As you may have read this morning, the Brooklyn Nets recently signed three players to training camp contracts — Jorge Gutierrez, Chris Johnson, and Brooklyn’s own Gary Forbes. These three will participate in all training camp activities with the team at Duke this week, with a chance to make the team out of training camp.
Except, barring something wildly unexpected, they won’t. Here’s why. The Nets already have fifteen players signed to guaranteed contracts, including four to league minimums. So if they wanted to sign one of their new guys, they’d have to get rid of one of their contracts, presumably a minimum. That would make sense for most teams, but for the Nets it’d be highly unlikely.
Let’s put a personal touch on this. Say Chris Johnson played really well. Like, best shape of his life, destroying Alan Anderson’s ankles in practices, playing like a legitimate 6th or 7th man. Jason Kidd wants him, but since the Nets already have Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry playing most of the minutes Johnson would get, Kidd would only play him five to ten minutes per game.
Let’s say Nets general manager Billy King makes the call, waives Anderson, and signs Johnson to a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum. Since Anderson has a guaranteed contract (like all 15 current Nets), they’re still on the hook for his salary, so they’d pay him $947,907 for the year to play somewhere else.
This decision, like almost every one the Nets have to make, would be heavily impacted by the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, wholly responsible for the enormous tax bill given to Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov by the NBA. As we and others have discussed before, Prokhorov is slated to pay over $87 million on his tax figure alone — more than all but two other teams are spending on their entire rosters.
Adding Johnson (or Gutierrez, or Forbes) would push the Nets to an absurd $31.3 million over the NBA’s luxury tax threshold. That means for Johnson’s salary, they’d pay an extra $4.75 per dollar spent, and a minimum salary would cost the Nets almost $5.1 million. Not only that, they’d still be on the hook for Anderson’s recently waived contract and those tax ramifications — which totals $5.2 million in salary obligations.
Put those together, and signing a training camp invitee would cost the Nets a whopping $10.3 million.
We know money doesn’t matter to Prokhorov. That’s been clear since day one. If the Nets have a chance at adding talent, they’ve added it, regardless of the tax ramifications. But it’d be a shock if they decided it was worth spending $10 million to have someone on the opening day roster play ten minutes per game.
That doesn’t mean you’ll never see one play in a Nets uniform. Another scenario would have the Nets make a salary dump, trading away one or two players for draft picks or cash considerations. That would still cost the Nets around $5 million in tax payments, but it’s less impossible.
But the most likely scenario is that after playing through training camp with the Nets at Duke, Gutierrez and Johnson will return to their D-League affiliated clubs, and Forbes will remain in the organization with an invite to play with the Nets D-League affiliate Springfield Armor. That way, if anyone gets hurt, the Nets can call up Forbes with a ten-day contract. And don’t count that out: Forbes has two years of NBA experience and was born and raised in Brooklyn, which would make him the only Brooklyn-born player on the roster.