‘Under Construction” Sign On Nets Roster Remains With KD and Kyrie Still In Limbo
The NBA never sleeps, but sometimes even its go-getters need to take a step back. As such, this segment of the calendar often finds team executives on vacation, which is why transactions are slowing to a trickle.
Nets General Manager Sean Marks is reportedly among those on holiday, though I doubt any exec is truly off the grid, leaving a Woj Bomb lurking as a possibility, especially when it comes to disgruntled superstar Kevin Durant, who has yet to rescind his trade request, and fellow star Kyrie Irving, who is also said to be in limbo.
The latest insider updates, however, have been no updates at all, as neither player has attracted an offer which Marks can’t refuse. It’s quite possible that the status quo will prevail into September’s training camp.
Unfortunately, that means the “Under Construction” sign will also remain affixed above Brooklyn’s roster sheet for a while, which presents its own set of problems.
The Nets currently total 12 players with fully guaranteed contracts for the 2022-23 season, with wing Edmond Sumner’s two-year free agent contract only guaranteed for $250,000. Alondes Williams received one of Brooklyn’s two two-way allotments, though after his gruesome performance in the Las Vegas Summer League last week, I would hope that his hold on that slot is tenuous.
NBA clubs may bring up to 20 players to training camp before cutting down to 15 plus the two-way’s, so Marks has plenty of capacity to shop whenever his business resumes. However, the uncertainty surrounding the two stars further complicates what is already a dwindling market for available players. For if KD were indeed traded, I am confident he’d be the best player in the deal, which would likely mean that Brooklyn would receive extra bodies as compensation (on top of draft picks). Some of those players might be salary cap filler and waived, but if the brunt of the return doesn’t include contributors for this season, Marks might as well follow Durant out of town.
Ergo, Marks has to save some roster slots so that he isn’t cutting players with guaranteed contracts. Remember: A) None of the mentioned teams who have reportedly engaged Brooklyn could take KD’s $44.1 million cap hit into space, so they’d have to send back to the Nets at least approximately $35 million in salaries; and B) Even after such a trade, the Nets would still be over the luxury tax threshold, so every dollar the Nets would have to eat in waived guaranteed contracts comes with exponential tax penalties. Good luck to Marks on selling that to owner Joseph Tsai. It’s one thing to break the bank chasing an NBA championship--it’s quite another to do it while blowing it all up.
On the other hand, holding steady also carries some risks. What if KD and Kyrie are amenable to running it back one more year in pursuit of that elusive title? That would be fantastic, but the Nets are far from a finished product capable of completing the task. While the return to health of Ben Simmons and Joe Harris would certainly improve the team’s fortunes, there are glaring holes that would have to be filled with the open roster slots.
Brooklyn has just two centers (Nicolas Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe) under contract. Both are young and raw while neither has shown they can stretch the floor on offense, a necessity when the non-shooting Simmons is also on the court. There’s a healthy list of centers still on the shelf, including former Nets Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, neither of whom saw much action in Brooklyn’s four-game sweep by Boston in the first round of the playoffs. I would be shocked if either returned.
I also can’t see Marks bringing in a wild card like DeMarcus Cousins, especially if it would cost the Nets the taxpayer midlevel exception (plus taxes). Hassan Whiteside is also out there, but he wouldn’t solve the underlying spacing problem. Centers tend to be more likely to enter the buyout market after the trade deadline, but in my view, that would be too much of a gamble for Marks.
The Nets could also use a point guard behind the unreliable Simmons and Irving. Patty Mills, Seth Curry, and Cam Thomas all struggled in their opportunities to run the show last season, so it’s on Marks to bring in a capable reserve. Unfortunately, the pickings there are even slimmer (Cleveland’s Collin Sexton is a restricted free agent and, hence, out of Brooklyn’s price range)—it’s either Dennis Schroder or trash. Considering how Schroder flamed out when given the reins in Boston last season before he was offloaded to Houston, he’d be no sure thing.
Of course, the worst-case scenario would be that Durant isn’t traded and he (or in a mutual decision) decides that the best course of action would be for him to sit out until the right deal emerges. Then you’d be looking at a bad and incomplete team.
It turns out that as much as Marks—and every Nets fan—need a vacation from this mess of a situation, the layoff really doesn’t help matters.