Rival teams interested in Brooklyn Nets free agents Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young are increasingly convinced that they have no shot at luring either one away from the incumbent Nets, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that both Lopez and Young are widely expected to reach verbal agreements on new deals with the Nets early in free agency, which officially begins Wednesday at midnight.
The Nets' willingness to trade young Team USA center Mason Plumlee to Portland on draft night last week, sources said, was deemed in many front offices around the league as a clinching sign of Brooklyn's confidence in retaining Lopez.
Players and teams can verbally agree to new contracts after free agency commences and negotiations begin, but new deals can't officially be signed until July 9, when a leaguewide moratorium on player business is lifted.
Nets general manager Billy King has been open about his team's hopes of re-signing both Lopez and Young. Early estimates in circulation, sources say, have Lopez commanding a three-year deal in the $60 million range and Young potentially receiving a four-year deal worth in the $50 million range.
Such a deal would give Lopez, 27, significant guaranteed money and a chance to negotiate another contract when he will be 30. Yet sources say an eventual contract with Lopez is also likely to include a wrinkle or two to provide some financial insulation to give the Nets a measure of protection in the event that Lopez misses more significant time thanks to the foot injuries that have plagued his career.
Young, meanwhile, has a long-standing relationship with King dating to their time together in Philadelphia and made it clear after his February arrival from Minnesota via trade that he enjoyed playing in Brooklyn and was hopeful of staying.
Both Lopez and Young elected to opt out of their current deals and become free agents July 1. The Nets don't have the salary cap space necessary to replace Lopez or Young should either depart, so it's imperative that they lock both players up on long-term deals.
Signing both of them, however, again will have the Nets on course to carry a payroll in the neighborhood of $100 million next season. And that's why, as ESPN.com reported earlier Monday, they are trying to trade either Joe Johnson or Jarrett Jack -- or both -- in hopes of creating some wiggle room away from the luxury tax threshold.
Lopez, who has spent his entire career with the Nets despite being involved in trade talks on numerous occasions, averaged 17.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game last season. He started slow coming off foot and ankle surgery, but eventually regained his top form under new Nets coach Lionel Hollins and carried Brooklyn into the playoffs after the All-Star break.
Lopez also worked well in tandem with Young, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Garnett. In 28 games with the Nets, Young averaged 13.8 points while shooting 49.5 percent from the field.