Brooklyn Nets 2022 Offseason Preview
The Brooklyn Nets head into the 2022 offseason in disarray with many unanswered questions.
Through the chaos surrounding stars Kyrie Irving and James Harden last season, several glaring roster holes were clear, particularly in Brooklyn's first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics. In this article, we'll dive into Brooklyn's biggest needs and the realistic routes to filling them.
There are not many certainties when assessing Brooklyn's roster. The Nets have six players under guaranteed contracts for next season. Many considered Kyrie Irving a lock to join that group. That may not be the case.
Shams Charania reported that Irving and Brooklyn reached an impasse in contract negotiations, clearing the way for the seven-time All-Star to test the open market. The Nets reportedly prefer a short-term deal with incentives rather than the long-term max contract Irving is seeking.
As an over-the-cap team, Brooklyn has no means to replace Irving if he walks. Conversely, with very limited cap space around the league, Irving would need the Nets' assistance to facilitate a sign and trade to another contender. ESPN's Bobby Marks said it best: The two parties need each other. Given these circumstances, it's difficult to envision a scenario where the star guard and Brooklyn don't come to an agreement.
Irving has until June 29th to make a decision on his $36.9 million player option.
Outside of Irving, Brooklyn's biggest free-agent questions surround Bruce Brown and Nic Claxton. A recent report indicated that the Nets are motivated to bring back Brown while there have been conflicting reports on whether they will match offers for Claxton, a restricted free agent.
Both are projected to be valued at just over $10 million per year. With Brooklyn in the luxury tax for the third-straight year, they are subject to the repeater tax. This means they are taxed at a significantly higher rate than other teams. Outside of signing their own free agents, Brooklyn's mechanisms for adding players include the taxpayer mid-level exception ($6.34M) and minimum contracts
Following the math of the repeater tax, if Brooklyn were to bring back Brown + Claxton at a combined $22 million and use the full TMLE ($6.34M) they could pay over $200 million in luxury taxes, crushing the record of $170 million set by the Golden State Warriors this season. Nets owner Joe Tsai is worth $8.7 billion and has emphasized his commitment to winning, so a historic tax bill is not out of the question, but history suggests the likelier path is the Nets picking between one of Brown or Claxton.
Brooklyn's other free agents include LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic and David Duke. Aldridge and Griffin are likely gone after being benched late in the season. After playing last year on the minimum, Drummond is in line for a raise and it's highly unlikely Brooklyn would use their exception on the big man. Dragic and Duke are the strongest candidates to return on what would be minimum salaries.
Patty Mills has a player option at $6.2 million, which he is widely expected to pick up. The Nets have a team option on Kessler Edwards that they can exercise or choose to decline to extend him on a longer deal.
Brooklyn's biggest need was evident in the Boston series: sizable wing defenders. The Celtics rotation featuring Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams and Al Horford completely overwhelmed the Nets' guard-heavy lineup. Joe Harris, Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons are the only sizable defenders in Brooklyn's rotation. Adding one to two more pieces in this area is a necessity.
Outside the wing, a stretch five to play alongside Simmons and a backup point guard remain the Nets' biggest needs.
The avenues to filling these holes are the TMLE and trade market. Brooklyn's pool of trade chips includes mid-sized contracts in Harris ($18.6M), Seth Curry ($8.5M), and likely Mills ($6.2M). Cam Thomas and Day'Ron Sharpe will also be dangled in trade discussions. Two first-round picks via Philadelphia could be packaged with some assortment of these players to land a significant piece.
Brooklyn also has five trade exceptions that can be used to absorb players in trades without sending out any salary.
Guaranteed (6): Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe
Options (3): Kyrie Irving (PO), Patty Mills (PO), Kessler Edwards (TO)
Free Agents (7): Bruce Brown (UFA), LaMarcus Aldridge (UFA), Blake Griffin (UFA), Andre Drummond (UFA), Goran Dragic (UFA), Nic Claxton (RFA), David Duke (RFA)
OG Anunoby: For teams searching for wing help, Anunoby will be at the top of the list. The 24-year-old is coming off the best season of his career, averaging 17.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG on 36.3% shooting from three. At 6'7" with a 7'2" wingspan, Anunoby's perimeter defense and three-point shooting have separated him as one of the premier two-way wings in basketball. He has also displayed ability as a secondary playmaker off the dribble. The wing is on one of the better value contracts in the league with 3-years, $56 million left on his deal. Several reports surfaced that Anunoby was dissatisfied with his role in Toronto. With Toronto poised to build around fourth overall pick Scottie Barnes at a similar position, there has been a fair amount of smoke surrounding Anunoby's trade availability. Toronto is in the market for a center and showed interest in Nic Claxton at the deadline, so a Brooklyn package could involve a sign and trade of the big man. Claxton fits into a cap term called "Base Year Compensation", meaning only 50% of his new salary would count as outgoing salary in a sign and trade. Additionally, teams can take back 125% plus $100,000 of a player's salary. The market for Claxton is rumored to be around $12 million. In this case, his outgoing salary would count as $7.6 million in a sign and trade. A package of Claxton, Seth Curry, Cam Thomas and a first-round pick could pique Toronto's interest.
