The 2020-21 playoff run for the Brooklyn Nets ended prematurely after getting eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks. Injuries to their stars left the Nets rotation extremely light, and they had a lot of trouble outscoring the Bucks without them out or limited.
Despite the early exit, they should still be among the favorites heading into next season to win the title. They now have four months to get healthy with plenty of room to further improve the depth of this roster.
Extend their stars
The first order of business for the Nets is negotiating extensions for their big three. Kevin Durant has two years left on his contract with a player option for the 2022-23 season. He will become eligible this offseason to sign a four-year, $192.5 million extension this offseason. It would run through the 2025-26 season and have his $42 million player option for 2022-23 replaced with a $42.9 million salary. Kyrie Irving also has two years left on his contract with a player option for the 2022-23 season. He will become eligible to sign a four-year, $181.6 million extension this offseason that would run through 2025-26. He will have ten years of service on his belt by the time the extension begins, allowing his first-year salary to reach the 35 percent maximum projected at $40.5 million for 2022-23. That salary would replace his $34.5 million player option for that season. James Harden also becomes extension-eligible and has two years left on his deal including a $47.3 million player option for 2022-23. The best way for him to maximize his earnings would be to opt-in, then sign the three-year, $161.1 million maximum extension he is eligible for. He would only be allowed to sign that extension during the offseason, while Durant and Irving can sign their respective extensions during the regular season. Locking up all three this offseason to their respective maximum amounts would align them all through the 2025-26 season. Also, all three players would make at least $50 million that season. The Nets are on pace to having one of the most expensive rosters and largest luxury tax payments in NBA history if they’re all still on the roster by then.
Re-sign or cooperate with Spencer Dinwiddie
Spencer Dinwiddie is expected to decline his $12.3 million player option and become an unrestricted free agent. Despite missing all but several games this season with an ACL injury, he is almost completely recovered and will be ready to start the 2021-22 season on time. Luckily for him, the point guard market will be strong, so there’s a good chance that he might not lose any money in his next contract. He proved himself of being a starting point guard in the NBA which makes his future in Brooklyn questionable. The Nets may not want to pay Dinwiddie like a starter when he will most likely come off the bench for them when the team is fully healthy. They could look to re-sign him with the plan of trading him later, but that will be very costly for a team already headed towards luxury tax hell. If Dinwiddie wants to join an over-the-cap team while earning market value, that would require the Nets to cooperate in a sign-and-trade. This could allow Brooklyn to generate a trade exception and potentially get a veteran, young player, or first-round pick. After having such a great experience together these past five seasons, it would be a nice gesture to participate in good business that allows both sides to achieve their goals.
Turn DeAndre Jordan into a productive player
When the Nets signed DeAndre Jordan along with Durant and Irving for $40 million over four years, the contract immediately felt like a negative value. Not only has he performed below value but he has also fallen out of the rotation. This is a problem for the Nets, especially with two years and $19.7 million remaining on his deal. Brooklyn can’t go forward with $10 million annually just sitting there. If he can’t play, they must do what they can to offload his contract. Could attaching the No. 27 overall pick in this year’s draft with Jordan get them a rotation player? Maybe not, but it could potentially allow them to get an expiring contract for him or even get off his salary completely. They may need to add a little more incentive to account for his additional $9.8 million in 2021-22, but if they can turn him into someone who can help now, or future flexibility to add help later, they must consider it.
Re-sign their veteran free agents
Bruce Brown, one of Brooklyn’s most pleasant surprises for the season, is entering restricted free agency. He was a sneaky great addition for the Nets who stepped up when their stars missed time with various injuries. It feels like both sides should trend towards an agreement after such a successful first season together. Brooklyn can still extend him prior to free agency for up to a projected $56.5 million over four years. Blake Griffin went from being a luxury addition to their rotation to a key starter in their playoff run. He proved that he still belongs in the NBA in the near future and it will be interesting to see what his market will look like this offseason. Brooklyn can offer him the veteran minimum, his $3.2 million Non-Bird amount, or up to the $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception. If his offers don’t exceed that range, a reunion with Brooklyn seems like a good bet. Jeff Green is another vital part of the Nets rotation and has the same contractual options as Griffin does with them. He’s been earning the veteran minimum for four straight seasons now and it will be interesting to see if he finally gets an offer exceeding that. Hopefully, Green gets taken care of, ideally by the Nets. Brooklyn lacks mid-tier salaries in the $10-20 million range. Seeing how the Nets won’t have much flexibility going forward, it’s important that they extend or re-sign several of these players to larger team-friendly salaries, particularly Brown. If the Nets need to make a significant change down the road, they could potentially include these players’ salaries in trades.
2021-22 SALARY SITUATION
Guaranteed salaries: $154,585,644 Non-guaranteed salaries: $1,762,796 Total salary: $156,348,440 Luxury tax space: $19,742,440 over the luxury tax for a $44,162,933 payment Exceptions: Taxpayer Mid-level: $5,890,000
2021-22 salary: $44,310,840 Remaining salary guaranteed: $91,677,600 though 2022-23 Additional notes: Is eligible to sign an extension that can add three additional years and up to $161.1 million.
2021-22 salary: $42,018,900 Remaining salary guaranteed: $85,947,750 though 2022-23 Additional notes: Is eligible to sign a four-year extension worth up to $192.5 million. Has $1.1 million in incentives in 2021-22, all of which are deemed likely.
2021-22 salary: $35,466,200 Remaining salary guaranteed: $71,700,750 though 2022-23 Additional notes: Is eligible to sign a four-year extension worth up to $181.6 million. Has $1.1 million in incentives in 2021-22, $550,000 of which are deemed likely. Has a 15 percent trade bonus that would increase his salary but it would be capped at the $39.3 million maximum salary for 2021-22. It would’ve been voided if traded in either of the previous two seasons but he is now entitled to a portion of it if traded now that he has ten years of service.
2021-22 salary: $17,357,143 Remaining salary guaranteed: $55,928,571 though 2023-24 Additional notes: Has $500,000 in unlikely incentives.
2021-22 salary: $9,881,598 Remaining salary guaranteed: $19,703,440 through 2022-23 Additional notes: Is extension eligible this offseason.
2021-22 salary: $3,768,342 Remaining salary guaranteed: $3,768,342 Additional notes: Is eligible this offseason to sign a rookie-scale extension for up to 25 percent of the salary cap.
2021-22 salary: $1,782,621 Remaining salary guaranteed: $1,782,621 Additional notes: Is eligible throughout 2021-22 to sign an extension projected at $59 million over four years.
2021-22 salary: $1,762,796 Remaining salary guaranteed: $0 (non-guaranteed through 2022-23) Additional notes: His 2021-22 salary is non-guaranteed but becomes $100,000 guaranteed on September 2, 2021, $200,000 guaranteed on opening night, and fully guaranteed on the league-wide cutdown date.
2021 Pick No. 27
2021-22 salary: $2,036,280 Remaining salary guaranteed: $10,455,513
Spencer Dinwiddie (unrestricted free agent)
Cap hold: $17,181,072 Type of free agent: Bird Additional notes: Has a player option worth $12,302,496 that he will most likely decline.
Bruce Brown (restricted free agent)
Cap hold: $17,181,072 Type of free agent: Bird
Cap hold: $1,897,476 Type of free agent: Non Bird
Cap hold: $1,669,178 Type of free agent: Non Bird
Cap hold: $1,669,178 Type of free agent: Non Bird
Cap hold: $1,669,178 Type of free agent: Early Bird
Cap hold: $1,489,065 Type of free agent: Early Bird
Cap hold: $1,489,065 Type of free agent: Non-Bird