TBG Roundtable: Brooklyn Nets free agency, and what’s up next

Andrea Bargnani (9) and Brook Lopez (11) defend Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) as Pope goes up for a layup in the first half. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

After acquiring DeMarre Carroll, and with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope talks abound, The Brooklyn Game staff went roundtable to discuss free agency so far, what the Nets should do with their cap space and dark horse free agents still in the mix. 

Did the Nets make the right call to wait for the market to settle before striking with big moves? 

Sandy: Plain and simple: Sean Marks is a genius. He didn’t flinch when he struck out with J.J. Redick, Joe Ingles and Kelly Olynyk (not to mention, he didn’t offer any of those players ridiculous contracts that would’ve put the Nets ahead in bidding wars). With some of the inane contracts signed in the early days of free agency, it’s clear Marks is trying to use the Nets’ cap space wisely. 

Waiting it out also worked in the Nets’ favor in unanticipated ways, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went on the market as an unrestricted free agent on July 7. I would be surprised if Marks predicted that would happen, but that only makes his job a hell of a lot easier in possibly securing Caldwell-Pope at a more reasonable price, than if he had to deal with KCP as a restricted free agent. 
Otto Porter Jr. was another one “who got away” this offseason, but Marks wasted no time in coughing up his first successful move of the offseason — receiving two draft picks and DeMarre Carroll for Justin Hamilton. Waiting it out has proven to be the most efficient and effective strategy.
Jesse: Sean Marks and his staff have had a great start to free agency. After pulling off a flashy trade a few days prior to the draft acquiring D’Angelo Russell and TimothyMozgovv, Marks has taken a step back and allowed the market to settle while waiting on most of the bigger names in free agency to sign. However, he tied up most of his cap space in unrestricted free agent Otto Porter Jr., which was perceived by most a fools’ errand.
But, Marks is playing the long game attempting to max out as many teams salaries as possible had a backup plan when Washington matched Saturday night. Marks pulled off one of the better trades in Nets recent history sending stretch-five Justin Hamilton to Toronto in exchange for Carroll and Toronto’s first and second round pick in 2018. Not only did this give the Net’s their only draft pick next year, it also brings a solid veteran who’s familiar with the system and willing to lead.
Christian: Waiting for the market to dry up was a very savvy move by Marks. A majority of teams either spent their cap space in the first few days of free agency (Philadelphia, Sacramento) or are still tied up from last summer’s spending spree (Portland, Lakers.) This strategy allows the Nets to swoop in as July rolls on to grab players who failed to reach an agreement during the spending spree that ensued from July 1-3. Assuming Marks doesn’t sign a player to a fat, long-term contract over the course of the next week, this now allows the Nets to have flexibility heading into next summer’s rich free agent crop. In short, Marks zigged while all other teams zagged. These are the types of risks a general manager must take when a team is in the Nets’ state. Only time will tell if this strategy will pay off. 

SimonTime will tell, but it seems more often than not Sean Marks & Co. are giving themselves the best opportunity to come out of a bad situation as well as they can. The Nets are somewhat handcuffed in how they can make an impact, and as seen, the RFA route seems to be the way to go. Even though the Porter deal was matched, it was the right move for Brooklyn.

The free agency pond seems to settle very quickly in terms of the big fish getting to where they want to go, and the right call is to wait how things land and see where the Nets can leverage situations to their advantage. Salary Dump? Denver having five power forwards? Detroit can’t afford KCP? Let’s get it done.

There’s talk about opposing team GM’s being somewhat annoyed at Brooklyn’s approach to free agency. Maybe, but this shouldn’t be a reason to stray from the path. The Nets need to be both aggressive, yet still staying in their lane. The meaning of this being: stay on the front foot but still making the smart and right decisions in line with the new Brooklyn culture. If RFA offer sheets are matched, so be it. Keep making the best decisions for the club and take advantage of other teams mistakes, if not now, but in years to come (Tyler Johnson dump please?).

As noted in many articles, the Nets are in talent acquisition mode. For the right p, ice there is still plenty of talent out there to be had.

