• Erik Slater

Brooklyn Nets 2018 Offseason Preview

The 2017-2018 Brooklyn Nets season saw noticeable improvement for a team that finished last in the league the previous season.

Several young pieces of the new-look Nets squad made huge leaps to the delight of the Brooklyn player development team.

Brooklyn will finally be released from NBA draft purgatory in 2019 as it regains control of its first-round draft pick. This marks the start of a new era in Brooklyn.

There are plenty of decisions to be made this offseason that could propel the franchise into a brighter future.

 

Roster Outlook

The Nets will have around $15 million in cap space this offseason. This number can be increased or decreased by moving large contracts or taking on salary dumps.

The value that Sean Marks places on free agents or draft prospects will determine the fate of players such as DeMarre Carroll, Jeremy Lin, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris.

Marks could move Carroll for a cheaper contract in order to create more cap space. Carroll is set to make $15,400,000 next season. A contending team may be willing to take on his salary with Carroll coming off arguably the best season of his career.

While his salary is somewhat of a hindrance, Carroll has emerged as a leader on the court and a mentor to young players in the locker room. A veteran presence like Carroll is invaluable to a team with as many young pieces as the Nets. This may keep Carroll in a Nets uniform next season.

Lin may be a prime candidate to be traded this offseason. Lin's injuries, along with the acquisition of D'Angelo Russell and the breakout of Dinwiddie, have him as the odd man out. Marks could look to deal Lin to a contender in need of a PG for a cheaper contract.

Dinwiddie is undoubtedly the biggest trade asset on the Nets roster. Making just $1,656,092 next season, Dinwiddie's contract is among the best bargains in the league.

Harris is the likeliest of the Nets' free agents to return next season. The 26-year-old is coming off a breakout season in which he averaged 10.8 PPG on 41.9% shooting from three.

Harris has voiced a desire to remain with the Nets. Marks will likely have to move another contract if he wants to go after a big name free agent and resign Harris.

Marks may also look into negotiating extensions for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Russell, both of whom will be free agents next offseason.

Free Agents (7): Joe Harris, Dante Cunningham, Quincy Acy, Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas (Restricted), Milton Doyle (Restricted), James Webb III (Restricted)

Non-Guaranteed (2): Spencer Dinwiddie, Isaiah Whitehead

Guaranteed (8): D'Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Allen Crabbe, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, DeMarre Carroll, Jeremy Lin, Timofey Mozgov

 

NBA Draft Preview

Nets fans, stay calm, it's almost over. 2018 marks the final year that the infamous 2013 Billy King trade will haunt the Nets. The Cavaliers own the eight pick via the Nets, marking the end of an era of frustration and despair for Brooklyn.

Sean Marks has done a wonderful job acquiring picks in the meantime. Brooklyn owns the 29th, 40th and 45th picks in the draft.

However, sources around the league believe the Nets are trying to move up into the teens. The Nuggets (14), Wizards (15), and Bucks (17) have all been linked to Brooklyn as possible trade partners.

The Nuggets are rumored to be shopping the 14th pick in order to get Kenneth Faried's contract (one year, $13,764,045) off their books.

Michael Scotto of The Athletic reported that the Milwaukee Bucks have shown interest in Carroll. The Bucks could package the 17th pick with John Henson's contract (two years, $20.31 million remaining) in exchange for Carroll.

Whether the Nets move up or not, Marks will likely stay in talent acquisition mode and select the best player available. That being said, there is clearly a need at power forward and center.

Potential Draft Targets

Chandler Hutchinson - SF - Boise State: Hutchinson is a bouncy wing with ability to perform at a high level on both ends of the floor. The Boise State senior averaged 20.0 PPG on 35.9% shooting from three last season. His 7'1" wingspan and leaping ability serve him well on the defensive end, allowing him to guard multiple positions off of switches. At 6'7", Hutchinson could be a nice three and D small forward in the NBA. Most mock drafts have him slotted in the early 20s. If he were to fall to 29, Brooklyn would be hard-pressed not to pull the trigger.

Moritz Wagner - PF - Michigan: Moritz Wagner fills a need for Brooklyn. The Nets are in need of a stretch 4 who can space the floor. Wagner averaged 14.6 PPG on 39.4% shooting from three on his way to the national championship game last season. The German is very talented offensively, but lacks rim-protecting ability and may struggle to defend at the next level. He will likely be available at 29 but isn't likely to make it to 40. While some may call it a reach to take Wagner at 29, there's no doubting his size, talent and passion when on the floor. 6'11" forwards who can shoot and put the ball on the floor do not come around every day. The Nets will likely take a hard look at Wagner come draft night.

