The Nets own the 29th and 41st picks in the draft, where the odds of adding an impact player at that point in the draft are low, and they will be limited in what they can offer free agents.
The 2015-16 cap is projected to be $67.1 million, with a luxury tax threshold of $81.6 million. The Nets have roughly $58 million committed to Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev, and Mason Plumlee, with about $3 million in mostly non-guaranteed money owed Cory Jefferson, Markel Brown, and Earl Clark. New contracts for Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, and Teletovic should bring the Nets over the luxury tax apron.
The Nets will most likely enter free agency armed with up to a three-year, $10.5 million deal to offer free agents. They have used the mini-MLE in recent years to sign Teletovic, Andrei Kirilenko, and Bojan Bogdanovic.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few potential targets that meet the Nets’ criteria.
Robinson’s longstanding interest in the Nets is well-documented. The Nets reciprocated that interest this February, nearly signing him to a 10-day contract before the 76ers swooped in with a last-minute waiver claim. The 24-year-old Robinson played well in an expanded role in Philly, averaging 8.8 points on 47% shooting and 7.7 rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game. He brings toughness, energy, and aggressiveness — qualities this year’s Nets lacked.
Robinson is an unrestricted free agent, and may stay with the 76ers if they give him a competitive offer — he’s reportedly “tired of moving” — but 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, who covets cap space, might let him walk instead.
Thomas Robinson on whether he wants to return to the #sixers next year: "I'm tired of moving."
The 2011 #2 overall pick will hit restricted free agency this summer with little fanfare. Williams suffers from some of the same problems that dried up the market for Al-Farouq Aminu last summer: he is a tweener, too undersized to play the 4 and not quite a good enough outside shooter to play the 3.
But there is reason to believe Williams is a good buy-low candidate. The Timberwolves and Kings, two of the most dysfunctional organizations in the NBA, couldn’t figure out what to do with him, but he played well in George Karl’s revamped offense, averaging 10.8 points on 45% shooting (34% from 3) and 3 rebounds in 23 minutes per game after Karl took over.
His ability to play the 3 or 4 and passably stretch the floor would give Lionel Hollins greater flexibility to employ the funky longball-esque lineups he favored after the All-Star break. Still just 23, Williams may be worth a flier.
After the 76ers drafted him with the second pick in the second round, McDaniels famously turned down Sam Hinkie’s standard offer of a four-year, non-guaranteed deal, instead choosing to sign a one-year deal. McDaniels proceeded to play his way out of Hinkie’s price range and into the heart of every NBA Vine, and Hinkie flipped him to the Rockets for Isaiah Canaan and a second-round pick at the deadline.
McDaniels is a restricted free agent, meaning the Rockets can match any offer sheet he signs. It’s unclear what the market for McDaniels will be. He flashed first-round talent in Philly, but played just 33 minutes in Houston. Still, the most the Nets can offer him is a three-year, $10.5 million deal, which the Rockets will likely match.
A product of the Spurs’ finely-tuned player development apparatus, Joseph has improved his per-game averages and shooting percentages across the board every season. In 2014-15, Joseph recorded 6.8 points, 2.4 boards, and 2.4 assists in 18.3 minutes per game, and at just 23, Joseph has yet to hit his ceiling. He would be a capable backup for whoever is running the point in Brooklyn next year. If Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili return, the Spurs will need to shed salary to pursue Marc Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge, so they may not match an offer sheet to Joseph if the Nets strike quickly.
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Will Barton — Unrestricted Free Agent
The skinny: NBA players get a lot of attention when they have “career years,” and it was certainly a career year for Will Barton. In his fourth year with the Nuggets, “Will the Thrill” posted 15.7 points, five rebounds and 4.1 assists in 33.1 minutes per game. His production increased in nearly every category, and he was one of two Nuggets to receive a vote for the NBA’s all-defensive team, even if he was only able to scratch the surface.
It should come to no one’s surprise that Barton will attract a lot of attention in the market this offseason. He’s been impressive in a variety of roles in his career year — Nuggets coach Michael Malone praised Barton for his effectiveness as a “starter, off the bench, backup point guard, two-guard, small forward.” Depending on where he lands, Barton could end up with a full-time starting gig.
Barton a fit? Barton’s name has come up a lot on Nets Twitter, even as early as March of this year. It’s not difficult to see why Nets fans are so excited about the possibility of landing Barton. He’s coming off a career year, and he’s only 27 years old.
Barton has also expressed interest in becoming a full-time starter. As far as starting shooting guard goes, that role is tricky for him in Denver with Gary Harris occupying a hefty, multi-year deal with Denver. However, if “Will the Thrill” stays in Denver, becoming the starting small forward still remains a possibility.
If Barton is insistent on being a starter, Brooklyn could have Allen Crabbe come off the bench. Either way, the Nets will have a lot of firepower on the wings, which can only be a good thing.
Worthy pursuit? If I didn’t make it clear already, oh my god yes, Will Barton is a worthy pursuit.