Jaymz: The Nets probably could’ve waited a little longer to see what changes and moves the end of the moratorium would’ve brought (teams throwing cash at Rudy Gay, Tim Hardaway Jr., etc), but they obviously felt that not screwing around and getting the offer sheet to Otto was an important, front-facing move. Case in point, though: if they’d waited a little longer, they could’ve feasibly scored the Notorious KCP on the cheap after Detroit shot themselves in the foot (thanks Langston Galloway!) and had to renounce his rights. But overall, patience is smart, so they’re being smart.

How would you like to see the Nets spend their ~$20 million in cap space this offseason?

Sandy: Well, after the DeMarre Carroll trade, the Nets are down to between $16.5-20 million in cap room, which is still enough to work with for another free agent or two. I’d still like the team to go after Caldwell-Pope, but I hope he won’t command the rest of the Nets’ remaining cap space. That’ll probably be the answer for Brooklyn on the wings’ end, as the team is already extremely guard-heavy. 
If Brooklyn still has cap room after securing KCP (or whichever wing the Nets target as a backup option), it’ll then need to figure out its front-court. To me, Hamilton was an unlikely option to return even before the trade was made, but as I’ve mentioned on countless occasions, Brooklyn has an extremely dire front-court situation, even more so after dealing the beloved Wookie. A backup big should be on the Nets’ radar with any leftover cap after they sign a wing.
Jesse: The DeMarre Caroll trade leaves Brooklyn with $20 million in cap space, and Marks has three options for this space: he can add one big remaining free agent (KCP, Jamychal Green), a few solid veterans similar to last year with Scola and Foye (Ersan Ilyasova, Mo Speights, or a Leandro Barbosa type). Finally, a more strategic route Marks and company can go is saving their cap space for next season and attempting to make a big splash when a lot of teams are tied up cap wise.
Christian: After taking on two salary dumps over the past several weeks, the Nets sit with around $16 million in money available. It may be wise for Marks to not waste this money on a player who will be looking for a hefty, long term contract, such as Kentavius Caldwell-Pope. Keeping flexibility as a priority, using that money on several short term deals would be ideal. 

Simon: My first preference is that Brooklyn spends it. This doesn’t mean being silly, but it means that the team was able to bring in players that the front office wanted to. If years previous were anything to go by, once Brooklyn has swung (and ultimately missed) out top FA targets, it’s time to bring in quality support vets and some Kenny Atkinson revitalization projects (akin to Anthony Bennett). Once the talent has been acquired, it is bringing in pieces that ultimately help the development of the shining lights in LeVert & Russell.

Ersan Ilyasova could be a good fit, as he has been across numerous teams in the past five years. The Net fan in me has a soft spot for both Morrow & Alan Anderson, both of which could add support and leadership to the young backcourt, although I already hear the screams… Do we need more guards?! 

Once the veterans are in place, could Kenny squeeze anything out of Beasley or Ezeli? Nets fans need a reason to watch, and these two could be at least one of those reasons.


Jaymz: Call literally everyone who needs to dump anything and loan out that cap space to get literally anything (picks, young dudes) back.For instance:

Sean Marks: Oh, hey Portland! What’s that? You’re really regretting that Evan Turner contract? I mean, sure, we’ll take it, but I need a pick. … Or how about I take Allen Crabbe off your hands? Sound cool to you?

Sean Marks: Hey Boston! Just letting you know that during the year when you need to shift more salary, we’ll happily take Crowder and that 2019 Memphis pick you’ve got. Thanks, Danny!

Sean Marks: Hey Memphis! What? Oh. You want to give us Chandler Parsons? … … Nah, we’re good.

Sean Marks: What’s up Philly? You want to shift Jahlil? Sure – we’ll take him for nothing. Cheers Bryan!  

Sean Marks: Oh hey Masai! How’re things up in Toronto? Cool cool. Sure, we’ll take Demarre Carroll and next year’s 1st. No problems!  

