Nets offseason preview: Kyrie Irving contract, potential trades and more

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Nets offseason preview: Kyrie Irving contract, potential trades and more

Nets

Nets offseason preview: Kyrie Irving contract, potential trades and more

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If there is one word to sum up the Brooklyn Nets over the past few seasons, it’s inconsistency. Their defense fell apart this year and their bench lacked reliable role players for a large chunk of it. There was much unavailability for a myriad of reasons, which created too many variables for this Nets team to overcome. Until they remain consistent and available, they are more theoretical than actual contenders.

Aside from getting and staying healthy, Brooklyn’s main focus this offseason will be retooling their bench around their new All-Star trio. They have several free agents to make decisions on as well as a couple of players with pending player options who can also enter free agency. The Nets will also have the taxpayer mid-level exception as well as several sizeable trade exceptions they can use to make further additions to the roster.

Kyrie Irving's next contract

AP Photo/Morry Gash

The biggest story of the Nets’ 2021 offseason was that their big three of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving were all eligible for extensions that would’ve been equal to the amounts they could’ve received as free agents. Durant signed his extension while Harden and Irving did not, causing speculation on their respective futures with the team. Harden was later traded to the Philadelphia 76ers while Irving has expressed his intent on re-signing with the Nets.

Irving has a player option worth $36.9 million that there’s a good possibility he will decline. He would be eligible to re-sign with the Nets this offseason for up to five years, $247.6 million. He could also decline his player option and avoid free agency by extending with the Nets for up to four years, $191.3 million. If he were to leave Brooklyn, he can sign with a new team for up to four years, $183.6 million.

After a 2020-21 season where Irving took several surprise hiatuses from the team, and a 2021-22 season where he missed 65 percent of games due to New York City’s vaccination mandate, it may be fair to question if Irving is a no-brainer maximum player going forward. However, the Nets are capped out and wouldn’t be able to replace him if he leaves. Irving is undoubtedly a maximum caliber player purely based on talent and is worth every dollar when he plays. We’ve grown accustomed to expecting the unexpected with Irving and the Nets, but the Brooklyn locking up their All-Star guard on a new long-term contract seems like the more expected outcome.

Re-sign their other top free agents

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Patty Mills is the other Nets player with a pending player option. It is worth $6.2 million but he can decline it and become an unrestricted free agent. Mills started the season shooting the lights out and was vital to the Nets’ 24-12 start prior to Irving’s season debut. He was looking like a Sixth Man of the Year candidate but cooled down as the season went on yet remains a great cost-effective backup guard. If he opts out, the Nets will hold his Non Bird rights and can re-sign him for up to four years, $31.6 million, with a $7.1 million starting salary.

Bruce Brown will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason since he accepted his qualifying offer for this season. The four-year combo guard had a slow start to the season but had a strong finish helping the Nets remain in the playoff picture. The Nets will hold his Bird rights so they won’t have any limitations in re-signing him.

It will be interesting to see what a versatile guard who can defend so many positions like Brown and Gary Payton II gets offered in free agency. The big question for the Nets is if they are willing to give him a significant raise for what could become a reduced role for him when Ben Simmons returns. He could thrive in a small-ball lineup featuring the Brooklyn All-Star trio and Seth Curry to close games.

Nicolas Claxton will become a restricted free agent this offseason. The third-year center has been inconsistent and often unavailable but has shown strong flashes when given the opportunity. He was out of the Nets rotation early in the season which put him on the trade block ahead of February’s trade deadline, but he has since been a solid contributor off the bench. He could now be a priority for the Nets to bring back now with so much uncertainty at the center position.

Mid-level exception and potential trades

nba free agency stock watch drummond bamba tyus jones louis williams covington schroeder

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Brooklyn will have access to the taxpayer mid-level exception (MLE) projected at $6.4 million. One possibility for the Nets is reserving it for Andre Drummond since it would be their best chance at retaining him. Otherwise, they are limited to re-signing him to a $3.4 million salary. It’s also possible bringing back Drummond is out of their control if offers exceed the $6.4 million MLE amount.

The Nets might actually be better off prioritizing using the MLE on a backup wing player. They could create a formidable big man rotation if they re-sign Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe makes a leap, especially since they could probably get a solid third-stringer for the veteran minimum. With Brown’s return also uncertain, securing a 3-and-D wing might be a better use of their MLE.

Despite their high payroll, the Nets have the means to make significant trades. They have five trade exceptions, including one worth $11.3 million and another worth $6.3 million. If they choose to convey the first-round pick the Sixers owe them for this year’s draft, they could look to package it with one of these exceptions for a player or two. If they want to acquire a more expensive player, they could attach it and the other 2027 first-round pick the Sixers owe them with Joe Harris in a trade.

