And with that, the first domino in what could be a historic Summer for the Brooklyn Nets has fallen.
On Thursday, the Nets traded Allen Crabbe — along with the 17th overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft and a lottery protected 2020 pick — to the Atlanta Hawks for Taurean Prince and a 2021 second round pick.
Prince is a fine player — I’ll touch on his possible impact at the end of this piece — but this deal wasn’t about adding Taurean Prince. It was about moving on from Allen Crabbe’s $18 million dollar contract and clearing up cap space for the Nets to make a run at max contract free agents when July’s free agency period opens up.
With Crabbe’s contract off the books, the Nets have the ability to open up two max contract spaces if they renounce the rights to D’Angelo Russell. That means that Brooklyn joins the short list of teams that can pair Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant this offseason, while also leaving space open for someone like Jimmy Butler if one of those players falls through (or, of course, keeping Russell, which remains an option.) Let’s talk about a few aspects of this deal.
Can Brooklyn sign big free agents?
Creating cap space is great, but you have to be able to lure at least one free agent to Brooklyn — if not two — to justify the picks that were given up to move off Crabbe’s contract.
How you feel about that possibility depends on how you feel about all the various smoke surrounding both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant’s interest in the Nets. Is that interest real? Are the Nets favorites for either/both guys?
At this point…probably? Brooklyn boasts the advantage of being in a big market, plus they’ve got a better management team in place than the Knicks do. In the scenario where they sign two max players and lose Russell, they still have the other key players who made the Nets a playoff team last year, and in a scenario where they only add one of them, they have Russell and the rest of last year’s core. This isn’t LeBron joining a Lakers team that didn’t have a playoff core in place.
But, while optimism is great, is there a downside to the deal?
Sure. Irving and Durant have been tied to other teams — i.e. the Knicks — as well, which could leave the Nets looking at the next level of max guys. What if all Brooklyn can do is sign Tobias Harris and bring back Russell? In that situation, you have up two first round picks for Taurean Price and cap space that didn’t get you to your ultimate goal. In that scenario, the Nets will still technically be better, but their ceiling feels capped at a level that’s too far below championship level for it to be considered a successful offseason.
Farewell, Allen Crabbe
Was Allen Crabbe’s contract a really, really bad thing to have heading into this Summer?
Does that mean Allen Crabbe’s Nets tenure was bad?
Crabbe’s two years with the Nets weren’t spectacular, but across 118 games, Crabbe averaged 11.9 points per game while shooting 37.8% from three. He was a solid role player who helped the team offensively, and while his PIPM last year was the second worst on the team, he was still useful at times. Crabbe at half the price wouldn’t have been so poorly received, but…well, it took two firsts to get rid of his contract, so it’s understandable why people have discussed him as this front office’s biggest mistake.
Here are a few Allen Crabbe highlights:
Taurean Prince’s potential role
Now, the Nets didn’t just trade Crabbe for a second round pick. Taurean Prince — who is 25 years old and will make around $3.5 million next year — has shown promise.
Prince has shot 38.7% from three on 5.6 attempts per game over the past two seasons and is a better defender than Crabbe. He’ll provide the team with a young, capable wing player who can — barring some disastrous free agency period — play off the bench and provide strong minutes in a role that shouldn’t look too different than Crabbe’s role.
If you forget the draft picks that were given up, the on-court value of having Prince over Crabbe is probably a net positive. Both players had the same -1.3 PIPM last year, but Prince is younger and theoretically has room to improve.
The on-court ramifications of all the other parts of the deal are still up in the air, but Prince should be a good piece for the Nets to have.