With nearly $80 million committed to five players in 2014-15 (Joe Johnson: $23.2 million; Deron Williams: $19.8 million; Brook Lopez: $15.7 million; Kevin Garnett: $12 million; Marcus Thornton: $8.6 million), it doesn’t appear as though the Brooklyn Nets have much flexibility headed into the offseason.
Of course, we said the same thing last season before Nets general manager Billy King traded five players, three future first-round draft picks and the right to swap a first to Boston in exchange for Garnett and Paul Pierce.
As a result of that blockbuster deal, however, Brooklyn doesn’t appear to have much in the form of assets.
But here’s what King said when asked about his team’s perceived lack of flexibility for the second consecutive offseason:
“We've been blessed to get guys on minimum contracts that have been able to play -- looking at a Shaun [Livingston], looking at an Alan [Anderson], so I think there are guys out there that can fill holes. I think we have the potential to get a pick in the draft if we want to. So we’re looking at options. We've got some things we're looking at.
“We may get a draft pick. We’re going to have a free-agent camp on June 2. But we’re bringing in a bunch of guys who played overseas, look at guys who are free agents, played overseas or in the D-League. So we’ll take a look at them in a three- or four-day period. Brooklyn being a place that players want to play and we have a coach [Jason Kidd] who I think players want to play for. I think we play a good style. So I don’t look at it as the sky is falling as much as we have some assets and things we can do and we’ll look at it.”
The Nets have six free agents: Pierce (unrestricted, Bird Rights); Shaun Livingston (unrestricted, no Bird Rights); Jason Collins (unrestricted); Andrei Kirilenko ($3.4 million player option); Andray Blatche (plans to opt out) and Alan Anderson ($1 million player option). Then, of course, there’s also the possibility Garnett decides to retire.
The Nets can only offer free agents either the taxpayer mini midlevel exception (three years, $10 million) -- which would probably have to go entirely to Livingston, who can receive higher bids elsewhere, if they wish to keep him -- or minimum contracts. King has had a lot of success with these small deals, hitting on Blatche, Livingston, Kirilenko (injuries aside) and Mirza Teletovic, among others.
But if Brooklyn wants to do something significant, it would likely have to be a trade, whether it’s someone like Williams, Lopez or Pierce (sign-and-trade) heading out of town. That would enable the Nets to either retool or recoup assets. They do not have first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018, and must swap their firsts (if they are better) to the Atlanta Hawks (Joe Johnson trade) and Boston Celtics in 2015 and 2017. The Nets do not control a first-round pick until 2019 and cannot trade one until 2020 at the earliest. Perhaps they purchase a pick and strike rich again like they did with Mason Plumlee at No. 22 in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Bottom line: King is going to have to be creative, which he’s been known to be before.