Here are the Brooklyn Nets' objectives heading into free agency, which starts Wednesday at midnight:
Re-sign Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young
This was general manager Billy King’s No. 1 priority heading into the offseason, and sources say it is all but a done deal, with Lopez and Young expected to reach verbal agreements on new multi-year contracts with the Nets early in free agency.
Expectations are that Lopez will get a three-year deal in the $60 million range, while Young will receive a four-year deal in the $50 million range. Lopez and Young worked well in tandem after the latter was acquired in a trade-deadline deal from Minnesota, and the franchise hopes both players continue as foundation pieces moving forward.
Trade Joe Johnson and Deron Williams
The Nets are hoping to move on from the Johnson-Williams pairing, once dubbed “Brooklyn’s Backcourt.” Johnson, 34, and Williams, 31, both recently celebrated birthdays are owed a significant amount of money. Johnson has one year and $24.9 million remaining on his deal, while Williams -- assuming he opts in to the final season of his deal in 2016-17, as expected -- has two years and $43.3 million left.
Even though both are getting up in age, plagued by tendinitis and seemingly on the decline, some Nets executives believe there is a trade market for both Johnson and Williams.
The Nets have talked to the Grizzlies about Johnson, according to sources. Assuming Memphis isn't interested in sending Brooklyn Zach Randolph or Mike Conley Jr., some sort of combination featuring the likes of Jeff Green ($9.4 million expiring contract), Courtney Lee ($5.6 million expiring), Tony Allen (two years, $10.7 million left), Vince Carter (two years, $8.4 million left) and Matt Barnes ($3.5 million expiring) would work financially. Lionel Hollins used to coach the Grizzlies, and the Nets could use a little “grit and grind.”
Detroit and Charlotte have showed interest in Johnson in the past, but it seems like those ships have sailed.
Finding a taker for Williams could prove even more difficult. Sacramento liked D-Will, but things are a mess over there and George Karl didn’t seem to be high on the veteran point guard when he worked at ESPN. “[Deron] scares me,” Karl said at the time, and not in a good way.
Could a return to Utah be in the cards? Maybe a trade to a Texas team (Williams is from Dallas)? It’s hard to envision a plausible scenario, but Nets executives are optimistic. Perhaps there is one.
King already said the Nets would not buy out Williams or use the stretch provision to get rid of him.
If you’re expecting a resolution to this situation overnight, don’t. Moves like these take a while to sort out.
Avoid paying the luxury tax
This is going to be extremely difficult.
Projections for 2015-16 have the tax level being $81.6 million. If Lopez and Young make approximately a combined $30 million next season, and Johnson and Williams ($21 million) are due nearly $46 million between them, that’s already $76 million committed to four players.
This is why there some believe the Nets are also shopping Jarrett Jack (due $6.3 million this upcoming season and next, though only $500,000 of his 2016-17 salary is guaranteed) in addition to Johnson and Williams in order to find some financial relief.
Other 2015-16 commitments for the Nets include Bojan Bogdanovic ($3.4 million), Steve Blake ($2.2 million), Sergey Karasev ($1.6 million), Markel Brown ($845,000) and Cory Jefferson ($845,000). They also need to come to agreements with first-round picks Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ($1.3 million) and Chris McCullough ($1.1 million).
The Nets gave Mirza Teletovic a $4.2 million qualifying offer as well, making him a restricted free agent. It remains to be seen whether he returns.
Because they are over the cap, the Nets can only use the taxpayer mini mid-level exception (three-year deal starting at $3.4 million) and the veteran’s minimum to get players in free agency.
That is not optimal. And the dreaded repeater tax looms -- possibly on a $100 million-plus payroll. Then again, the Nets could conceivably wait until the 2016 trade deadline to shed salary, too. So they at least have some cushion here.
Get younger and more athletic
The Nets accomplished some of this in the draft by getting their hands on Hollis-Jefferson, 20, and McCullough, 20, a pair of long defenders. It is not expected that McCullough will be able to play next season, as he’s recovering from an ACL injury. Second-round pick Juan Vaulet, 19, likely will be stashed overseas.
With a need for depth in the frontcourt given the departure of Mason Plumlee via trade, expect Brooklyn to take a look at Thomas Robinson (24), who they’ve always liked. He averaged 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 18.5 minutes per game for the Philadelphia 76ers at the end of the season.
The Nets are also interested in Sasha Kaun, as Yahoo! reported, although he’s slow like Lopez. And it’s unknown what Brooklyn would have to send Cleveland to acquire his rights.
Given its salary cap situation, Brooklyn is probably going to have to find some young diamonds in the rough. Undrafted rookie Cliff Alexander, 19, who, like Robinson, went to Kansas, could be one. Alexander had interest from 15-20 teams before joining the Nets for summer league. The 6-foot-8 forward is looking to showcase himself, impress the Nets and ultimately land a contract. But Brooklyn is giving him no guarantees.
Of note: The Nets waived point guard Darius Morris on Monday. He was due a partial guarantee Wednesday. ... They also announced their summer league roster. Brown, Jefferson, Hollis-Jefferson, Vaulet, Xavier Thames Alexander, Hollins’ son, Austin, and Earl Clark highlight the roster. Assistants Jay Humphries and Joe Wolf will share head-coaching duties. ... Hollis-Jefferson will wear jersey No. 24. McCullough will wear jersey No. 1. ... Hollis-Jefferson said on ESPN New York 98.7 FM that he has the potential to be an elite defender in the NBA.