A look into the Brooklyn Nets’ future, part 1: The expendables

Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images /

The Brooklyn Nets are asking for meaningful minutes from their entire depth chart. This four-part series will break down their entire roster to look at what each player brings and what their future with the team looks like.

The injury bug disregarded our plea last week to give the Brooklyn Nets a break on the injuries that have plagued the start of their season. Going into Monday’s contest with the Houston Rockets, Brooklyn added three new ailments to their long injury report. Allen Crabbe (lower back soreness), DeMarre Carroll (upper respiratory), and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (right ankle) all missed Monday’s game.

On one hand, Brooklyn’s injuries have forced coach Kenny Atkinson’s hand, causing him to get creative with starting lineups and in-game rotations. On the other hand, general manager Sean Marks and his staff have been getting valuable scouting time. No players in Brooklyn’s starting five Monday night started on opening night this season, while only three (Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Trevor Booker) even saw playing time in the season opener.

Every player on this roster has seen meaningful minutes so far this year and with the way this season is playing out, expect that to continue.

With that being said, let’s take the information we’ve been given 20 games into the season and have some fun. Over the next four articles, I’m going to break down the entire Nets’ roster into four categories. These categories are going to look into the future of the Brooklyn Nets and separate players according to the appropriate category.

Without spoiling the fun, I’m looking for key future attributes when separating players. Is there value, what’s their contract situation, what have we seen from them so far, and are they part of Brooklyn’s future plans? The only other rule we’re going to implement is that a player can only be listed once in one category. Let’s get started.

Category 1: The Expendables

Our first category is going to look at who on this roster is the most expendable. Expendable doesn’t necessarily mean they lack overall value, it could mean they just lack value for the Brooklyn Nets moving forward.

Don’t think of the four players listed below as renegade type players from the movie The Expendables. Think of them more as four characters in Grey’s Anatomy: In a season or two, they’ll probably be gone.

Tyler Zeller

We’re only 20 games into the season, but it’s starting to appear Tyler Zeller is exactly what we thought he would be. After having a career year during the 2014-15 season with the Boston Celtics, Zeller slowly saw his role diminish before being waived by the team this past summer.  He posted 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in 21.1 minutes for that 14-15 Celtics squad, and now he’s starting to produce similar numbers in Brooklyn.

Zeller has started the past four games due to injuries as well as Brooklyn resting a healthy Mozgov and he’s made the most of it. In those four games Zeller is averaging 8.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 19.4 minutes. He also has a +5.3 plus/minus rating as a starter as opposed to -1.8 rating coming off the bench.

With all that being said, he’s pretty expendable to Brooklyn. He’ll be making $1.7 million this year and has $1.9 million in non-guaranteed money possible for next year. If he wants to stick around in Brooklyn, he’ll have to not only continue performing at his normal rate, but his asking price in 2019 will have to stay the same. Marks won’t bend over backwards for Zeller if his market range inflates to a hypothetical three-year $15 million deal.

Quincy Acy

Quincy Acy is one of those pieces a contending team would absolutely love to have. The narrative around Acy has been he’s a guy with a great work ethic, hustles on both ends, and has a greatly improved 3-point shot.  Anyone with a 3-point shot that can bring it on both ends of the floor during playoff basketball provides real value.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly why he’s expendable with Brooklyn after this season. While any team would love to have what Acy brings to the table, a team ready to compete in the playoffs should be offering him more money this summer than Brooklyn would feel comfortable matching when he hits unrestricted free agency.

Trevor Booker

Trevor Booker is an interesting case. He’s making $9.1 million this year and if you are only looking at the stat line you may inclined to think, “Does someone who’s averaging 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game with a +2.8 plus/minus this season really warrant that kind of money?”

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But it’s the things Booker does that doesn’t show in the box score that makes him really valuable.  He’s got an incredible motor and has a knack for finding the ball and causing chaos. The problem here is similar to Acy: The asking price for Booker on the unrestricted free agency market is probably going to be too rich for Brooklyn’s blood.

Having value as a player can be different than having value to a specific team and Booker is a good example here. Unless he wants to take less money on another one- or two-year deal, it’s hard to see Brooklyn bringing him back. With Booker being 31 and looking for one more relatively big pay day, Brooklyn is going to have to be okay letting him go.

Players like Acy, Booker and even Zeller all play substantial, tangible roles with this Brooklyn team, and yet they might be the most expendable because of the position they’ll all be in after this season. Booker and Acy could easily contribute to a winning team right now, and their price tag come free agency this summer will reflect that. Brooklyn can’t afford to keep them around while also looking to build for the future, and these players deserve to get paid.

Timofey Mozgov

Hear me out: There’s a difference between being expendable and being movable. We’ve already talked about Mozgov, his serious under-performance, and the gaudy contract that’s attached to him.

Sean Marks has his work cut out for him if he realistically wants to move a player averaging 5.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game that’s going to make $48 million the next three years. We all know that.

But Mozgov was the contract Brooklyn had to eat in order to get their potential superstar, and that’s fine. Mozgov is still, in theory, expendable. He is not part of Brooklyn’s long-term plan, and it’s not crazy to think Marks will take the first chance he can to ship Mozgov off (if that chance ever occurs).

Next: 2017-18 Week 7 NBA Power Rankings

Stay tuned for part 2, where I’ll wade through the murky waters that is Brooklyn’s young talent pool.