With the Brooklyn Nets headed to the offseason, they’ve got free agents with decisions to make. Here’s a primer on the Brooklyn Nets free agents, including their options and expectations.
The skinny: Brook Lopez has a player option for the 2015-2016 season worth close to $17 million. If he opts in, he’ll stay with the Nets another season (barring a trade), and become an unrestricted free agent in the 2016 offseason.
Either way, the Nets will own his full Bird rights, meaning they can sign him to a five-year deal up to his maximum salary. No other team can offer Lopez more than four years, with smaller increases.
Lopez put together one of the finest months of his career to close the season, averaging 23.7 points and 9.4 rebounds in 35.7 minutes per game, shooting 57.7 percent from the field and winning back-to-back Player of the Week Awards. His surge helped lead the Nets back into the playoff race.
The factors: Per Lopez: his health, the impending cap rise, and how he sees himself fitting into a roster going forward.
The choice: The Nets have said they expect to bring Lopez back, but it’s risky for both parties. For the Nets, letting him go would bring them closer to a reasonable salary cap figure. But he’s emerged as their best player, and re-signing him now could be a bargain with the expected cap rise coming the year after. Plus, if he leaves, Thaddeus Young hinted he might follow suit.
The quote: Lopez has been a Nets player for his entire professional career. He’s lived in New Jersey since he was 20 years old. When asked if this was the biggest decision of his adult life, he laughed. “It’s funny, I was just talking to my friend about this. He was telling me how he was depressed because Robin & I have been in the NBA as long as we’d been in high school and middle school now.”
The market: There will be suitors if Lopez opts out. He’s just too talented to not field a few low-risk offers with the cap rising. Some wild-speculation choices from teams that’ll have the cap room: the Los Angeles Lakers (Lopez was born & raised in California), the Portland Trail Blazers (if LaMarcus Aldridge leaves, the Blazers could re-up Robin & unite the Lopez twins!), or the Dallas Mavericks (who might let Tyson Chandler go).
But there’s a good chance the Nets will match any offer for Lopez. ESPN’s Mike Mazzeo reported that the Nets expect Lopez back next year, whether he opts in or they sign him to a longer deal. Given how well the team played once he started his hot streak, it’s a fair argument to make.