Donte DiVincenzo - SG - Villanova: Donte DiVincenzo is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year's draft class. A dazzling National Championship performance and a standout combine performance have his stock on the rise. The sophomore averaged 13.4 PPG and shot 40.1% from three coming off the bench for Villanova last season. The guard is among the best athletes in the draft, recording the highest vertical leap at the combine at 42 inches. He can score from all levels on the floor. The Delaware native's abilities to stroke it from three along with his midrange shot and driving ability were on full display throughout the tournament. DiVincenzo's most attractive trait is his confidence. He was fearless coming off the bench on the biggest stage. The ability to rise to the occasion is a quality that cannot be overlooked in the draft process. While getting DiVincenzo at 29 is very unlikely, Marks may consider moving up to draft a player with tremendous upside.

Dzanan Musa - SF - Bosnia: Dzanan Musa has impressed several scouts around the NBA with his pure scoring ability. Musa is a 19-year-old small forward from Bosnia. He averaged 10.5 PPG on 36.4% shooting from three in the EuroCup last season. At 6'9", Musa has good size for a wing and can score in a variety of ways. A smooth jump shot and tight handle allow him to keep defenders on their heels. While Musa's offensive game shows promise, his defense is a problem. He lacks exceptional lateral quickness and struggles against explosive wings as a result. A short wingspan (6'8") also limits his ability on the defensive end. Musa has shown promise and at such a young age has time to develop his all-around game. Marks personally scouted him in March and Musa tweeted on Friday that he was in New York for workouts. Musa is projected to be selected in the early 20s. If Marks truly believes in his scoring ability, he may trade up to select the 19-year-old.

Mitchell Robinson - C - Chalmette (HS): Mitchell Robinson is the wild card in this year's draft class. Robinson is a 20-year-old center who attended Western Kentucky but never played a college game. While it is very difficult to judge his game based strictly off of his high school tape, his physical prowess is impressive. He stands 7'1" tall with a 7'4" wingspan. However, at just 223 pounds, Robinson will need to fill out if he wants to compete with NBA centers. The Florida native moves well and could be a solid rim runner and shot blocker in the NBA. Some scouts have compared Robinson to Hassan Whiteside. He also displayed a decent shooting stroke from the outside that can be developed. Robinson still has a long way to go in terms of basketball IQ. He often gets lost defensively when off the ball and he lacks situational awareness at times. There are numerous question marks surrounding Robinson, but he has the intangibles that teams are looking for in a modern center. Pairing him with Jarrett Allen would give the Nets a very talented young duo at the five.

Omari Spellman - PF - Villanova: Omari Spellman declared for the draft following an impressive freshman season at Villanova. Spellman is a year old for his class as he turns 21 in July. The Ohio native averaged 10.9 PPG and 8.0 RPG last season for the national champs. More impressively, he shot a scorching hot 43.3% from three. He also displayed nice touch when facing up in the midrange. Spellman measured 6'9" with an impressive 7'2" wingspan. He has a bulky frame at 255 pounds but still moves extremely well. Spellman uses his strong frame to rebound well on both ends of the floor. While he can shoot the ball at an impressive percentage, he struggles to score with his back to the basket. The 20-year-old also does not have the explosiveness to be a rim protector in the NBA. Spellman could be a nice piece to stretch the floor and rebound at power forward. He will likely be taken in the early second round. Marks will surely take a hard look at Spellman at 40 or 45 considering the hole the team has at power forward.

 

Free Agency Preview

As has been the case for the past two years, any big-name signing for the Nets will come via restricted free agency. Brooklyn has roughly $15 million in cap space.

Brooklyn could attempt to create more space by dealing Carroll or Lin for a cheaper player. This may be necessary if the Nets want to make a big offer to a RFA and resign Joe Harris.

Resigning Harris will likely be a big priority for the Nets this offseason. Harris' breakout year will net him a deal in the $5-6 million range. The Nets may also look to bring back Dante Cunningham if the price is right.

Marks may prefer to lay low in free agency this year. This would allow the Nets to preserve cap room for the 2019 offseason.

Either way, the Nets will look to fill their need in the frontcourt. That may mean going after a big name in restricted free agency or looking for a bargain deal.

