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How the Jimmy Butler trade impacts 2019 free agency

Following the Jimmy Butler trade to the Philadelphia 76ers, it appears the 2019 free agency class has lost a candidate. How does this impact the Brooklyn Nets pursuits for next summer?

It’s not all gumdrops and roses anymore. After clearing cap space until kingdom come, the Brooklyn Nets will have fewer max-level free agents to chase than initially thought.

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Philadelphia 76ers sent these pieces to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Jimmy Butler and second-year center Justin Patton: Robert Covington, the 3-and-D wing every team needs, Dario Saric, a Nikola Jokic descendant who was miscast as a stretch-4 in Philadelphia, a 2022 second-round pick, and Jerryd Bayless‘ salary.

According to Wojnarowski, they plan to keep him around:

While Philly won the deal in a vacuum, an already-depleted cupboard of wings stays barren. Sure a big three of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler can compete with almost anyone, but who’s going to do the behind-the-scenes shooting and defending in the same body?

Meanwhile, the Nets have one fewer star to chase next summer. Granted, Brooklyn wasn’t centered in on Butler, or anyone for that matter, which was the whole point of keeping two max slots open. But having one fewer fish to reel in won’t make life easy on anyone.

Not that Nets fans need to be constantly reminded of greener pastures, but the field of potential signees must be restated: Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Khris Middleton lead the way.

With three Eastern Conference rivals in control of three potential 2019 free agent headliners (Irving in Boston, Leonard in Toronto, and Butler in Philly), it’s imperative that the Nets look at other options.

That shrinks the pool a little more, but not enough to curb the front office’s enthusiasm. Imagining Klay coming off screens and firing away like a better version of Joe Harris makes one’s heart melt.

Seeing Middleton used in all the myriad ways he’s capable of being utilized is no joke either, as he headlines the new-wave crop of 3-and-D-and-playmaking wings. Durant taking over the offense catapults Brooklyn into the top tier of the league.

Caris LeVert‘s rise to stardom has helped blow away some fog, too. Now the debate between who to keep long-term between LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell is more a debate of who to pair next to him.

The three-headed monster isn’t too shabby right now, but it’s difficult to see either Dinwiddie or DLo thriving next to LeVert and a star free agent, unless it’s Thompson.

No matter. Natural selection will likely determine the most deserving extension candidate, just as it has determined the crunch-time lineups for Kenny Atkinson so far this season.

Whoever gets re-signed will also provide tea leaves for how the front office attacks free agency schematically. If Russell (restricted) is chosen, Middleton might be a better target of the elites to relieve ball-handling duties.

If ball-dominant Dinwiddie re-signs, a catch-and-shoot maestro like Thompson is a better fit.

If neither re-signs, the efforts to acquire ball-handling stars will be emphasized. Should the duo complement each other well enough to both get extended, that likely means the Nets struck out on the big fish.

This trade is as much about the Sixers as it is for the rest of the league. Now that Philadelphia is basically locking itself into its newly bolstered core, a team that once had significant cap space is now out of the running.

That leaves Brooklyn as the most competitive suitor of teams willing to spend behind the two Los Angeles teams.

Next: The 50 greatest NBA players of all time (updated for 2017-18)

While a player came off the market on Saturday, a competitor of Brooklyn also took itself out of the bidding war. Now it becomes a clash for star power between Hollywood and the Big Apple, as NBA history has seemingly always led us to.

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