The Brooklyn Nets’ slide could significantly impact their offseason plans. And, if they make one player available in particular, they may find a highly-motivated trade partner in the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I don’t think you’re going to be able to get into a Mikal Bridges discussion if he becomes available, though maybe you are” speculated Dan Favale on the ‘Hardwood Knocks’ podcast on March 23. “You talk about there were four first-round picks on the table for him. If you come over the top with Terance Mann and two first[-round picks] that are far off into the future, that might actually beat that offer.”
There was a report from Michael Scotto of HoopsHype confirming it was the Grizzlies mentioned in earlier reporting from Zach Lowe on the ‘Lowe Post Podcast’ about that offer.
Brooklyn declined that package and Bridges has only continued to prove his worth.
He is averaging 25.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and just under 1.0 steals per game since being traded from the Phoenix Suns. He’s also knocking down 39.8% of his looks from beyond the arc.
Bridges has also made a fan of head coach Jacque Vaughn who has praised his willingness to be coached despite his talent among other things.
But the Nets have fallen into the Play-In Tournament amid a five-game losing streak. So how the rest of this regular season and playoffs go could weigh heavily on what Nets general manager Sean Marks looks to do with a team that could be very expensive next season for a non-title contender.
That is where Favale’s idea could come into play.
“You can trade a 2028 first-round pick, a 2030 first-round pick, and then a swap in 2029,” argues Favale. “So you have some equity to attach to some digestible contracts when you look at the expiring deal of Marcus Morris Sr., teams would probably view Ivica Zubac as an asset, Robert Covington…Let’s throw Terance Mann in here…Even Norman Powell’s deal because it runs so long.”
Is Terance Mann Plus Draft Capital Enough for Mikal Bridges?
Mann, 26, would be the clear centerpiece of that potential deal route. He is averaging 8.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists this season entering play on Thursday– a step back from his 2022 campaign that had some thinking he may be about to break through.
He is still doing a lot of good things for the fifth-seeded Clippers.
The 6-foot-5 guard is set to begin a two-year, $22 million extension next season meaning the Nets could hold on to him into the season for evaluation purposes.
Zubac is the only other player mentioned who is under 30 years old. But, while the 26-year-old big man is a walking double-double averaging 10.6 points and 10.1 boards, the remaining two years and over $22 million left on his deal seem like an overpay for a backup that does not offer any offensive variance from starter Nic Claxton.
Given the Nets’ rebounding issues, Zubac’s lack of offense is less of a concern than the money.
Morris Sr.’s expiring deal could be used much like Jae Crowder’s was following the trade that brought Bridges to Brooklyn. That is, the 33-year-old could be acquired and then immediately rerouted to recoup even more assets that better align with a future timeline.
There are similar reasons that acquiring Covington and his expiring salary could be an attractive piece to get back in a potential deal.
Powell, 29, is an asset in the same vein as Spencer Dinwiddie or Dorian Finney-Smith.
If they had a superstar to build around, he would be a quality addition to fill out the roster. But the Nets are giving away the closest thing they have to a superstar in this scenario meaning Powell’s greatest value is as a future trade chip. Due to his deal, which runs through 2026, they would not have to rush on a decision, though it would be best to move him at peak value to get back the greatest return.
Draft Capital is the Great Equalizer
What the Nets want to do will also be guided largely by the fact that they do not control their own draft picks following the trade for James Harden from the Houston Rockets. While they got some draft capital back by sending Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers and by moving Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, it does not behoove them to go into the tank.
Not all draft picks are created equal and a known commodity such as Mann could be appealing.
The potential offer from the Grizzlies may be more immediate but the picks from the Clippers could come well after they are trying to win with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
There are no clear paths forward for the Nets, not coming off of title hopes with Durant and Irving. At least keeping themselves in the playoff picture consistently going forward has to be their main focus in any move.