The Brooklyn Nets have the necessary cap space to make significant improvements to their roster this summer. Who should they be considering?
The Brooklyn Nets capped off the 2017-18 season in pretty underwhelming fashion. They ended with 28 wins and 58 losses, slightly lower than would have been expected this year.
Since they don’t have their first-round pick this summer (traded to Cleveland via Boston), the Nets’ poor play doesn’t result in extra ping pong balls. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to show for the season. Looking ahead to next year, there are still ways for the Brooklyn Nets to improve in the offseason.
For a team as young as the Nets, perhaps the most important part of any offseason for the future is internal development. D’Angelo Russell, the prized possession of the Nets’ trade with the Lakers last year, showed spark on the offensive end, even though his defense is greatly limited. Spencer Dinwiddie turned into a most improved player candidate with his newfound ability to score, distribute, and defend.
Youngster Jarrett Allen proved to have great potential on the defensive end along with a Clint Capela-like rim running talent. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a young big making a name for himself in the modern no-man’s-land of basketball, the mid-range. Caris LeVert also showed out in the second half of the season, unlocking some of his sky-high potential as a two-way athlete.
Progress from such players means great things for Brooklyn. Lots of their future roster and talent is probably already on the team. What do the Nets still need moving forward this offseason?
Assuming the core from now on is something along the lines of Russell, LeVert, Hollis-Jefferson, Allen, and Dinwiddie (if they don’t cash him in as an asset), then they still have some holes to fill. Possibly the biggest of these is a stretch center or power forward with versatile defensive skills.
The Nets take a ton of threes as a team. They were second in the league in the regular season in three-pointers attempted, with 35.7 per game. This is great for the team strategy moving forward, but the efficiency has been poor.
Per NBA.com, of the top 10 teams in three-point attempts per game, the Nets are ninth in three-point percentage, showing that they are subpar for teams that shoot as much as them. For the league as a whole, the sit at 20th in three-point percentage.
The best way to increase the three-point percentage as a team is to stretch out the floor in as many positions as possible. A key opportunity for the Nets this summer is to secure a big man that can defend multiple positions and more importantly, hit open threes. For this season, the bigs that were shooters as well were DeMarre Carroll, Quincy Acy, and Dante Cunningham.
Carroll was a very respectable three-point shooter this year and has been throughout his career, but unfortunately, he is unlikely to be a part of the Nets’ future due to age. Acy became a league-average shooter from deep, but he may not command rotation minutes moving forward and is up for a new contract this summer. Cunningham is certainly not a rotation guy for the future and was a low-production option anyway. He also requires a new contract this offseason.
Jarrett Allen looks like a great center of the future, but his jump shot is not ready to be used as a weapon. Hollis-Jefferson could be that guy potentially, but now in his third year, he has still not been impactful as a three-point shooter.
The Nets really do not have a stretch option to play next year, and it’s a large reason why their high-rate of three-point shooting strategy may not lead to wins. The key to unlocking this play style to its full potential is a Serge Ibaka or Chris Bosh type of big. This would force defenses to stay honest with players on the perimeter and allow easier driving lanes to the basket.
With Dinwiddie’s and LeVert’s ability to attack, driving becomes easier if help is unable to rotate. If it does, kick it out to the open shooter, rather than Hollis-Jefferson who can’t make that play.
Although there are options inside the organization, there might be other options not currently on the Nets roster.
A few active players could possibly fill this role. Dewayne Dedmon proved to be a reliable defender in San Antonio two years ago, and throughout this season, became a solid shooter on moderate usage (35.5 percent on 2.3 attempts in 24.9 minutes per game). He has a player option for next year with Atlanta worth $6.3 million. But he’s 28 already, so he may not be a perfect fit for the Nets’ future success.
An interesting piece that could be traded for is Myles Turner from the Indiana Pacers. Turner is one of the league’s very best as a big that can pick-and-pop and shoot corner threes very well. He shot 35.7 percent on 2.4 three-point attempts per game, but also went through some struggles with injuries. He looked much better than his numbers imply.