Potential Free Agent Targets

Aaron Gordon (RFA) - PF - Orlando: Aaron Gordon would be the dream signing for the Nets this offseason. The 22-year-old fits the mold of what Brooklyn wants in a power forward. He can shoot modestly from three, drive to the basket, and guard numerous positions on the defensive end. Gordon is coming off his best year as a pro, averaging 17.6 PPG and 7.9 RPG. The Arizona product shot 33.6% from three, making 38 more three-pointers than last season despite playing in 22 fewer games. Gordon's versatility on the defensive end would allow Atkinson to be flexible in his lineups. The Nets would have to offer Gordon all of their available money and even then the Magic are highly likely to match. While it is unlikely Marks will be able to pry Gordon away from Orlando, don't be surprised if he gives it a shot.

Jabari Parker (RFA) - PF - Milwaukee: Jabari Parker is the next best option after Aaron Gordon. Despite suffering two ACL tears in his left knee, the 23-year-old played well in 31 games after returning last season. Parker averaged 12.6 PPG on 38.3% shooting from three and showed an aptitude for playing inspired defense on multiple positions. Similar to Gordon, Parker's shooting ability would help stretch the floor and his athleticism would give the Nets the ability to play numerous lineups on the defensive end. The Magic are very likely to match any offer to Gordon, but the Bucks are not a lock to match any offer to Parker. While Giannis Antetokounmpo plays nearly every position on the floor, he is often best suited at power forward. His size allows him to contest against shooting forwards and his lack of a three-point shot makes it favorable to have more shooters on the floor with him. This could steer the Bucks away from being too attached to Parker. Expect the Nets to be involved in Parker's free agency.

Julius Randle (RFA) - PF - Los Angeles: Julius Randle could serve as the backup to Gordon and Parker in the Nets' free agency plans. Randle averaged 16.1 PPG and 8.0 RPG for the Lakers last season. While Randle is a talented player, he does not offer the versatility of Gordon and Parker offensively. The 23-year-old does not have the ability to shoot from three or the midrange for that matter. Randle shot just 35.1% on shots from 10-16 feet. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson shot 47.7% on those attempts last season. While Randle is a subpar shooter, he did post a 55.8% field goal percentage last season, the highest of his career by far. Randle uses his 250-pound frame to back defenders down and score using crafty moves near the basket. He can also take less athletic forwards to the basket off the dribble. Randle's impressive athletic ability also make him a weapon on the defensive end. Like Gordon and Parker, Randle can cover a number of positions and contest shots near the rim. The Lakers have big plans in free agency this offseason. If Los Angeles is able to land two, possibly even three, superstars this summer, they may let Randle slip away in restricted free agency.

Alex Len (UFA) - C - Phoenix: The Nets have a clear need at the Center position. Jarrett Allen had a solid rookie year. He gives the Nets a young, energetic rim protector when on the floor. After Allen, the Nets do not have much else. Jahlil Okafor is highly unlikely to return after a less than impressive stint with the Nets and Timofey Mozgov was a non-factor last season. Marks will likely look to bring in at least one more center this offseason whether in free agency or through the draft. Alex Len has been disappointing in Phoenix since being selected 5th overall in 2013. The 24-year-old averaged 8.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG last season. Len is very limited in what he can do offensively. Most of his points come from the pick and roll or dishes from driving guards. However, Len has a strong body which helps him rebound and defend in the post. If the Nets could nab Len for a discount rate, he could be serviceable for them at Center next season.

Noah Vonleh (RFA) - PF - Chicago: There is a good chance Sean Marks is not set on using the entirety of his cap space on a big name this offseason. With that being said, the Nets still have a need in the frontcourt. Noah Vonleh could provide the Nets with a cheaper alternative to the likes of Gordon, Parker and Randle. Vonleh was traded to the Bulls from Portland at the deadline last season. The former 9th overall pick fared well in 21 games with Chicago to end the year. Vonleh averaged 6.9 PPG and 6.9 RPG over that span. The 22-year-old also showed ability to shoot the three, shooting 30% on 60 attempts. His 7'4" wingspan serve him well on the boards and the defensive end. If Marks wants to retain cap flexibility for the 2019 offseason while getting some frontcourt help, Vonleh may be his best bet. It would not be surprising to see Marks force Chicago's hand and sign Vonleh to an offer sheet.

 

This offseason will tell a great deal about Sean Marks' future plans. With this being the last draft that the Nets do not own their first-round pick, this Brooklyn front office finally has the chance to build its own legacy.