Jerami Grant: Grant has been a popular name in trade discussions dating back to the deadline. Those rumors have gained momentum with ESPN's Jonathan Givony reporting that Detroit is "widely expected" to trade Grant ahead of the final year of his contract at $21 million. The 6'8" wing doesn't boast one elite skill, but he is solid in many areas. Grant notably left Denver after the 2019-2020 season with eyes on an expanded role. He got it in Detroit and led the team in scoring the last two seasons, averaging 20.9 PPG while shooting 36.2% on 4.9 catch-and-shoot threes per game last year. The 28-year-old leaves something to be desired defensively given his impressive length and athleticism, but still presents a switchable upgrade for a Nets team that lacks sizable wing defenders. The question posing Brooklyn is whether Grant would be willing to accept a reduced role similar to the one he had in Denver. If so, they could have two routes to acquiring him: The first is a package centered around Joe Harris and draft compensation. The other would be a pool of mid-sized contracts such as Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Cam Thomas/Day'Ron Sharpe, and picks. Several teams will compete for Grant, but Brooklyn should be in the mix if they feel he would accept a complementary role.
John Collins: The Hawks are intent on trading Collins this summer, according to several sources. The big man has been mentioned in trade discussions dating back to the deadline with four years, $102 million left on his deal. The Nets are reportedly among several teams to inquire about Collins. A 37.6% career shooter from three, the 25-year-old would fill Brooklyn’s need for a stretch five alongside Simmons. Collins was also the most efficient pick and roll finisher in the league last season (min 2.5 poss per game) and presents a dangerous pairing alongside Irving or Simmons. The Wake Forest product has limitations as a perimeter defender and shot blocker but has shown improvement on that end the last two seasons. Any deal for Collins would likely include Joe Harris for value and salary matching purposes, along with young a piece and draft picks. The Hawks and Spurs were reportedly in discussions surrounding Dejounte Murray and Collins, but those talks have shifted to Danillo Gallinari and first-round picks. Brooklyn could swoop in as a third team if Atlanta is looking to extract more value in a deal.
Harrison Barnes: Barnes represents the third option to Anunoby and Grant among wings frequently being discussed in trades. The 30-year-old has regressed from the defender he once was but still offers elite length on the wing at 6'8". Barnes may be the best spot-up shooter of the bunch, converting on 42.4% of his catch-and shoot-threes last season. The North Carolina product has been mentioned in trade discussions throughout points of the last two seasons. Barnes is entering the final year of his contract at $18.3 million. Any deal would likely send Joe Harris along with a young player or draft compensation to Sacramento. While he is an upgrade on the defensive end, Barnes is not the same caliber of shooter as Harris. The 10-year veteran could be in the mix if Brooklyn is set on adding size and defensive versatility, but the Nets will likely explore younger options first in any deal involving Harris.
Kyle Kuzma: Kuzma has haunted Nets fans since last offseason. Reports said Brooklyn could have acquired the 6'9" Wing/PF in the Spencer Dinwiddie sign and trade, but opted for a trade exception instead. The 26-year-old went on to have the best season of his career, averaging 17.1 PPG and 8.5 RPG on 34.1% shooting from three. He flashed ability as a playmaker in the half-court and transition while improving defensively. Kuzma will make $13 million this season before a player option for the same amount in 2023-2024. If he performs anywhere near the same level it will be a no-brainer to opt out and test free agency next summer. Kuzma's trade candidacy is likely linked to Bradley Beal's future, who is expected to opt out of his contract. If Washington is heading for a rebuild or wants to cash in on Kuzma at peak value, the forward will be a hot commodity on the trade market. Brooklyn could offer a package centered on Seth Curry, Cam Thomas, and draft compensation to fill a need on the wing.
Jae Crowder: Reports say Phoenix has called teams to discuss Crowder’s value on the trade market. This comes amidst reports that the Suns may be willing to match a max offer sheet for DeAndre Ayton. If Phoenix owner Robert Sarver is looking to shed salary (as he is known to do), Brooklyn should be all over Crowder. At 6’6”, 234 LBS, the 10-year veteran fills a huge need as a physical three-and-d option. With 106 playoff games under his belt, Crowder would bring experience to a Nets locker room desperately in need of help on the wing. The 31-year-old fits into Brooklyn’s trade exception and likely wouldn’t command more than a first-round pick. Coming away with a battle-tested veteran who can hit the spot-up three and bother opposing ball handlers would be a substantial win.
