What is the most realistic outcome of this offseason for the Brooklyn Nets?
“The most realistic vision of this fall’s Nets is that it’s [Mikal] Bridges, [Nic] Claxton, and [Spencer] Dinwiddie driving the bus with a cohort of scrappy role players and whatever they can get from Simmons,” writes John Hollinger of The Athletic on May 4.
Brooklyn finished the season as the six-seed, going 13-15 after the trade deadline and 11-13 after the All-Star break before getting swept in the first round of the playoffs for the second year in a row, this time with a roster put together on the fly. The hodgepodge nature of the roster figures to lend itself to some fairly significant changes on the horizon.
But Hollinger, the former vice president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, drove home his point about the situation the Nets find themselves in with Simmons in particular.
“I’ve been in this position,” Hollinger writes. “There is really no other option than to ride it out, because a) the possibility of using the contract as matching salary in a trade is just too valuable to pass up, and b) I mean, what’s the alternative? Having $37 million in dead money (or $12 million in stretched money) on the cap each year, just so you can fill that roster spot with a minimum guy who might not even be any better?
“At least, as long as Simmons is still there and in uniform, you have the possibility – the brief glimmer of hope! – that he can have some kind of [Russell] Westbrookian career U-turn that restores some of his value…this is arguably the worst contract in the league right now.”
Simmons, 26, made just 42 appearances this season and none after the All-Star break finishing the season averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists.
The former three-time All-Star was shut down with back soreness on March 28.
But Hollinger also tries “grasping at straws” to figure out how to best utilize Simmons’ uniquely limited skillset. It is a similar issue to what Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn faced during the season when trying to integrate Simmons into the offense.
Hollinger’s co-author Alex Schiffer notes the best version of Simmons would be a “great fit” on this team.
Nets Can Still Have a ‘Good Summer’
“What would make this a good summer,” asks Hollinger. “First, re-signing Johnson at a number they can live with; I think anything less than $90 million over four years is a win. Second, hitting on their draft pick(s) and adding more talent into the pipeline. And third, finding trades that turn their surplus of big wings into trade exceptions and/or draft assets they can use in the future. If they succeed on number three, in fact, we can add a fourth barometer: using their mid-level exception to add another rotation player at either point guard or center.”
Nets general manager Sean Marks has already been vocal on their plans to add to their frontcourt, be it via a big wing or a center.
That player just has to bring some “nastiness” and “Brooklyn grit”.
Cameron Johnson’s Situation Could Get Complicated
According to Hollinger citing sources with knowledge of the situation, Johnson is expected to land a deal worth North of $20 million per season with teams like the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets linked to the 27-year-old sharpshooter.
Hollinger also reiterates that he is hearing the Nets have no interest in letting him walk.
However, former Nets assistant general manager Bobby Marks put a warning out to the Nets about being baited into giving Johnson that deal.
It is worth noting that Johnson’s former team, the Phoenix Suns, did not want to pay him “anything close to that”, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. He showed a broader skill set in Brooklyn than he did in that setting though.
Johnson’s friendship with the Nets’ current building block in Bridges will play a part. And, perhaps, even without that the Nets would be in on keeping Johnson who came over in the trade that sent Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns.