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Combine one draft pick (55th overall) and up to $45 million in cap space, and you get a clear understanding of the importance that free agency holds for the Brooklyn Nets this year.
Barring a trade, the Nets have just six players under contract for next season, and none of them are point guards. When asked what the team’s biggest needs were, starting power forward Thaddeus Young started off with the phrase “a solid PG.”
So who’s available this offseason? We take a look at a few point guards — not just the very best available — and see how they’d fit in a Brooklyn uniform.
Mike Conley, Jr., Unrestricted Free Agent
The skinny: Conley’s five-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies is set to expire this summer, following a difficult bout with an Achilles injury that forced him out after just 56 games. Conley, who was drafted by Memphis in 2007 and has spent his entire career there, is the summer’s premier point guard on the market, but he turns 29 before the 2016-2017 season begins, so franchises may be apprehensive about giving him near-max money.
Before he was put on the shelf, Conley averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 assists per game, much of it via the pick-and-roll with Marc Gasol, a strategy the Nets employ with Brook Lopez.
Conley a fit?: The Nets need a point guard, obviously. Conley is as good as they come this summer. Since last offseason’s departure of Deron Williams — though some may argue he left years before — the Nets thought they’d be fine with just Jarrett Jack and unproven backups.
However, once Jack went down, Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan couldn’t handle the responsibility.
Ultimately, Conley will seek a max, the Nets can give a max; Conley is a great point guard, the Nets arguably have none.
Worthy Pursuit? Yes — but Memphis will likely retain him.
Many here will say that it depends on his price tag, but with the salary cap expanding, it’s likely that Conley will get paid handsomely. Even with his lingering injuries, he’s the type of hard-nosed, defensive-minded leader that the Nets have sought since Jason Kidd.
Still, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said flatly: “We are going to re-sign Mike Conley.” So don’t get your hopes too high.
Rajon Rondo, Unrestricted Free Agent
The skinny: After doing a considerable amount of damage to his reputation, the Boston Celtics finally cut the cord with Rajon Rondo at the 2015 NBA Trade Deadline. Once in Dallas, Rondo promptly… made zero friends, nearly wrecked a dangerous Mavericks team from the inside, and mutually parted ways with the Mavericks even though the team was still in the post-season. Head coach Rick Carlisle couldn’t hide his distaste.
Do you expect Rajon Rondo to ever wear a Mavericks uniform again? "No, I don't," Rick Carlisle said.
From there, Rondo took a cheap, one-year deal with the Sacramento Kings in an attempt to rejuvenate his career, which went about as well as you’d think: After a tirade that included yelling a slur at referee Bill Kennedy, and numerous debaucherous misadventures alongside DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings went out quietly in the tough Western Conference.
Rondo averaged 12.2 points, 11.9 assists, 5.1 rebounds, and an even two steals per game — but is it worth the baggage?
Kings' Rajon Rondo & DeMarcus Cousins get technical fouls for the simultaneous sarcastic clap at referee Marc Davis pic.twitter.com/osfOheS7Qg
Rondo a fit? I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Nets need a point guard. Despite some of Rondo’s most outlandish and disrespectful acts, he’s still one of the league’s best playmakers. For a team that needs to get Brook Lopez has many easy shots as possible, Rondo would be great with the Nets’ powerful post-presences.
Worthy Pursuit? No. Rondo will be looking to cash in on the last big deal of his career, so he’ll likely agree with the highest bidder. Ultimately, after spending years to find the right fit in Brooklyn (players, coaches, and general managers alike), this would seem like a lateral move for Sean Marks. If the Nets can’t (or don’t) sign Mike Conley, they shouldn’t settle for the controversial Rondo.
Jordan Clarkson, Restricted Free Agent
The skinny: Clarkson built upon his All-NBA Rookie Team selection in 2015 by using his quick handles and improved three-pointing to run the ship in Kobe Bryant’s final season. With Bryant’s retirement, the Lakers are fully prepared to turn the franchise over to Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Clarkson — but are they willing to spend whatever it takes to keep him?
Although his points per game jumped from 11.9 to 15.5, he played an extra 7 minutes per game, and with Russell entering the stage, Clarkson’s assists dropped over that period. More recently, Lakers ex-head coach Byron Scott mentioned that Clarkson needed to improve defensively or his minutes would drop — to which the point guard responded: “I was horrible on the defensive end . . . To be honest, I never worked on defense.”
If the Lakers sign free agent center Hassan Whiteside this summer, matching whatever Clarkson gets on the open market seems like the smart and sensible decision for the rebuilding franchise.
Clarkson a fit? The Nets need a point guard — are you picking up what I’m putting down?
Worthy Pursuit? No. The Lakers aren’t likely to let their young piece walk at a cheap price, and some of his numbers may come from playing in some terrible, stat-inflating lineups. For the Nets, their rebuild and return to relevancy will not be easy, so overpaying on potential fool’s gold would be a major step in the wrong direction.
Jeremy Lin, Player Option
The skinny: Could Linsanity make his way back to New York?
Four years after Jeremy Lin’s electric run in Manhattan, the eccentrically-groomed point guard is a natural fit with Brooklyn. Much of his development is credited to new Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, and a full-time starting position may be of interest to Lin after splitting ball-handling duties with Kemba Walker.
In 26 minutes per game, Lin’s careful passing and reckless, brave paint penetration has the Charlotte Hornets challenging a talented Miami Heat team even without Nicolas Batum. Since arriving on the scene in 2011, Lin has averaged somewhere between 11 and 14 points per game over five seasons.
Lin a fit? Hey! Is Jeremy Lin still a point guard? Yes? Sign that man up!
If Lin can readjust to life as the primary ballhandler, it may behoove him to return to New York and Atkinson. Lin would be a great match in the pick-and-roll with Lopez, as both have the ability to finish around the rim and in traffic.
Worthy pursuit? Yes. Although Lin’s price may rise thanks to some stellar performances against the Heat, Walker is still clearly the man in Charlotte. If Lin wants to test the waters, is there a better option than guaranteed money in the state where it all started and with the coach that got you there?
Brandon Jennings, Unrestricted Free Agent
The skinny: Jennings, whose career started off well early as he battled Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry for 2009-2010 Rookie of the Year, has had injuries derail one of the NBA’s most exciting futures. He played all 82 games of his rookie season, but only played 80 in two of his other six campaigns. A torn Achilles in January 2015 forced Jennings out for 11 months, and Jennings was shipped with his expiring deal to the Orlando Magic at the trade deadline.
There were some brief Jennings for Thaddeus Young rumors floating around in February; those were squashed quickly by Stan Van Gundy, and Billy King was still sailing the ship back then, so take them with a grain of salt.
Jennings a fit? Without Deron Williams or Joe Johnson around anymore, the Nets need a stone-cold killer from behind the arc. Jennings is averaging 1.8 3PM for his career and even reached 55 points just weeks into his rookie season — but it’s hard not to wonder if he can regain that edge. As the backup now to Elfrid Payton, Jennings didn’t do much to set himself up for a big payday and, at just 26 years old, the Nets could do worse than a cheap gamble.
Worthy pursuit? Yes. No. Maybe. I’m honestly still unsure on this one.
If the price is right and Sean Marks doesn’t want to use the spot on any second-rounders, a Jennings reclamation project, much like Andray Blatche or Shaun Livingston, could work wonders for both sides.
Ty Lawson, Unrestricted Free Agent
The skinny: In just a few short months, Ty Lawson almost lost everything.
Following a DUI arrest in early 2015, the point guard, who once averaged 15.2 points and 9.6 assists per game, would never be the same. His apathetic approach to the game coincided with a 14-minute drop in playing time, and the situation eventually got so toxic that the Denver Nuggets shipped him off to Houston for next to nothing.
With the Rockets, the hope was that Lawson could get a fresh start and form a two-headed monster with Patrick Beverley, but that never materialized. Instead, he was bought out and ended up in Indiana.
Now in the playoffs, Lawson hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in a single contest and tallied 10 total points through the first four games. For now, he’s a shell of his former self.
Lawson a fit? Prime Lawson was like a best-case scenario of Shane Larkin’s good games seasons — quick and shifty, with the ability to disrupt passing lanes. But there’s an argument that this version might be worth the risk. After Jarrett Jack went down, the Nets had very little shot-making ability outside of the paint from their point guards. Even in the likely scenario he never regains his peak, Lawson could serve an important role off the bench or in a platoon if Jack returns.
Worthy pursuit? Probably not. If the Nets strike out on everybody else, Lawson might be a better option than a year of D-League stopgaps, but it’s not ideal for anybody. If Sean Marks is trying to build an organization of culture, Lawson and his baggage may not be the best fit.
Mario Chalmers, Unrestricted Free Agent
The skinny: Chalmers is an eight-year veteran that played alongside Dwyane Wade and LeBron James before getting traded to Memphis in November. Chalmers is a career 36% shooter from behind the arc and has a penchant for the big moment.
The two-time NBA Champion played in 55 games with the Grizzlies before he tore his Achilles and was waived in March. His rehab is just beginning, but could fill the backup role the Nets have so thoroughly searched for.
Chalmers a fit? After Joe Johnson left Brooklyn for Miami, the Nets were left with exactly two trustworthy shooters if the game was on the line — Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic. At the very least, Chalmers could provide veteran leadership and the ability to make some timely three-pointers.
With his injury, his price point will likely be cheap and the Nets will have to get creative in their position as is.
Worthy pursuit? No. If he wasn’t out with one of the sport’s most notoriously tough injuries, I imagine that he’d be a strong candidate for Brooklyn. However, with too many question marks already on the roster, it’s a longshot for Chalmers here.
Matthew Dellavedova, Unrestricted Free Agent
The skinny: The pesky Dellavedova rose to prominence during the 2014-2015 playoffs, most notably for defending some of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ toughest competitors.
Surprisingly, Dellavedova has played 25 minutes per game for the Eastern Conference frontrunners, and earned attention for his hard-nosed (sometimes borderline dirty) play. His scoring (7.5 points per game) isn’t much, but with Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love on the roster, he’s typically the fifth option on the court at any time.
NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy recently made waves by predicting that Dellavedova would be paid in the $10 million range annually, but his reliable defense certainly makes that a possibility.
Dellavedova a fit? Imagine trying to penetrate on the Brooklyn backcourt duo of Matthew Dellavedova and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — it’s as likely as anyone writing that sentence before now.
Worthy pursuit? Yes. $10 million is a bit rich, but there were few members of the Nets that played even average level on defense this season — so adding anybody with those skills would be a luxury.
Based on last year's signings & this year's market, I believe JVG is about right on $10M/year projection for Delly. He must be studying up.
The skinny: Ramon Sessions is a long-time NBA veteran with strong playmaking abilities, even at the ripe old age of 30. Although Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan have both expressed interest in returning, Sessions would make a fine, steady replacement for the backup role. If his recent games against the Nets are any indication (21 points/13 assists and 18/13), then Brooklyn needs to get him in black and white as soon as possible.
At this point, he’s likely to chase a winning team somewhere else but the Nets could do far worse.
Sessions a fit? The Nets have three point guards, and they all come with big question marks. If Sessions shows interest in Brooklyn, they shouldn’t turn him away — but if he’s the only point guard they sign, something else has gone terribly wrong. He’s the safety school of point guard signings.
Worthy pursuit? No. Although he’s a good locker room guy and reliable contributor, he doesn’t offer as much potential upside as Ty Lawson, nor can they groom him like another second rounder or D-League candidate.
Seth Curry, Restricted Free Agent
The skinny: Seth Curry is a basketball player, but he’s also a human being. Furthermore, he’s a human being that shares the same bloodline and chemical makeup of his brother, Stephen, and father, Dell.
That alone makes this Curry an interesting free agent this summer, as he declined his player option shortly after the Sacramento Kings’ season ended.
Perhaps other teams have the aforementioned inside info and the Kings, without much talent elsewhere on the roster, may benefit from matching whatever offer sheet Curry signs.
After sitting for much of the season, the now-fired George Karl freed Curry for the final month, which included a 20-point, 15-assist effort against the Suns in April.
Curry a fit? So far the Nets have avoided making the splashy hire — but how much fun would a blossoming Curry brother be in New York? Even if Seth became half the player of his MVP brother, he could develop into a young staple alongside Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, and Sean Kilpatrick.
Of all the free agents, there may not be a better calculated risk than Curry. With his family history and the intriguing statlines, Marks and Atkinson — the king of player development — should do what it takes to get Curry on that herringbone.
Worthy pursuit? Yes. Will he be a bargain? Probably not, but if you want to roll the dice without dropping a max contract, Seth Curry could be a realistic option.