June 29, 2022

The Nets entered training camp last fall as title favorites, with their big three from Kevin Durant, James Hardenand Kyrie Irving all healthy and ready to play their first full season together. However, it didn’t take long for Brooklyn’s season to start going off the rails.

Irving’s refusal to get a COVID-19 shot led to him only appearing in 29 of 82 regular season games due to New York’s local vaccination mandate and the Nets’ initial reluctance to only play it on the road. Durant put up MVP-like numbers in the first half to help make up for Irving’s absence, but he suffered a knee injury in January that cost him nearly two months.

Harden dealt with conditioning and hamstring issues, and was reportedly frustrated with Irving’s inconsistent availability and the Nets’ struggles in Durant’s absence, eventually requesting a trade before the February deadline. Health issues have also had an impact Joe Harriswho was limited to just 14 appearances due to a troublesome ankle injury, and Ben Simmonswho was acquired as a trade showpiece Harden but was never suited for Brooklyn due to a back injury.

The Nets still went 44-38 and won their first and only game of play, but they never really seemed to fire all cylinders, and their playoff run was short-lived – they lost four straight. against the eventual champions of the East (the Celtics) in the first round.

With Irving on track for potential free agency and Simmons recovering from back proceedings, Brooklyn will have to determine this offseason whether the current core is still championship-caliber, assuming everyone is available next season.


The Nets’ offseason plan:

Irving holds a $36.9 million player option for the 2022/23 season but is seen as likely to turn it down and seek a new contract, which would lead to some fascinating negotiations between him and the Nets.

Brooklyn can’t really afford to let Irving go because his exit wouldn’t open up any cap rooms for a replacement. This should create leverage for Kyrie. On the other hand, Irving is on the wrong side of 30 and has a reputation as a mercurial star. And the teams with the most projected cap room — like the Magic, Pistons, Spurs and Pacers — probably won’t pursue him seriously.

If the right sign-and-trade opportunity presents itself, perhaps Irving and the Nets would be willing to pursue it, but Kyrie — who specifically picked Brooklyn in free agency in 2019 — gave no indication that he wanted to leave, and any player available in a sign-and-trade deal is unlikely to possess Irving’s advantage or his ability to make an immediate impact for a winning team now. The Nets and Kyrie may take a while to come to some kind of compromise — a five-year contract with maximum salary seems long — but I would still expect them to come to an agreement eventually.

A new deal for Irving is likely to push the Nets into fiscal territory on its own, but the team still has several free agencies from other players to resolve. Patty Mills (player option), Nic Claxton (RFA), and Bruce Brown (UFA) have all played significant roles on the 2021/22 roster and if they are not re-signed, Brooklyn will have to search for suitable replacements.

Of the three, Claxton is perhaps the most likely to be back, since the Nets can match any offer sheet he receives. But if there’s a team particularly high on Claxton that decides to force Brooklyn’s hand with an aggressive offer, maybe Sean Marks and his team would rather go shopping downtown and use Claxton’s money to address other spots on the list.

Mills is not expected to be in line for a significant raise, so his free agency will likely come down to where he wants to play. If he turns down his $6.2 million player option, there will be no shortage of teams interested in signing him as a point guard – if he decides another team gives him a better shot at a title , he could leave.

Brown is another player who should attract interest from a handful of playoff teams, given his versatility and defensive tenacity. The Nets were able to retain him cheaply last year because he was a restricted free agent, but this time around I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a salary closer to the level full exception intermediate. We don’t know if Brooklyn is ready to go that high.

If the Nets lose a few of these guys, their best path to acquiring replacements may be through the trade market, as they don’t control any 2022 draft picks and will only be able to offer the taxpayer a mid-level exception or a minimum wage excluding free agents.

Harris’ stock will be down after a lost season, but if his medicals look good, the Nets could potentially suspend his two-year, $38.5 million contract and the Sixers’ 2023 first-round pick in the purpose of getting some useful spins. players. With sniper Seth’s Curry under contract for less than half the price, Harris became more of a luxury than a necessity.

Sure, Simmons – who still has three years left on his maximum salary contract – could be a trade chip, but his value will be even lower now than it was when the Sixers spent months trying to move him. . Brooklyn would probably do better to hang on to the 25-year-old and hope he can regain his All-Star form in a new environment. In theory, his defensive prowess and ability to run on the ground should make him a good fit alongside Durant and Irving.

As the Nets explore the trade market, it’s worth noting that they have several trade exceptions, including one worth $11.3 million. This should give them a bit more flexibility when weighing their options.


Situation of the salary cap

Note: Our salary cap numbers are based on the league’s latest projection ($122 million) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed salary

  • Kevin Durant ($44,119,845)
  • Ben Simmons ($35,448,672)
  • Joe Harris ($18,642,857)
  • Seth’s Curry ($8,496,653)
  • Jevon Carter ($3,925,000) – Cancelled.
  • cam thomas ($2,138,160)
  • Day’Ron Sharpe ($2,109,480)
  • Total: $114,880,667

Player Options

Team Options

Salary not guaranteed

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

Players eligible for the expansion

Note: These are players who are already eligible for an extension or who will become so before the start of the 2022/23 season.

  • Seth’s Curry (veteran)
  • Joe Harris (veteran)
  • Kyrie Irving (veteran) 1
  • Ben Simmons (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Caps

  • Bruce Brown ($8,998,596 cap maintenance): bird rights
  • Nikola Milutinov ($2,275,680 cap maintenance) 2
  • The Marcus Aldridge (capacity of $1,811,516): Early Bird rights
  • Wilson Chandler (capacity of $1,811,516): non-bird rights 3
  • Goran Dragic (capacity of $1,811,516): non-bird rights
  • André Drummond (capacity of $1,811,516): non-bird rights
  • Blake Griffin (capacity of $1,811,516): Early Bird rights
  • mike james (capacity of $1,811,516): non-bird rights 3
  • Total: $22,143,372

Out of Season Ceiling Outlook

Even if Irving walks and the Nets get nothing in return, they will operate as a team above the ceiling – opening the ceiling room would require dropping Irving and lose more pay beyond that, which probably doesn’t happen.

The most likely scenario is that Irving re-signs a maximum salary agreement or something close to it and Brooklyn becomes a taxpayer again in 2022/23.

Ceiling exceptions available

  • Exception for mid-tier taxpayers: $6,392,000 4
  • Commercial exception: $11,306,904
  • Commercial exception: $6,267,918
  • Commercial exception: $3,246,530
  • Commercial exception: $1,669,178
  • Commercial exception: $1,293,680
  • Commercial exception: $118,342

Footnotes

  1. Irving would only qualify if his option was exercised.
  2. Milutinov was the 26th overall pick in 2015, but has yet to sign a rookie contract. The Nets own his NBA rights.
  3. The cap holds for Chandler and James remains on the Nets’ books from previous seasons as they weren’t waived. They cannot be used in a sign-and-trade agreement.
  4. This is a projected value. The Nets could instead get access to the full mid-tier exception ($10,349,000) and semi-annual exception ($4,050,000) if they stay below the tax apron.

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders and RealGM was used in the creation of this post.

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