NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 19: Newly hired Brooklyn Nets General Manager Sean Marks answers questions during a press conference before the game between the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks at Barclays Center on February 19, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Free Agency, Like Rebuild, Hinges On Patience
Free agency has been in full swing, but seemingly, not for the Brooklyn Nets. At least, it appears that way on the surface.
Tuesday marks America’s national holiday that’s highlighted by celebration, fireworks and the sweet smell of barbecued meat. In NBA terms, it’s also been three days since the clock started ticking on free agency. But, while the league is abuzz with storylines such as the diminishing competitiveness of the Eastern Conference, the Nets have failed to strike a deal with a single player. The silence surrounding the Nets could be deciphered in both positive and negative ways, and with the Spurs-like foothold instilled in Brooklyn’s front office, it’s unclear which it’s leaning more toward. Still, maybe you’ll feel better after I try to dissect and make an educated guess about what’s running through Nets General Manager Sean Marks’ mind.
With so many relevant names dissipating fromthe marketafter three days, it’s easy for fans to lose patience and hope that the team will be able to churn out a squad thatcould drastically improve from the prior 20-win season. Especially when so little has been said about Brooklyn’s free agency plans, and the fact that the team has already lost out on numerous players linked to it in rumors.
On day one, the Nets failed to land veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who settled for a different Atlantic Division club and put his faith into “the process.” Joe Ingles also emerged as a target for the Nets on day one, but ultimately, Utah decided it could not afford to lose its complementary wing.
On day two, Andre Iguodala, another veteran the Nets were actively pursuing, chose to remain with the defending-champion Golden State Warriors, despite reports suggesting he might do otherwise.
What’s most compelling about the aforementioned players, however, is not the fact that they’re players who did not sign with Brooklyn. It’s the fact that they were the first ones mentioned in conjunction with the Nets, closest to the start of free agency.
Redick and Iguodala had reportedly been on the Nets’ radar last week, though it was not made clear until after free agency started that unrestricted free agents would be the first priority for Brooklyn, in order to not tie up cap space. As for Ingles, Josh Rudy called it on the Brooklyn Revolution Podcast, but his name did not materialize in connection to the Nets until hours before he inked his four-year extension with the Jazz.
Possible Brooklyn Nets Free Agency Strategy
It was a well-known fact that heading into free agency, Brooklyn would be heavily seeking the services of restricted free agents — specifically, Otto Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope has garnered less attention around the NBA since the start of July, while Porter’s name has floated around numerous teams, and the Wizards’ small forward has already received a max offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings.
According to a report from ESPN’s Chris Haynes on Sunday, Porter planned to meet with two more teams before deciding on which offer sheet to sign. One of those teams was likely the Brooklyn Nets, as tucked into an article by CBS Sports’ Matt Moore, the Nets were scheduled to meet with Porter on Monday. Jeremy Lin was also spotted on Tuesday with a fan in Washington, D.C. (where Porter is taking interviews), so he may be assisting the Nets in the Porter sweepstakes. Meanwhile, the one team that holds the power in Porter’s future — the Washington Wizards — have been largely quiet, even after a report from The Undefeated on the eve of free agency stated Washington will “make an aggressive offer at 12:01 am… to ensure they keep Otto Porter.” Bluff much?
Judging from the limited news surrounding the Nets, it’s clear they have been methodical (and unpredictable) in their approach to free agency. They haven’t waned under the pressure of losing top targets, at the expense of overpaying for these players. Instead, the Nets have determined to not make any moves at all, which has frustrated some fans, but epitomizes a greater strategy to wait for the market to settle. It may be difficult to remember with how many Woj bombs or Sham Wows have dropped lately, but only three days have passed into free agency.
The Market of Overvaluing Free Agents
Just take a look at some of the deals that players on the market have signed thus far. Jrue Holiday is suddenly a player deemed worthy of over $25 million/year. On the topic of two Nets’ targets: Redick went for a one-year rental deal with the Sixers, worth an outrageous $23 million; and Iguodala penned a three-year, $48 million extension with Golden State. Note: It’s worth mentioning the Nets offered Redick a deal for between $16-$18 million/year, while Iguodala did not meet with the Nets.
Brooklyn entered free agency with the third-most amount of cap space in the NBA (roughly $34 million), but either one of those deals would have eaten up a substantial sum of it. Yes, they would have come at the cost of adding productive and “culture” veterans, but nonetheless, overpaid vets. Thus, there could be more that meets the eye, going on behind the scenes with Sean Marks and the Nets.
It’s difficult to predict how free agency will play out, mainly because it hinges on so many different factors, ranging from player desires, to offers other teams could make. Many could have foreseen Iguodala re-signing with the Warriors, but few could have thought Philly would be a frontrunner for Redick.
Worst Case Scenario
Coming into July, the Nets were viewed as a team that could theoretically make a major leap next season by copping Porter and other players who could turn into foundational blocks. They certainly have the money to potentially land key components to further their rebuild, but so far, they have lost out on players due to the factors of player desires and other team offers. Still, it’s too soon to jump the gun on calling this summer a lost cause for Brooklyn, and it surely can’t be regarded as an end-all, be-all situation quite yet.
I’m still convinced Marks has something up his sleeve, even if he strikes out with his first few desired prizes. It’s extremely unlikely that he doesn’t actually have a solid plan and is in full panic mode, even as the options in free agency continue to dwindle. Keep in mind: this year’s free agency class is far and wide, and there are still a galore of players on the market, even on my way offfree agency guide. It’s quite possible Brooklyn will come out of the summer with some of the most unexpected acquisitions, given that a few of the names that have been tied to the Nets are off the market.
The worst case scenario for the Nets this summer? If they have to settle for unproven, questionable NBA-ready level players and ineffective veterans once again. Fans without a doubt would like to see something more stable in place next year — not for the team to run through 21 players in the season.
However, like the summer, free agency is excruciatingly hot and long, and should not be limited to what goes on in the first few days. Sure, it’ll cool down sooner or later, but even last year, Brooklyn’s max offer sheets for Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson did not come until July.
Until the Nets finally hit the headlines in some shape or form for a player signing, though, there’s only one thing to do: wait on it. Something is bound to happen eventually, and most of the work at the moment is simply lost from view.