Usually, middle-of-the-pack NBA teams, like the Brooklyn Nets, have a long-term plan to contend in the future. Teams look forward to a certain free agent class. Other clubs stockpile first-round draft picks. Some assemble young players.
With all that being said … what’s the Brooklyn Nets’ long-term plan?
Brooklyn is coming off a solid season, advancing past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007. However, the Nets sacrificed their money, youth, and future for owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s championship promise. And, despite the star power and hype, it didn’t come to fruition, leaving Brooklyn in an awkward state of purgatory.
On the bright side, the Nets did work their way into trading for exciting draft picks Markel Brown, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Cory Jefferson, not to mention acquiring the tough and talented Jarrett Jack and the young and promising Sergey Karasev. Although they’re nice pieces, these guys won’t make Brooklyn contenders.
Especially with Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston, and Andray Blatche leaving in free agency, Kevin Garnett declining, Deron Williams under-performing, and Brook Lopez‘s health in question, it seems the Brooklyn Nets are strapped in for a downward spiral.
But how long will that tailspin last? Let’s fast-forward one year.
Plenty of franchises will be looking to restructure their rosters come summer 2015. A handful of helpful players will be on the market, including Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kevin Love (unless he’s traded to the Cavs and signs an extension.)
However, the Brooklyn Nets won’t be one of the those teams with cap flexibility. Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez will all still be under max contracts next offseason. That’s rough.
It gets worse.
Deron Williams will be paid $22 million in the last year of his contract during the 2016-17 season. Crap. Well, at least Brooklyn will have cap room in the summer of 2016, after Lopez and Johnson come off the books, right? Yeah, but who’s gonna wanna team up with D-Will at age 32, when he’s already clearly declining now?
Therefore, it seems the Nets’ only hope may be to convince a few All-Star caliber players to sign with them in the 2016 offseason, knowing that D-Will would be on his way out the following summer. This would clear up cap space for a third All-Star to join the fold in the offseason of 2017.
Let’s hop into my time machine and zoom two years into the future (Maybe I’m looking too far ahead, but isn’t that what Brooklyn’s management should be doing??)…
Two year plans are no stranger to the NBA. After all, every time someone hears a big name is gonna be a free agent, they start preparing their cap situation a few years in advance (cough cough–LeBron James. Twice).
2016′s main prize is Kevin Durant. However, Nets’ ownership hasn’t come out and said they’re going to pursue Durant like the Knicks, Lakers, and Wizards have. This is why we have no idea what Prokhorov’s plan is (besides irrationally hoping for a ring next season).
Still, with a lot of teams clearing cap space for summer 2016, the playing field would be equal for Brooklyn to do the same. That’s what I recommend.
Will Jay-Z bring KD to Brooklyn? It’s too soon to tell, but I wouldn’t count on it. So, who are the other realistic targets for that offseason?
Joakim Noah will be available. Maybe he’ll want a homecoming to Brooklyn, the place where he was born. And maybe, just maybe, Nicolas Batum bolts a loaded Blazers team and signs with the Nets for more money.
With Batum, Plumlee, and Noah in the frontcourt, the Nets could easily lure any one of the myriad of talented guards available in the following summer of 2017. Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague, Russell Westbrook, and DeMar DeRozan will all be on the market, barring extensions. Perhaps Ty Lawson craves a return to the east coast (born in Maryland).
A hypothetical big four of Ty Lawson, Nicolas Batum, Mason Plumlee, and Joakim Noah in 2017. Now that’s a long-term plan. Best-case scenario, of course, but even executing a backup plan could be beneficial. At least have a plan instead of being too prideful to admit your team is mediocre.
Based on my prediction, the Brooklyn Nets won’t be a Top-5 team in the East until at least 2016, and they won’t be a championship contender until at least 2017.
I hope Prokhorov proves me wrong.