2) Free Agency.
The Nets can sign anyone for up to a one-year contract worth $5.15 million, or the equivalent of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. They’ll have to pay any luxury tax penalties that they incur with signing someone, which could quintuple the cost.
Signing a free agent outright is a bit more complicated than making a trade: since the Nets have 15 guaranteed contracts and Lopez’s still counts against their books, they’d have to either orchestrate a 2-for-1 trade or waive a player to open that roster spot. If they waive a player, they’d still have to pay his salary and any luxury tax penalties associated with it, making a trade more likely.
The most notable free agent on the market is former Cleveland Cavaliers forward Andrew Bynum. Bynum signed a two-year deal worth nearly $25 million with the Cavaliers this offseason, but only $6 million was guaranteed if the team waived him this season. Sure enough the Cavaliers traded Bynum to the Chicago Bulls on January 7th citing numerous off-court issues, and the Bulls promptly waived him. Bynum cleared waivers and is an unrestricted free agent.
Bynum’s path is a treacherous one. After becoming the last under-18 player drafted in NBA history, Bynum rocketed to stardom with the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging a double-double in 35 games as a 20-year-old before suffering a dislocated left kneecap in January 2008, requiring arthroscopic surgery. He has since had multiple knee and ankle injuries, undergoing arthroscopic surgery a total of four times, twice on each knee, all before his 26th birthday.
He had his best season after his second arthroscopic surgery, averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in 60 games in 2011-12, earning his only All-Star apperance. After a four-team trade landed the Lakers Dwight Howard and sent Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers, he sat out the entire 2012-13 season to rehab his knees.
In a vacuum, giving Bynum a look is a no-brainer; the Nets just lost their own All-Star center Brook Lopez for the season, and if Bynum’s healthy and committed, he fills that role easily, and gives the Nets a rebounding boost that Lopez couldn’t.
But it’s not that simple. Questions have popped up about Bynum’s long-term health, his chances of returning to form as a dominant post presence, and even his desire to play basketball. The Cavaliers suspended him for conduct detrimental to the team before the trade, and the Bulls acquired him only to waive him. Bynum struggled to fit in and perform in a relatively low-risk situation in Cleveland. Could he handle the pressure largest media market in the country? Would he even want to? I doubt it.
Bynum is the league’s most high-profile free agent, and anyone else the Nets might consider signing would likely sign for the veteran’s minimum, which the Nets wouldn’t need to use their DPE for. Here’s a few potential options, if the Nets end up opening a roster spot:
Shannon Brown: Shannon Brown, most recently waived by the Washington Wizards without playing a game for them, played in 118 games with the Phoenix Suns over the last two seasons, averaging 10.7 points in 23.7 minutes per game. Brown’s most known as an electric dunker and a bad shooter, solidifying his reputation with the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s garnered little interest from NBA teams and as a wing doesn’t really fill a role that the Nets need.
Jason Collins: Former New Jersey Nets starting center Jason Collins, who is the first openly gay athlete in the NBA and first openly gay male athlete in professional US team sports. Yahoo! Sports reported that the team had some interest in bringing Collins back in the offseason. Collins has not played since coming out. Collins is little more than a screen-setter who has six fouls and uses them against the league’s biggest players, as he’s been his entire career.
Daniel “Boobie” Gibson: Former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson is a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. Think Jason Terry now, but a decade younger. Gibson dealt with numerous injuries last season and shot a career-worst 35 percent from the field, but prior to that season he was a dead-eye 41.6 percent three-point shooter in six seasons. It wasn’t just the LeBron effect, either: Gibson shot 40 percent in his last two seasons without James. If the Nets want another shooter, and another player to play acting point guard behind Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston, he might be worth a workout. He’s also married to four-time Grammy nominee Keyshia Cole, and the Nets do love that star power.
Lamar Odom: Speaking of star power… Let’s just leave this one alone.
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