Myles Turner: It should be no surprise to see Turner's name on this list for those who have followed Brooklyn closely. The veteran big man has been linked to the Nets at points in the last two seasons, and rightfully so. At 6'11" with impressive athleticism and a soft touch from the outside, the center possesses a rare skillset as a rim protector and floor spacer. Turner blocked a career-high 3.4 shots per game in 2020-2021 and shot over 33% from three on 4.4 attempts per game in each of the last two seasons. The seven-year veteran played in just 42 games last year while battling injury. Shams Charania reported that Indiana is discussing trades centered on Turner and Malcolm Brogdon. With Turner set to make $17.5 million, Joe Harris' contract would fit for matching purposes in a deal. However, as a team light on wings, Brooklyn should be wary of dealing the swingman for a center. Turner will likely take a back seat to the names above, but a pool of mid-sized contracts and draft compensation could represent an offer for the big man.
P.J. Washington: Brooklyn has a clear need for a floor-spacing center alongside Ben Simmons. Washington has shown promise in three seasons with Charlotte as a small-ball five. The 23-year-old is a career 37.5% shooter from three and can guard multiple positions using his 6'8" frame and above-average athleticism. The 2019 first-round pick is entering the final year of his contract at $5.8 million. The Hornets will have to make concessions regarding their young core with Washington, Miles Bridges, Kelly Oubre, Cody Martin and Jalen McDaniels all set for extensions this offseason or next. Jake Fischer reported the Hornets are fielding offers for Washington. Charlotte has reportedly been in the market for a center to pair with LaMelo Ball. Claxton presents an appealing option as a lob threat and perimeter defender. Washington's $5.8 million is a feasible number for Brooklyn to take back in a Claxton sign and trade.
Mike Muscala: This one is straightforward. Muscala can space the floor at 6'10", shooting 42.9% from three last season for Oklahoma City. He has clear athletic limitations defensively but presents a stretch five option off the bench to complement Simmons. The Thunder have a team option on the big man at $3.5 million, and at 30 years old, he does not fit OKC's timeline. Brooklyn could try to nab Muscala for second-round picks while absorbing him into their $3.6 million trade exception.
Free Agent Targets
Otto Porter Jr. (UFA): General Manager Sean Marks has shown repeated interest in Porter, who played an important role for the world champion Golden State Warriors last season. The 6'8" wing averaged 8.2 PPG and 5.7 RPG on 37% shooting from three. Porter proved capable of knocking down the big shot, converting on 40.4% of his threes throughout Golden State's playoff run. While his lateral quickness has taken a step back, Porter remains a savvy defender using his range and 7'1" wingspan. The nine-year veteran reportedly turned down several MLE offers (Brooklyn likely one of them) to sign with the Warriors on a minimum deal last summer. Porter is in line for a raise after his playoff performance and his market projects to be closer to the full mid-level exception ($10.2M) than the taxpayer mid-level ($6.34M) that Brooklyn can offer. However, if the vet is seeking added security the Nets could offer him a two or three-year deal and another chance to contend for a title. Golden State can also offer the TMLE, but the Warriors will likely have to choose between Porter and Gary Payton II. If Marks can tap into a past connection and sell the wing on a bigger role the Nets could be in the mix.
Cody Martin (RFA): Martin posted the best season of his young career coming off the bench in Charlotte last year. The former second-round pick improved dramatically from behind the arch, his biggest deficiency in his first two seasons, shooting 38.4% on 2.0 attempts per game. The Nevada product ran the point in college and still shows ability as a playmaker off the bounce. Defensively, Martin can guard on the perimeter and has shown a knack for making hustle plays. The 6'6" wing ranked towards the top of the league in charges drawn (6th) and deflections (22nd). Martin is a restricted free agent, meaning Charlotte can match any offer for him. However, the Hornets are focused on an extension for Miles Bridges and have already paid Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier. They also have LaMelo Ball's extension to factor in down the line. With Charlotte reportedly looking to avoid the luxury tax, Brooklyn could offer Martin a two-year deal worth just under $13 million.
