The Brooklyn Nets, currently sitting at 18-26 and ninth in the Eastern Conference, are in a painfully awkward state in the NBA. They’re not bad enough to contend for a top pick, but even if they were to sneak into the playoffs a series win would be impossible. So what should the Nets plans be moving forward? Are any of the current players viable in the future?
Final Year of Contract- Free Agents
The Nets have eight players under contract that either will or could become free agents at season’s end. Kevin Garnett may very likely retire after the season. Jerome Jordan (3.3 PPG in 9.2 MPG) and Darius Morris (3.3 PPG in 9.3 MPG) are merely placeholders at this point and should also be considered goners, although with the Nets potential cap situation these could be the caliber of players the Nets will roll out again next year.
The Nets last unrestricted free agent is also the one who has significant value, Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic, 29, is only in his 3rd NBA season and still growing as a player. Teletovic’s value comes via his defense, efficient scoring, and above average three point shooting at the power forward position. His growth this season was abruptly halted however, and his season is over. That being said, Teletovic should come back to the Nets for the right price, in the $3-5 Million per year range. It will also be important for the Nets to evaluate Teletovic’s health as he is currently out with blood clots in his lungs, and will not be suiting up for the remainder of the season.
Keep: Mirza Teletovic
Cut: Kevin Garnett, Jerome Jordan, Darius Morris
Final Year of Contract- Options
The Nets’ next decisions will be made on players with team options. The two players that fit this bill are center Mason Plumlee and shooting guard Sergey Karasev. Both young, growing players, the Nets would be foolish to let either player walk at such low costs.
Mason Plumlee is arguably the best asset the Nets currently have, shooting 59% and averaging 10.4 points per game this season. The Nets will undoubtedly accept his option for the next two years before he can cash in on the open market.
Sergey Karasev, while no slam dunk, is a solid option for $1.6 Million next year. Only 21 years old, Karasev is averaging 10 points and 4.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, showing he makes the most of his limited time on the floor.
What the Nets can’t control is their two players who hold player options, Brook Lopez and Alan Anderson. When healthy, the Nets benefit extremely from Lopez’s presence both offensively and defensively, and Lopez is still in his prime. But given his recent injury history and with 2015 NBA Free Agency being big man-heavy, Lopez would be wise to accept his player option for 2015-2016, set for just over $16 Million.
Alan Anderson also holds a player option, but his decision impacts the Nets much less both on and off the court. Anderson averages only 6.0 points per game in 22.3 minutes on the floor a night. At 32, Anderson might also realize his value and accept his player option.
Keep: Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee, Sergey Karasev, Alan Anderson
Players Under Contract
SG Joe Johnson: His $24 Million contract makes him hard to move, and while no superstar he is the Nets best offensive player every night. Nets fans can expect to see Johnson back in a Nets jersey next season. However rumors have surfaced about a possible deal that would send Johnson to the Charlotte Hornets, which shows there is an interest in the swingman.
SF Bojan Bogdanovic: Due only $3.4 Million in 2016, Bogdanovic has enough value to stay in Brooklyn but not enough value to garner interest in the trade market. Since going scoreless in five straight games, the 25-year-old from Croatia has been fairly consistent pouring in double digit scoring five times. Bogdanovic is still adjusting to the NBA and deserves a spot in the Nets rotation next year.
SG Markel Brown and PF Cory Jefferson: The Nets 2014 second round picks will both likely play out their dirt cheap second years of their rookie contracts.
PG Jarrett Jack: On the wrong side of 30 and due $6.3 Million next year, the Nets should do what they can to dump Jarrett Jack. Jack is hogging nearly 30 minutes a night that would be much more useful for better, younger players next season. Jack’s trade value isn’t non-existent, as a team looking for a consistent veteran could look to acquire Jack in the offseason. The Nets should take any trade they can for Jack, to free up both cap space and playing time.
PG Deron Williams: Here’s the big one. Four years ago, Deron Williams seemed like a godsend from the Utah Jazz to the then New Jersey Nets. Now, Williams is averaging a career low in shooting percentage, his lowest scoring output since his rookie season, and is a shell of the player that lit up the Prudential Center just a couple years ago. Due $21 Million next season, Deron Williams has no right suiting up for Brooklyn next year. In theory, he is the easiest player to terminate from the team, in practice however, the Nets will be hard-pressed to find a suitor for Williams and do not have the amnesty provision available to them. Williams would also be foolish to exercise his Early Termination Option in 2016, meaning Nets fans will likely have to deal with Williams for two more years. This easiest no-brainer cut stays on the team next year.
Keep: Joe Johnson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown, Cory Jefferson, Deron Williams (sadly)
Cut: Jarrett Jack
In the end, the Nets clear up a little cap space and dump some aging veterans, while still being tormented by two of the NBA’s worst contracts in Joe Johnson and Deron Williams. The Nets remain handcuffed financially next year and fans can probably expect more of the same from the once-promising Brooklyn squad.