With only a month and a half left before the 2019 NBA trade deadline, the Brooklyn Nets are quickly reaching the season’s point of inflection.
Buy or sell? Often a question asked in almost any setting, it applies strongly to the Brooklyn Nets this time around. In recent seasons, the Nets would act as a bank for bad salaries, accruing interest in the form of draft compensation.
But this time around, they have a myriad of paths to choose from. Their choices mainly fall under one of two umbrellas: getting draft pick value for expiring veterans (selling), or getting veteran help to bolster the depth (buying).
So the question becomes prevalent this time of year, but which strategy does Brooklyn undertake? Should the team set itself up for future trades by incurring more picks, or should general manager Sean Marks pull the trigger and go for a playoff berth?
There are obvious pros to both avenues, so let’s outline them.
Knowing the Nets, they will do their best to get as many small victories as possible in favor of the bigger picture. Every trade, signing and draft pick they’ve made in the Marks regime fits right into that philosophy.
For these reasons, it becomes easy to see Marks sniff out value for those he doesn’t see staying around after the season. Several players of various importance on the roster are ticketed for free agency, from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (restricted) to DeMarre Carroll (unrestricted).
Do the Nets think they can afford D’Angelo Russell (restricted) while chasing max-level free agents, and/or is he even worth a big chunk of the team’s cap space after the Spencer Dinwiddie extension? Can Kenneth Faried (unrestricted) garner value from a team desperate for frontcourt depth? Questions like these are at the forefront of discussion among Nets brass.
Getting long-term value for players who probably won’t stick around is always a calculated risk. If Russell commands less than expected in free agency, the Nets could’ve missed the boat to match a cheaper offer sheet. If he gets paid more than the Nets were willing to pay, they can at least say they got something for him.
The risk with trading away veterans, such as Jared Dudley or Ed Davis (both unrestricted) is the intangible side. What does that tell the locker room? The team is finally competitive, ahead of schedule to make the playoffs, arguably, and the front office just wants to punt on the season for a few measly second-rounders?
If Marks gets an offer he can’t refuse, then he’ll bite. But the more realistic outcome is for the front office to go after someone.
This is where it gets fun for fans and analysts alike. The Nets can realistically make a playoff push, as they are currently only one game back of the 8-seed. As a playoff team, they would be the feel-good story of the league, a team that lost 60 games just two seasons prior.
If they want to go down this path, it will probably be for marginal upgrades. It doesn’t seem feasible to reel in a big fish like Bradley Beal or Anthony Davis, because they want to keep their payroll clean for the summer.
The fringes of the roster will be where this team hones in. If one of the expiring veterans on the roster can match salaries with a more valuable contributor, that could be one avenue to improve. If Brooklyn wants to keep all those vets, second round picks for players like Justin Holiday could do the trick.
Draft pick compensation might be tricky though, because the team is so good at drafting that it probably values those picks higher than most franchises would. Treating RHJ as an asset for this type of deal might be feasible, but his experience as a small-ball 5 would be very helpful in a playoff series.
Again, there are pros and cons to any move the Nets make. That’s the beauty of being in such a flexible position: One could argue they don’t have to do anything at all. Marks and his crew have put the team in such a position that no moves have to be made just yet.