Welcome to the Next Step. Your favorite team was eliminated in the first round and now you’re sitting on your palms. What’s next for them though? Can they improve in the offseason? This series is taking a look at all eight of the teams eliminated in the first round and looking forward past the playoffs to the offseason. Specifically, the following paragraphs will be looking at free agency, draft, and other possibilities for the team to improve.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the Brooklyn Nets. They were bounced in five games by the Philadelphia 76ers despite winning (decidedly) in game one. They have one All-Star, D’Angelo Russell. They also have a slew of young productive players. Let’s take a look at what they can do in free agency.
The Nets have one of the best free agent situations around. They’ll have $46.9 million to play with if they rescind both Rondae Hollis Jefferson and D-Lo. The latter is very unlikely, and his next contract is difficult to pinpoint. Is he worth a max? His best attributes are his mid-range shots and floaters, two (typically) inefficient shots. He doesn’t do much on defense and seeks his own shot before passing. However, he has become a sort of emotional leader for this young team. I think Spencer Dinwiddie is a better overall player on a cheap contract, but the Nets are going to resign Russel. They’ll still have ample cap space to play with, especially if they trade one of their big contracts (more on this later).
Beyond that, though, the Nets are a great free agent landing space. They have an incredibly talented coaching staff, a number of young productive players, a top-tier team culture, and they play in a big market. They also have a savvy general manager who truly cares for his team (see: storming into refs locker room). They are considered one of the most attractive landing spots this offseason. I think they are a lock for a 2nd tier star, if not a top tier one. KD and Kyrie have both been rumored for the Knicks, maybe they would prefer a non-Dolan New York team? I think they will end up with one of Philly’s free agents. Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris. Book it.
A change from years past, the Nets actually have several picks in this year’s draft. They have two first round picks, their own at 17 and Denver’s at 27. They also have the Knicks’ 31st pick which is basically a first rounder in itself. I wouldn’t worry about them being lower picks, the Nets have hit on those before. In the draft before this season, the Nets took Rodions Kurucs with the 40th pick. He started 46 games for the playoff-bound Nets this season. They took Jarrett Allen at 22 in the 2017 draft, and he started in every game he played this year. That’s two starters with those picks. If the Nets choose to keep these picks, they can hit on them.
The Nets could pursue some trades to improve the team as well. They could consider a sign-and-trade with D-Lo to avoid losing him for nothing should they decide to move on from him. They could use their picks and young players to land a disgruntled star or a 2nd tier guy (did someone say Jrue Holiday?). Most likely, though, they’ll be packaging one of their first rounders (or both) to clear out more cap space so they can sign more stars. The most obvious choice is Allen Crabbe. He has a player option worth over $18 million and he would be foolish to turn it down. Trading him would clear up another max slot for the Nets, a slot they will most likely be able to utilize. Teams like Cleveland or Chicago would gladly take a first for that contract.
The Nets have one of the easiest paths to improvement after being eliminated this year. They can open up two max slots and have the clout to attract high-level free agents to fill those spots. They have been very good in the draft and have several picks to improve that way as well. This time next year we may be writing about the Next Step for whichever team the Nets sent home in the first round.