2022-23 SALARY SITUATION

Guaranteed salaries: $160,553,677

Non-guaranteed salaries: $1,563,518

Total salary: $162,117,195

Luxury tax space: $13.1 million over the luxury tax ($24 million tax payment)

Exceptions:

Taxpayer Mid-level: $6,392,000

James Harden trade exception: $11,306,904 (expires on February 10, 2023)

DeAndre Jordan trade exception: $6,267,918 (expires on August 19, 2022)

Spencer Dinwiddie trade exception: $3,246,530 (expires on July 7, 2022)

Paul Millsap trade exception: $1.69,178 (expires on February 10, 2023)

Sekou Doumbouya trade exception: $1,293,680 (expires on October 6, 2022)

Landry Shamet trade exception: $118,342 (expires on July 6, 2022)

Kevin Durant

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $44,119,845

Remaining salary guaranteed: $192,515,908 through 2025-26

Additional notes: Durant has a 15 percent trade bonus that would be voided if traded since he is already earning a maximum salary.

Kyrie Irving

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $36,934,550 (player option)

Remaining salary guaranteed: $36,934,550

Additional notes: Irving can decline his $36.9 million player option and become an unrestricted Bird free agent.

He is eligible to extend for up to four years, $183.6 million by June 30, 2022, provided he declines his player option for 2022-23. He is also eligible to re-sign with the Nets for up to five years, $247.6 million. Either scenario would have Irving earn a maximum salary next season projected at $42.7 million.

Irving has $1.15 million in incentives next season, $431,250 of which are considered likely.

Ben Simmons

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $35,448,672

Remaining salary guaranteed: $113,680,224 through 2024-25

Additional notes: Simmons will become extension-eligible starting on July 16 through the day before the regular season for up to two years, $88.1 million.

Joe Harris

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2022-23 salary: $18,642,857

Remaining salary guaranteed: $38,571,428 through 2023-24

Additional notes: Harris is extension-eligible starting on July 7 through the day before the regular season for up to three years, $77.5 million.

He also has $500,000 in unlikely incentives.

Seth Curry

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $8,496,653

Remaining salary guaranteed: $8,496,653

Additional notes: Curry is extension-eligible throughout the season for up to four years, projected at $59 million.

Patty Mills

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $6,184,500 (player option)

Remaining salary guaranteed: $6,184,500

Additional notes: Mills can decline his $6.2 million player option and become a Non Bird unrestricted free agent. He would be able to re-sign with the Nets for up to four years, $31.6 million.

Cam Thomas

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2022-23 salary: $2,138,160

Remaining salary guaranteed: $8,419,569 through 2024-25 (assuming team options on last two seasons are picked up)

Day'Ron Sharpe

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $2,109,480

Remaining salary guaranteed: $8,308,642 through 2024-25 (assuming team options on last two seasons are picked up)

Kessler Edwards

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $1,563,518 (team option)

Remaining salary guaranteed: $1,563,518

Additional notes: Edwards would become a Non-Bird restricted free agent if the Nets decline his $1.6 million team option. If they do, they can re-sign him for up to four years, $8.7 million.

Bruce Brown

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Cap hold: $8,998,594

Type of free agent: Bird (unrestricted)

Nicolas Claxton

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $2,228,276

Type of free agent: Bird (restricted)

Additional notes: Claxton can still avoid free agency and extend with the Nets by June 30, 2022 for up to four years, $55.6 million.

LaMarcus Aldridge

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Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Early Bird (unrestricted)

Goran Dragic

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird (unrestricted)

Andre Drummond

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird (unrestricted)

Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin, Brooklyn Nets

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird (unrestricted)

David Duke Jr.

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Cap hold: $1,616,044

Type of free agent: Non Bird (restricted)

2022 Pick No. 23

2022-23 salary: $2,553,960

Remaining salary guaranteed: $12,531,332 through 2025-26 (assuming team options on last two seasons are picked up)

Additional notes: This draft pick is owed to Brooklyn from Philadelphia as part of the James Harden trade. The Nets have until June 1, 2022 to decide whether they want to convey it in this years draft, or defer it to the 2023 NBA draft.

HoopsHype and ForTheWin’s draft expert Bryan Kalbrosky has Ismael Kamagate as the 23rd overall selection in his most recent mock draft. Kalbrosky also has Nikola Jovic ranked as the 23rd best prospect in his most recent big board.

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