P.J. Tucker (UFA): Brooklyn fans are all too familiar with the annoyance Tucker can present to opposing offenses. The veteran has made a living as a gritty, defensive-minded forward since returning to the NBA in 2012. Milwaukee chose to let Tucker walk last summer following their title run to avoid the luxury tax. The forward signed a one plus one in Miami and played a vital role for a team that came a Jimmy Butler three away from making the NBA finals. Tucker posted his best defensive rating since 2018-2019 while shooting a career-best 41.5% from three. In Brooklyn, he would bring a hard-nosed veteran presence to a locker room desperately in need of a vocal leader. Tucker declined his $7.4M player option and will test free agency with his market expected to fall between $7M-$10M annually. Tucker and Kevin Durant share a relationship having both played at Texas. At 37, the former champion is likely looking for the security of a multi-year deal. Miami can offer Tucker slightly more than Brooklyn, but the Nets could try to sell the veteran on playing with Durant and their massive need for production at the forward position.
Jalen Smith (UFA): Smith has emerged as a popular name amongst Nets fans given the need for a floor-spacing big. The Maryland product was a surprise pick by Phoenix at 10th overall in 2020. He played sparingly in his rookie season before being traded to Indiana for Torrey Craig. Smith stepped into an expanded role late last season and flashed the potential many saw ahead of the draft. In 22 games, he averaged 13.4 PPG and 7.6 RPG while shooting 37.3% from three on 3.8 attempts per game. His size (6'10") and catch and shoot ability should prove attractive to several teams. The big man shows glimpses as perimeter defender and rim protecter but still has a ways to go on that end. Phoenix declined to pick up Smith's third-year option before the trade, making him an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Because of this, Indiana cannot offer him more than the $4.67 million he would have earned from the team option. While I don't see the Nets exceeding that amount, the stretch big options in their price range are very limited. They could take a chance on the 22-year-old if they strike out in other areas, but in an ideal world, Brooklyn lands a more experienced option with fewer limitations on the defensive end.
T.J. Warren (UFA): Warren is one of the most difficult players to project in this year's free-agent class. The Wing/PF played just four games in the last two seasons after undergoing surgery to repair a navicular stress fracture in his left foot. Warren was among the breakout players in the league in 2019-2020, averaging 19.8 PPG on 40.3% shooting from three. Not only can he space the floor as a catch-and-shoot threat from deep (42.1% in last two seasons), but he possesses rare ball-handling and three-level scoring ability at 6'8". The North Carolina State product also made serious strides as a perimeter defender in his last full season. Warren presents the highest risk-reward signing of the summer. Given his impressive shooting numbers and defensive renaissance in 2019-2020, a team could bet on the forward for the full mid-level exception, but his market likelier falls somewhere around the TMLE. A one-year prove-it deal and potentially robust role in Brooklyn should prove attractive to the free agent.
Gary Harris (UFA): There's a clear theme across Brooklyn's guard rotation: none of them play defense. Irving picks and chooses when he wants to defend while Curry and Mills have proven incapable altogether. Harris presents a defensive option with added size (6'4") and switch ability on the perimeter. Offensively, the 27-year-old is coming off one of the best three-point shooting seasons of his career, converting at a 38.4% clip on 5.0 attempts per game. The guard shot a scorching-hot 46.5% on corner threes, ranking third in the league among players with at least 2.0 attempts per game. Harris isn't the athlete he once was, but his experience and skill set make him an attractive option in a bench role for a contender. If Brooklyn is keen on adding a three-and-D presence in the backcourt, they could make a run at the veteran for the TMLE.
Taurean Prince (UFA): With Brooklyn seeking sizable options on the wing, they could return to a familiar face. Prince signed a two-year, $25 million deal with Brooklyn in 2019 and started 65 games for the Nets before being traded to Cleveland as part of the James Harden deal. Prince found a role in Minnesota this season after the Cavaliers flipped him for Ricky Rubio last summer. The forward averaged 7.6 PPG and shot 38.5% on 2.8 catch and shoot threes per game. At 6'7", the 28-year-old offers above-average versatility on the defensive end. The drawback with Prince is consistency. He's an extremely streaky shooter with tendencies to turn the ball over and below-average rebounding ability for his size. Still, 6'7" forwards who can defend multiple positions and shoot respectably are tough to come by. Prince should represent a fallback plan if Brooklyn strikes out on their top wing targets.
General Manager Sean Marks has his work cut out for him after an underwhelming summer in 2021. Agreeing to a deal with Irving headlines the list of priorities. After that, an enticing pool of assets should allow the Nets to upgrade at key positions via trade. If owner Joe Tsai is willing to dive deeper into the luxury tax, Brooklyn has additional avenues including trade exceptions and the TMLE to add talent around their stars.
There are clear holes to be filled on this Nets roster. Following a disastrous season, Marks' ability to manage Brooklyn's remaining resources this summer could determine his fate past the 2022-2023 season.