The Nets entered training camp last fall because the title favorites, with their Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving all healthy and able to play their first full season together. Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for Brooklyn’s season to start to return off the rails.
Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 led to him appearing in only 29 of 82 regular season games attributable to Recent York City’s local vaccine mandate and the Nets’ initial unwillingness to only play him on the road. Durant put up MVP-type numbers in the primary half to assist compensate for Irving’s absence, but he went down with a knee injury in January that cost him nearly two months.
Harden handled conditioning and hamstring issues, and reportedly became frustrated by Irving’s inconsistent availability and the Nets’ struggles in Durant’s absence, ultimately requesting a trade prior to February’s deadline. Health problems also impacted Joe Harris, who was limited to simply 14 appearances attributable to a hard ankle injury, and Ben Simmons, who was acquired because the centerpiece within the Harden trade but never suited up for Brooklyn due to a back injury.
The Nets still went 44-38 and won their first and only play-in game, but they never really looked like they were firing all cylinders, and their playoff run was short-lived — they lost 4 straight games to the eventual Eastern champions (the Celtics) in the primary round.
With Irving on target for potential free agency and Simmons recovering from a procedure on his back, Brooklyn could have to find out this offseason whether the present core remains to be championship-caliber, assuming everyone is obtainable next season.
The Nets’ Offseason Plan:
Irving holds a $36.9MM player option for the 2022/23 season, but is taken into account prone to turn it down and seek a recent contract, which might result in some fascinating negotiations between him and the Nets.
Brooklyn can’t really afford to let Irving walk, since his exit wouldn’t open up any cap room for a substitute. That ought to create some leverage for Kyrie. However, Irving is on the flawed side of 30 and has a status as a mercurial star. And the teams with essentially the most projected cap room – corresponding to the Magic, Pistons, Spurs, and Pacers – aren’t likely to significantly pursue him.
If the correct sign-and-trade opportunity arises, perhaps Irving and the Nets can be open to pursuing it, but Kyrie – who specifically selected Brooklyn in free agency in 2019 – has given no indication he wants to go away, and it’s unlikely that any player available in a sign-and-trade deal would possess Irving’s upside or his ability to make a right away impact for a win-now team. The Nets and Kyrie may take a while to achieve type of compromise – a five-year, maximum-salary contract looks as if a protracted shot – but I’d still expect them to eventually come to an agreement.
A recent deal for Irving is prone to push the Nets into tax territory by itself, however the team still has several other players’ free agencies to resolve. Patty Mills (player option), Nic Claxton (RFA), and Bruce Brown (UFA) all played vital roles on the 2021/22 roster and in the event that they’re not re-signed, Brooklyn could have to hunt down adequate replacements.
Of the three, Claxton is probably most definitely to be back, for the reason that Nets can match any offer sheet he receives. But when there’s a team particularly high on Claxton that decides to force Brooklyn’s hand with an aggressive offer, perhaps Sean Marks and his team would favor to go bargain shopping at center and use the Claxton money to handle other roster spots.
Mills shouldn’t be in line for a big raise, so his free agency will likely come right down to where he desires to play. If he turns down his $6.2MM player option, there can be no shortage of teams eager about signing him as a backup point guard — if he decides one other team gives him a greater shot to win a title, he could depart.
Brown is one other player who figures to attract interest from a handful of playoff teams, given his versatility and defensive tenacity. The Nets were capable of retain him last 12 months at a bargain rate 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 complete mid-level exception. It’s unclear if Brooklyn is ready to go that prime.
If the Nets lose a few those guys, their best path to acquiring replacements could also be on the trade market, since they don’t control any 2022 draft picks and can only give you the chance to supply the taxpayer mid-level exception or minimum salaries to outside free agents.
Harris’ stock can be down following a lost season, but when his medicals look good, the Nets could potentially dangle his contract (two years and $38.5MM) and the Sixers’ 2023 first-round pick in an effort to get a pair useful rotation players. With sharpshooter Seth Curry under contract for lower than half the worth, Harris has change into more of a luxury than a necessity.
In fact, Simmons – who has three years left on his maximum-salary contract – might be a trade chip, but his value can be even lower now than it was when the Sixers spent months attempting to move him. Brooklyn might be higher off hanging onto the 25-year-old and hoping he can regain his All-Star form in a recent environment. In theory, his defensive prowess and talent to run the ground should make him a pleasant fit alongside Durant and Irving.
Because the Nets explore the trade market, it’s value noting that they’ve several trade exceptions available, including one value $11.3MM. That ought to give them a little bit additional flexibility as they weigh their options.
Salary Cap Situation
Note: Our salary cap figures are based on the league’s latest projection ($122MM) for 2022/23.
- Kevin Durant ($44,119,845)
- Ben Simmons ($35,448,672)
- Joe Harris ($18,642,857)
- Seth Curry ($8,496,653)
- Jevon Carter ($3,925,000) — Waived.
- Cam Thomas ($2,138,160)
- Day’Ron Sharpe ($2,109,480)
- Total: $114,880,667
Restricted Free Agents
Two-Way Free Agents
Note: These are players who’re either already eligible for an extension or will change into eligible before the 2022/23 season begins.
- Seth Curry (veteran)
- Joe Harris (veteran)
- Kyrie Irving (veteran) 1
- Ben Simmons (veteran)
Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds
- Bruce Brown ($8,998,596 cap hold): Bird rights
- Nikola Milutinov ($2,275,680 cap hold) 2
- LaMarcus Aldridge ($1,811,516 cap hold): Early Bird rights
- Wilson Chandler ($1,811,516 cap hold): Non-Bird rights 3
- Goran Dragic ($1,811,516 cap hold): Non-Bird rights
- Andre Drummond ($1,811,516 cap hold): Non-Bird rights
- Blake Griffin ($1,811,516 cap hold): Early Bird rights
- Mike James ($1,811,516 cap hold): Non-Bird rights 3
- Total: $22,143,372
Offseason Cap Outlook
Even when Irving walks and the Nets get nothing back in return, they’ll be operating as an over-the-cap team — opening up cap room would require jettisoning Irving and shedding more salary beyond that, which probably isn’t happening.
The most definitely scenario is that Irving re-signs on a maximum-salary deal or something near it and Brooklyn is once more a taxpayer in 2022/23.
Cap Exceptions Available
- Taxpayer mid-level exception: $6,392,000 4
- Trade exception: $11,306,904
- Trade exception: $6,267,918
- Trade exception: $3,246,530
- Trade exception: $1,669,178
- Trade exception: $1,293,680
- Trade exception: $118,342
- Irving would only be eligible if his option is exercised.
- Milutinov was the No. 26 overall pick in 2015, but has yet to sign a rookie contract. The Nets hold his NBA rights.
- The cap holds for Chandler and James remain on the Nets’ books from prior seasons because they haven’t been renounced. They’ll’t be utilized in a sign-and-trade deal.
- This can be a projected value. The Nets could as an alternative have access to the complete mid-level exception ($10,349,000) and bi-annual exception ($4,050,000) if they continue to be below the tax apron.