Last summer, the Nets signaled a clear plan for the next two years: Try to stay competitive while staying under the luxury tax line, then use that financial flexibility and their boatload of draft assets to shoulder their way back into the league’s top tier starting in the summer of 2025.
The first part of that plan has not gone as well as they hoped; at 20-31, the slumping Nets are two games out of the last Eastern Conference play-in spot. Nonetheless, their modest trade deadline deals underline Sean Marks’s commitment to the strategy. It is a plan that many fans dislike, but it is their plan and they’re stickin’ to it.
Given their determination to stay under the luxury tax threshold this season ... and next, the Nets were not going to be aggressive buyers at the deadline. Some rumors had them bidding for Hawks point guard Dejounte Murray, but his salary might have precluded re-signing Nic Claxton this summer. Murray stayed put in Atlanta after the Hawks fielded a number of disappointing offers, and the Nets went slightly down-market by adding veteran point guard Dennis Schroder.
Schroder provides essential insurance behind often-injured Ben Simmons; but his $13.0 million salary next season — $7 million less than what Dinwiddie would have made this year if he’d stayed — leaves more room to re-sign Claxton and fill out the roster than would have been the case with Murray, former Net D’Angelo Russell, or incumbent Spencer Dinwiddie. Moreover, Schroder comes off the books in summer 2025, providing additional flexibility for what the Nets hope will be a big push to upgrade the roster.
In keeping with their projected timeline, the Nets shipped out two of their three oldest players, Spencer Dinwiddie and Royce O’Neale. Both were on expiring contracts and unlikely to be back next season. O’Neale will contribute to the Suns’ playoff run while Dinwiddie will reportedly by waived by the Raptors and will likely head back to Dallas. He sat behind the Mavericks bench at Madison Square Garden last night.
The other 30-year-old on the roster, Dorian Finney-Smith, was widely rumored to be on he trade block but remained in Brooklyn. He has one more season on his contract, plus a player option for 2025-26. He could still be moved this summer or at next year’s trade deadline.
The Nets added two vets minimum level players from Phoenix along with the three second-round draft picks they received for O’Neale, then dropped one of them, also in a cost-cutting. Keita Bates-Diop is a 28-year-old forward who averaged 15 minutes per game with the Suns this season. He’s staying. Jordan Goodwin, who was waived Friday, is a 25-year-old guard who averaged 14 minutes per game. The Nets also briefly reacquired veteran forward Thad Young, a player Marks traded away at the very beginning of his tenure in Brooklyn, from the Raptors; but the 35-year-old veteran will reportedly be waived.
So, what’s the numbers look like, not the ones that determine games, but the ones that are denominated in dollars and cents?
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.)
Take a look at the rough financial ledger Joe Tsai and Sean Marks will be giving the green eyeshade treatment:
(The dead money entry includes Goodwin money. Someone will get it. Actually, Goodwin will get it— his contract was guaranteed. Spotrac also shows him getting $325,590 next year, which must be some sort of partial guarantee of his player option.)
Barring unexpected big moves between now and then, the Nets’ cap sheet will get significantly lighter in the summer of ’25, providing ample opportunities for recasting the roster. The only veterans under contract at that point will be the “twins,” Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, and Dorian Finney-Smith (if he hasn’t been traded by then and if he exercises his player option). Assuming the team will also exercise its options on current rookies Noah Clowney and Dariq Whitehead, they will have $68.5M on the books. Adding cap holds for restricted free agents Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe would bring that number to $92.6M, which would still leave the Nets with 40% of the projected cap uncommitted—enough to recruit a maximum-salary free agent, if they can find one.
In addition to cap space, the Nets in 2025 will have a substantial chest of tradeable draft picks. They will also have flexibility to go over the $188.4M luxury tax line without triggering the additional “repeater” tax. That is when Sean Marks’s strategy will begin to pay off—if indeed it does.
In his day job, ProfessorB is an award-winning social scientist. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and other major media outlets. But he also dabbles in NetsWorld.