http://nba.si.com/2013/05/05/offseason-outline-brooklyn-nets/• How can the Nets improve this offseason? Through free agency? The draft? Trade?
Trade and free agency figure to be Brooklyn’s best bets, though navigating either market will require considerable finesse. As far as trades go, the Nets are functionally trapped. They have some essential pieces (Williams and Lopez), some overpaid players that would prove difficult to move (Joe Johnson, Wallace), the expiring contract of Kris Humphries and a handful of marginal assets (Reggie Evans, MarShon Brooks, Mirza Teletovic) that wouldn’t return much value. Maneuvering those elements into a trade package that would actually make the Nets immediately better would range somewhere from tricky to impossible, and yet flipping players remains one of the only means of improvement for a team well above the luxury tax line.
For that reason, free agency isn’t likely to pull any big-ticket player into the Brooklyn fold, though King did do a fine job of filling out his roster with minimum-salary types last summer. Andray Blatche and C.J. Watson had fine seasons on bargain deals, while Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse each made for useful rotation filler at different stages in the season. Nice moves, all, but King will essentially need a repeat performance — or better — if the Nets are to keep improving. Brooklyn doesn’t have Bird rights on any of Blatche, Watson, Bogans, or Stackhouse, which puts the Nets in a difficult position in terms of keeping the best of that group (Blatche and Watson). It’s still possible, but would likely require Brooklyn to cut into its taxpayer mid-level exception as a means of making a competitive offer. Unfortunately for King, the likely group of minimum-salary players in this summer’s free agent pool isn’t so inspiring.
There’s always the possibility that some player or another could take less for a chance to play for a good team — for example: I never would have pegged Watson for the veteran’s minimum after his sturdy 2011-12 season in Chicago — but otherwise you’re looking at additions in the tier of Ryan Hollins, Daniel Gibson, Nazr Mohammed, Earl Watson, or Joel Przybilla. Not a promising lot, and frankly I’d be a bit surprised if another low-cost gamble signing pans out as well for Brooklyn as Blatche did. Best of luck to King as he makes another dig in the bargain bin, but the pickings are slim and the Nets’ cap exceptions slimmer.
• Does Brooklyn have any hope for internal improvement?
A bit, but only because Williams and Wallace are both likely to have better seasons, and neither Teletovic nor Brooks could crack P.J. Carlesimo’s rotation. If either of the latter players are able to give the Nets anything next year, they could help to counterbalance some of Brooklyn’s free-agent departures while the rest of the core builds up its chemistry. Considering all of the spacing and lineup issues in play, every bit of experience and familiarity helps this bunch. Brooklyn may not have the means to become a realistic contender, but the core as-is does stand to improve slightly as they build on all that was established this season.