The Brooklyn Nets will face a load of decisions in the next month and a half that will impact their future greatly. Between the NBA Draft and free agency, the Nets have a chance to reload for next season both internally and externally. Recent comments by general manager Billy King and the Nets front office have shed some light on the Nets top priorities with their own players heading into the summer.
First and foremost is the $43 million elephant in the room, Deron Williams. After averaging 13.0 points and 6.6 assists last season, Williams showed he can still contribute as a starting point guard in the NBA. However, his play by no means warrants the $21 million he will be payed next year. Williams was the ninth-highest paid player in the league for the 2014-2015 season, and it’s safe to say he is not currently a top ten player.
The Nets have options to unload Williams and his contract however. While a trade is possible, the hefty price tag makes him nearly impossible to move, leaving a buyout as the most logical option. The Nets could use the stretch provision to buy out Williams and spread the remainder of his contract over a few years to ease the blow.
However, general manager Billy King has made it very clear in recent comments that the team does not plan to use the provision, and Williams will likely be in a Brooklyn uniform when next season tips off.
It’s disappointing that the Nets will have to carry Williams’ monster contract at least one more season, but it isn’t detrimental to the team’s future. Besides retaining key free agents, the Nets aren’t expected to make runs at big names like Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency. The limited cap space won’t hinder the Nets too much this summer.
The summer of 2016 is when the Nets will need cap room, with players like Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Evan Turner and Danny Green hitting the open market.
Williams’ play at point guard is also more than acceptable for at least another year. With the right pieces in place, the Nets could reach the playoffs again with Williams running the point the majority of the time.
According to King, the Nets next move will be retaining two more players, center Brook Lopez and forward Thaddeus Young, Both players were key contributors in the final months of the season, and both are set to hit free agency on July 1.
But if King has it his way, both players will be back in Brooklyn this fall, as two vital building blocks for the Nets future. With Lopez’s strong play to finish the season and Young’s versatility, retaining both alongside two of the NBA’s largest contracts (Williams and Joe Johnson) could be difficult, but King assures fans that the Nets aren’t afraid to go over the luxury tax threshold again.
This is a very smart mindset shared by King and the rest of the Nets front office. Paying the luxury tax now is certainly affordable, and within two years, Williams and Johnson’s albatross contracts will be off the books. At that point in time, the Nets will have a lot of flexibility to add to a strong core of Lopez, Young, and Mason Plumlee.
Lopez can be a mainstay at center for years to come for the Nets. The 27-year-old center averaged 17.2 points a game last season along with 7.4 rebounds, his highest average since his 2009-2010 season. Lopez has also shot above 50% each of the last three seasons, proving his offensive efficiency.
With Lopez ideally re-signed to a contract next month, the Nets can build the rest of their roster around one of the NBA’s best pure centers.
Retaining Thaddeus Young is also another great idea, and one the Nets should act on. While Young will likely want an increase on his current $9 million price tag, he won’t be too expensive to bring back, and his play in Brooklyn definitely warrants it.
After coming over from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett, Young immediately contributed in Brooklym, putting up 13.8 points per game, shooting 50%, and connecting on a career-high 38% of his three point attempts.
Three point shooting has been inconsistent over Young’s career, some seasons taking only 0.3 per game and one season jacking up 3.7 per game. But when Young is hitting from deep consistently, he stretches the floor at the power forward position very well.
Young’s ability to play small forward also can’t be overlooked, as versatility in the lineup is extremely valuable to the Nets and coach Lionel Hollins.
With a number of questions surrounding the Nets this offseason, it’s good for the fans to have some semblance of a plan heading into the summer. And as of right now that plan includes standing pat with Deron Williams, and focusing free agent efforts on retaining Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez. If the Nets can retain both, it would definitely be a step in the right direction towards a better team for the future.