Nets Linked to $6 Million High-Flying Trade Candidate

Brooklyn Nets

Getty Royce O'Neale #00 and Spencer Dinwiddie #26 of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Brooklyn Nets are on the short-list of teams linked to one of the league’s most athletic players: Houston Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr.

“Keep an eye on the Rockets possibly trading bouncy forward K.J. Martin to create further financial flexibility,” wrote Yahoo Sports NBA insider Jake Fischer on June 27. “The Rockets have held an increasing number of trade calls on Martin with several teams since the NBA draft.

“[The Atlanta Hawks], Phoenix [Suns], and Brooklyn have been mentioned as Martin suitors dating back to the February trade deadline.”

Martin, 22, is heading into the final year of his four-year, $6.1 million rookie contract and had a small breakout averaging 12.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists this past season. However, his three-point efficiency dipped for the second season in a row, falling to a career-worst 31.5% despite similar volume across all three seasons of his NBA career.

His athleticism is still among the best in the game.

Per Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Martin has been “ deemed attainable internally for the right price”.

Martin is the son of beloved former Nets big man Kenyon Martin who was part of the Nets’ back-to-back runs to the NBA Finals in 2001-02 and 2002-03 and who Tom Dowd of ranked 11th in the list of all-time Nets.

It is fair to wonder if the Nets would have the same level of interest in Martin with the 2023 NBA Draft now in the rearview and Brooklyn taking two frontcourt players in Noah Clowney and Jalen Wilson with the Nos. 21 and 51 overall picks. The Nets are already flush with wings like Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale.

Rockets Could Help Nets Duck Luxury Tax

Houston is also one of the teams that are expected to make a run at Nets restricted free agent Cameron Johnson.

Brooklyn is said to be prepared to match any offer Johnson receives which could reach $100 million according to multiple reports including Detroit Pistons beat writer James Edwards of The Athletic. It is unclear how willing Houston would be to help the Nets build out their roster while trying to poach one of their targets if one transaction does not directly impact the other.

The Nets could also look to use the Rockets as a taker for one of its bad contracts.

Houston is one of the few teams that could absorb Ben Simmons and his $37.9 million salary this coming season without sending anything back. Given Simmons’ current value, getting Martin could be viewed as a win for the Nets.

The Rockets will have former Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka at the helm next season. Udoka was an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers during Simmons’ All-NBA season in 2020-21.

Nets’ Finances Could Come Into Play

More than a connection and potential career resuscitation for Simmons, the Nets could take much of the leg work of having to avoid the luxury tax for the non-title-contending team they are as currently constructed by moving Simmons’ remaining $78 million. That gives them the wiggle room to re-sign Johnson and then some.

They also still have all of their options available with Finney-Smith and O’Neale and could earmark that extra wiggle room for big man Nic Claxton.

Heading into the final year of his contract, the NBA’s leader in field goal percentage – and runner-up in blocks per game – this past season is likely in line for a big bump from the two-year, $17.2 million deal he signed in 2022.