And just like that, the free agency pool is barren.
Thanks to some deft wheeling and dealing by Nets GM Sean Marks and his front office staff, the Nets remain under the $165 million luxury tax line — even after agreeing to terms with restricted free agent Cam Johnson on a four-year deal worth $108 million.
But the options are limited, and few available players address team needs.
Marks (pulled the trigger) on a pair of salary-dumping moves — shedding sharpshooter Joe Harris’ $19.9 million salary in a deal with the Detroit Pistons, then moving reserve guard Patty Mills to the Houston Rockets to part ways with his $6.8 million salary. The Nets filled the void at the reserve guard slot by signing both Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV to one-year deals at the veteran’s minimum, but the belief is the Mills trade and Seth Curry’s departure frees more minutes to give Cam Thomas a legitimate shot as first guard off the bench.
The trade exceptions acquired through those deals will become particularly valuable when next February’s NBA Trade Deadline draws closer: Brooklyn will be able to acquire a $20 million player and a $7 million player — either by trade or via the buyout market — without having to send outgoing salary.
As it pertains to this summer’s free agency, however, Brooklyn currently has its both non-tax payer’s mid-level exception worth $12.45 million and the bi-annual exception worth $4.5 million available for use. The mid-level exception can be broken up and split among multiple free agents, though it should be noted using the full mid-level exception hard caps a team at the $172 million tax apron.
After a turbulent season that featured a pair of earth-shattering, mid-season superstar trades ended with a first-round sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers, adding size and scoring around “The Twins,” Johnson and Mikal Bridges, is pivotal for the Nets next season. Head coach Jacque Vaughn also hinted at adding grit to the roster this summer.
There are few notable free agents available on the open market, but they aren’t perfect fits, and it’s unclear whether or not their impact would justify a potential luxury tax payment.
The most notable of these offseason options is the freshest to hit the market: The Orlando Magic waived 7-2 phenom Bol Bol on Independence Day, clearing the way for NBA legend Manute Bol’s son to sign with any team that expresses interest in a deal.
Bol, a modern-day archetype for seven-footers with guard skills, averaged a career-high nine points, six rebounds and a block for the Magic last season. His production, however, was inconsistent, and while Bol wowed fans with his capabilities at his size, his play didn’t help the Magic win more games. Orlando also wanted to clear the deck for reigning Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero.
Eleven-year NBA veteran Will Barton is an unrestricted free agent coming off a particularly disappointing season spent in-between Toronto and Washington. Barton averaged 14 points and five rebounds as a 36% three-point shooter across eight seasons with the playoff-contending Denver Nuggets — but the Nuggets traded Barton along with reserve guard Monte Morris in a deal for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith last summer.
Denver now reigns supreme as 2023 NBA champions.
Floor-spacing big man Christian Wood also lingers around the free agency pool without a contract after a middling season with the Dallas Mavericks. Wood’s three-point proficiency, size and athleticism enchanted a Mavericks front office hoping he would be a piece that elevated the Mavericks into a deeper playoff run.
Wood averaged about 17 points, seven rebounds and a block per game as a 37.6% three-point shooter alongside Doncic in Dallas last season, but he came off the bench in 50 of his 67 games played. He is up for a new deal after signing a three-year, $41 million contract with the Houston Rockets.
The high-flying Queens native Hamidou Diallo averaged 10 points, four rebounds, a steal and myriad highlight-reel moments over his three years with the Detroit Pistons but his sub-30% shooting clip from downtown has not shown signs of progression.
Former Sacramento wing Terence Davis could be a low-cost option as a volume shooter off Brooklyn’s bench. Entering Year 5, Davis is a career 36.6% three-point shooter who converted at that exact clip through 64 games for the playoff-bound Kings.
It’s clear the Nets need to upgrade their roster if they’re going to build on the momentum Bridges and Co. generated in the second half of the season. What’s unclear, however, is the direction Brooklyn’s front office will go in order to do so. The best route to substantially improve remains a trade, and the Nets are positioned to benefit as a third party if superstar point guard Damian Lillard is indeed dealt to Miami.
Source: Berkshire mont