look in three, four years? We’re looking way down the road and at what’s fitting with our timetable.”
If you were expecting big moves, you were disappointed, but you shouldn’t have been surprised. Then again, if Dennis Schroder continues to play at the level he showed Saturday night, his addition could indeed be big and all the rest of this stuff could be secondary.