Brooklyn Nets 2015 Free Agency Primer


The 2015 NBA Free Agency period, AKA the most wonderful time of year for basketball without basketball, kicks off at midnight on Wednesday, July 1. That’s when teams can begin negotiating with free agents and their representatives. We usually know within a few days where the big dominoes will fall through various reports. By July 9th, teams can officially announce deals.

Here’s a primer on what the Nets have, what they can do, and what we predict will happen:

So who’s still under contract?

In order of contract size: Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, Bojan Bogdanovic, Steve Blake, Sergey Karasev, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Earl Clark, Chris McCullough, Markel Brown, Cory Jefferson.

Clark, Brown, and Jefferson have non-guaranteed deals, though the Nets are expected to pick up the latter two, and Clark will join the team in Summer League. The Nets waived Darius Morris yesterday.

The team is also expected to sign Xavier Thames, who they picked up with the 59th overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Cool! Let’s start sewing the uniforms.

Not exactly.

The Nets are in full-bore dismantle mode, both in the hopes of avoiding the luxury tax and moving into the next era of Brooklyn basketball. That means everyone is on the block. Just ask Johnson, who freely said at the end of the year that he expects major changes.

Or ask Mason Plumlee, who the Nets dealt away on draft night with the 41st pick for the rights to Hollis-Jefferson and Blake… and then gave his number to rookie Chris McCullough.

It’s already been reported that the Nets discussed the framework of a Johnson trade with the Memphis Grizzlies, and acquiring Blake perhaps makes it easier to look for a deal for Jarrett Jack, who has one year and a little over $6 million left on his contract.

Who’s a Nets free agent?

In order of past contract size (and relative importance): Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson, and Jerome Jordan.

Young, Lopez, and Anderson all opted out of the last years of their contracts to become unrestricted free agents.

The Nets tendered Teletovic a qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent.

Young and Lopez opted out? Are they bolting?

Probably not. They just stand to make way more money by opting out, even next year alone. So it was the sound business decision to make even if they both plan on returning.

Also, what’s a restricted free agent?

Since they tendered Teletovic a qualifying offer, the Nets can elect to match any contract offer Teletovic gets on the open market within 72 hours of Teletovic signing the offer sheet.

If the market dries up, Teletovic can also just sign the qualifying offer, play one year with the Nets at around $4 million, and become an unrestricted free agent next year.

Okay, I get it. So what will these deals look like?

Lopez will likely command a max contract, with a first-year salary in 2015-16 at just about $19 million. That’s pretty much a given.

Beyond that is unclear. One reasonable conclusion is that Lopez will seek a deal for around three years, which would give him significant security and allow him to re-up when the NBA is flush with the league’s new TV money.

Given his oft-injured right foot, he could also value the long-term security in a five-year deal, which at his max would be worth close to $110 million.

Young is harder to figure out. One early speculation put his value at $48 million over four years, which would be fair value during the league’s TV money cap bonanza.

But Young — like almost every other free agent around — is also very aware of the influx of cash hitting the NBA over the next three years, and might not want to jump at long-term security.

Teletovic is a wild card. No one quite knows what the 29-year-old gunner will fetch on the open market, after a dangerous bout with blood clots in his lungs sidelined him for most of the season.

Teletovic emerged as a strong shooter in his second year, hitting 39 percent of his three-point attempts. The Nets can match any offer he gets, but anything above the luxury tax will come with a punitive “repeater” penalty, which could scare the Nets off.

Anderson is free.

No, not financially. But that’s what he said about his future in May: “I’m free. I would love to stay in Brooklyn, but I am a free agent. So I will be free … I know I’ve got a lot more interest. My name is better known that it was when I first got here.”

Anderson also said he wants to join a team that’s competing for a championship next year, which would likely cross Brooklyn off his top suitors, barring drastic unforeseen changes.

How important is it that Lopez & Young return?

Very much so. If both Young & Lopez bolt, the Nets will still have over $60 million in salary cap commitments, with a cap projected to be around $67 million. Take them off, and this is a spiraling roster with little room to improve.

Unless the Nets make a drastic trade to cut salary, they’ll have lost two of the most important players on a team that was barely able to compete for a playoff spot in the East with them. Feel the excitement!

So this team is average. Can they get better on the free agency market?

Not by much. There are basically two scenarios:

If they re-sign Young and Lopez — The aforementioned mediocrity. The Nets will be armed with just the taxpayer mid-level exception, meaning they can offer one player a three-year deal for about $10.6 million. They can also sign anyone for the veteran’s minimum.[note]This is also true if they only re-sign Lopez, though if they only re-sign Young, they could sneak in the non-taxpayer mid-level exception if he signs a small enough deal.[/note]

If they don’t re-sign either — Armageddon. The Nets have more flexibility and less potential to improve. They’ll have about $7 million in cap space and the opportunity to sign someone for the non-taxpayer mid-level, or about four years and $23.3 million.[note]That deal, like the taxpayer MLE, can also be split up into multiple deals.[/note]

Who’s available for those deals? We have no idea. No one expected Andrei Kirilenko to be available two years ago, and the Nets have gone overseas with the mid-level exception in their other two years in Brooklyn. This year is anyone’s guess.

What about trades? You mentioned Joe Johnson.

That’s possible too, but it probably won’t free up much cap room, since teams have to match salaries within around $5 million at that price unless they’re under the salary cap.

The Nets believe that there’s a trade market for both Williams and Johnson. Whether they find one is anyone’s guess.

One interesting prediction: Ian Eagle told Evan Roberts on WFAN Radio that he predicts Deron Williams will be the one dealt, not Joe Johnson.

Okay, I think I get it now. Prediction time!

Here’s mine:

1) All signs point to Lopez and Young returning, so let’s say they do so on three-year contracts (Young’s may contain a player option for a fourth year, Lopez’s for the third).

2) Teletovic gets priced out of Brooklyn’s plans as they zoom past the luxury tax.

3) Anderson signs a one-year deal with the Spurs and hits at least one game-winning corner three-pointer in the NBA Finals.

4) The Nets use the taxpayer MLE to sign a backup center. Bismack Biyombo is an intriguing possibility, but he’ll have a few suitors.

5) Joe Johnson gets traded for multiple younger players (think 25-30 years old, not 20-24), which adds salary beyond this season and arguably does not make them better in the short-term. Deron Williams does not get traded.

Predictions look fun. Let me predict things!

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