Theoretically, he would be a good fit offensively while also offering rim protection. He’s only 21-years-old and could be the center of the Nets’ future if they are willing to pay the price. He would significantly raise the team’s offensive ceiling and turn Russell, Dinwiddie, and LeVert into much better players with his added spacing.
Tobias Harris is a home run swing. As a 6-foot-9 power forward with great defensive talent and very accurate three-point shooting, Harris would be awesome in Brooklyn.
This year he made 41.1 percent of his threes on 5.6 attempts per game. With experimental coach Kenny Atkinson’s futuristic lineups, Harris could even survive as a small-ball center. He would stretch out defenses to the max, and allow the Nets’ guards to wreak havoc.
Harris is 25-years-old and signed through next season, but making him a priority for a trade this offseason could be an incredible option to improve young Brooklyn.
Love him or hate him, but Jabari Parker could become a steal this offseason, depending on how teams end up valuing him.
This summer features few teams with cap space to spend on players. With this restricted demand for an expensive player, the Nets could possibly make a good offer. This choice might be a stretch, but his potential to be an all-star is still possible. This postseason for the Milwaukee Bucks, Parker showed that deep down somewhere, he can play ruthless defense. The question has always been his effort.
As for shooting, he improved his accuracy on threes, albeit on a low sample size (31-for-81 in 31 games this regular season). This would be a gamble, but his price could fall this offseason. He was once a lock for a max contract, but having two torn ACLs this early in his career may hurt that.
His reputation for his defense is also poor, which should limit possible suitors. There is an alternate universe for the future where Parker is a versatile defender that can shoot and attack. He would also be a star for the city that needs one desperately. The risk is high, but the reward could be franchise-altering.
Nikola Mirotic is a more surefire option for Brooklyn. He is due $12.5 million next year by the Pelicans, but this season has been a monster success for New Orleans and Mirotic. He disproved all the allegations as a poor defender by playing hard-nosed defense against the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of this year’s playoffs.
As a shooter, he is a fireball. This year, he shot 37.7 percent on 6.5 three a game as a power forward. He would ignite Atkinson’s offense. He is also relatively cheap for his role. Trading for him this summer could be risky, but waiting until next summer might be too late. Mirotic has plenty left to give and Brooklyn would be an amazing fit, while also not losing too much cap space.
Otto Porter or Robert Covington
These last two possibilities are incredibly similar. Otto Porter from the Washington Wizards and Robert Covington from the Philadelphia 76ers. Both are very tall at just about 6-foot-9 and versatile defenders.
Porter, when healthy, has been able to guard anything from shooting guards to small-ball power forwards. Covington will most likely see All-Defensive nods after this postseason doing the same. Both are also absolutely lethal from deep. Covington shot 36.9 percent on 6.9 three-point attempts per game this year. Otto shot a miraculous 44.1 percent on 4.1 attempts per game.
Both of these players’ teams will be looking to replace these guys if given the opportunity. The Wizards payroll is a mess and Porter makes roughly $26 million next year. He is signed through 2020-21 on a player option worth about $28.4 million. Covington just signed to his extension through four more years. Next year, he makes a little over $10 million and in 2021-2022 he will make just under $13 million. He is a steal on that contract.
For both players, trading some future assets would be necessary, but also worth it. These guys capitalize on the gem of modern basketball: three-point shooting and defensive prowess. Both are also quite young and signed long term. They would boost the team on both sides of the ball and rapidly increase their rate of growth.
A strong offseason this summer is not an absolute necessity for a team as young as the Brooklyn Nets. They are still years away from what they are meant to be as a playoff contender. But this doesn’t mean they can’t speed up the process. Signing one of these bigs who have potentially versatile defense along with stretchy offense could shore up the weaknesses the Nets have on defense and deeply boost their perimeter-focused offense.