… and if that doesn’t work, HOLD FIRE. The cap squeeze for two-thirds of the league will hit next season and onwards, and those teams will be rushing to move pieces to alleviate the crunch. There will also no doubt be moves during this coming season as franchises start to realize how much they’ve screwed up/misjudged their team makeup. Be smart, be humble.


What “dark horse” free agent targets would you like to see the Nets pursue?

Sandy: Ironically, nearly every player on the market could be considered a “dark horse” for the Nets, because there has been little to no news regarding their free agency plans; I mean, as long as the players don’t go by the names of J.J. Redick, Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk, Otto Porter Jr and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Every upcoming move for the Nets remains up in the air.
In terms of bigs, I’d like to see the Nets go after JaMychal Green and Dewayne Dedmon. Green has been garnering a ton of attention on Nets Twitter as of late and is certainly one of the few “bigger” names left on the market, so he might not be considered a “dark horse” in some eyes, but nothing has come out of the tight-lipped Nets front office about him. He’s a big who has shown flashes of being able to shoot (he had a newly-improved three-point shot last season) and would be a great addition as a stretch four. Dedmon played as a backup center in San Antonio last season (Spurs roots!) and has shown the potential of becoming a productive player (take a look at his per-36 minutes stats), despite the fact that he’s already 27 years old. (Actually, if you dig deep enough, both of these guys are 27 years old and have Spurs roots. Bobby Marks noted Green developed under the Spurs in the G League, which was back when Marks was still with the organization.)
Those are two of the better options for the Nets on the front end, with some wilder “dark horses” being veterans like Ersan Ilyasova and David Lee. Consider that on the back end of the Nets’ plans though.
Jesse: I think the Nets to go after Jonas Jerebko because he fits in perfectly with the Nets’ system; the 8-year Swedish sniper finished last season shooting 48 percent from the field and 33 percent from three. Sure, not flashy numbers, but Jerebko only averaged a little over 10 minutes for the Celtics last year. Given an opportunity in a system that he naturally fits into, Jerebko should see all of his numbers rise. Also, a couple dark horse veterans that may be a good fit are Mychael Beasley, Nick Collison and Jordan Hill.
Christian: My biggest under the radar free agent, Mike Muscala has already signed a two-year deal to remain with Atlanta. With Brooklyn still in need of a veteran, stretch center, perhaps Marreese Speights is a player Marks should take a look at. David Lee and former Net Kris Humphries are two other veteran bigs who may be a fit with the Nets. 

Simon: Bringing in Timofey Mozgov at roughly $16 million per year means he should get the first crack at the center position, or hopefully, the front office at least has the hopes that he can contribute. With that being said, I’d be reluctant to tie up too much more money at the center position, but if Mozgov isn’t up to it, Jarrett Allen needs someone ahead of him to learn from. 

Mason Plumlee is someone that can fill an area of desperate need. Rim protection and rebounding to round out a squad full of guards and wing players. I say this for more reasons than just me just wanting to get my Plumlee jersey back in date. He is quicker than the other PF/C options when the Nets need to go big, and his passing is elite for his size, and he’s a perfect compliment to hit LeVert and Russell as they run around screens for open basket looks. Denver probably wants to keep him, but with Millsap and Lyles, maybe something needs to give.

Otherwise, players like Sefolosha or DeAndre Liggins could be players that could be attained on the cheap to help out with team defense, which has been an issue in the past. 

JaymzI’m stunned there hasn’t been more talk about Nerlens Noel. Sure, the Nets just drafted Jarrett Allen… but Noel is only 23, has only played three years due to missing his rookie year and only logged between 19-22 minutes per game for Philly and Dallas last year. His offensive game is limited, sure, and his foul rate isn’t great… but c’mon. He’s 23 and having a rangy, defensive-minded center behind Russell, Lin, LeVert, RHJ and co. while Allen develops would seem ideal. And considering that the Nets big-guy rotation is currently Timo Mozgov, Justin ‘NBA Gumby’ Hamilton and Allen (with RHJ AND Trevor Booker hanging out as fours)? Noel would be good. He’s 23, be smart.