With the NBA Trade Deadline rapidly approaching, Sean Marks and his staff are looking for a change in Brooklyn. Marks, who recently celebrated his one-year anniversary as General Manager of the Nets, will be going through his first trade deadline this week. Judging by his offseason moves, he will make calculated risks. With the Nets currently in a barren situation, with a lack of both draft picks and talent, the impetus is there to acquire as many assets as they can. Here are a few trade storylines to watch as the clock approaches zero (or 3:00 PM Eastern Time).
Both the Nets’ best player and biggest trade asset, the veteran center is no stranger to trade rumors. Lopez has been involved in trade rumors involving Dwight Howard and the Magic, Reggie Jackson and the Thunder, and countless others. Yet, with the constant rumors, Lopez seems unfazed. The yearly Lopez trade rumors have become almost a ritual for Nets fans.
Several potential teams that would benefit from the services of Lopez have already completed deals. The Portland Trailblazers and the Denver Nuggets swapped big men, with Mason Plumlee donning the blue and gold, and Jusuf Nurkic (and a 1st round pick) headed to the Pacific Northwest. Obviously, the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that even had an offer for Lopez ready, has already moved on, acquiring DeMarcus Cousins (just in case you haven’t heard.) Other teams such as the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls may have an interest in Lopez, but realistic offers have not materialized yet.
The DeMarcus Cousins trade has serious ramifications for a potential Lopez trade. Last week, rumors swirled, with the Pelicans reportedly offering Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, Tim Frazier, and a first round pick for Lopez, per Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Nets declined the offer, and the Kings swooped in, acquiring a similar package for the All-Star Cousins.
The Cousins trade sets a precedent for any potential Lopez trade. Yes, the Cousins trade has been universally lauded as a very weak return for a top-15 player, a potential franchise changer being exchanged for mostly spare parts and a non-lottery draft pick. Sean Marks’ reported asking price of two first round picks may not come to fruition with the market price set so low. With very few potential buyers left on the market, the Nets may seem out of luck.
Recently, there have been rumblings for a Lopez to the Indiana Pacers trade, as reported by Peter Vecsey. The Nets’ return would include Al Jefferson, Rodney Stuckey, and a 1st round pick in exchange for their star. In the aftermath of the Cousins trade, Sean Marks may have to recalibrate his asking price for potential buyers.
Sean Marks may elect to keep Brook Lopez for the rest of the season. The Nets may receive a better package for Lopez in the offseason, with teams having greater cap freedom to absorb the $20M contract of Lopez and with draft positions set in stone. There is also the potential of the Brook Lopez-Jeremy Lin duo. With Lin set to return to the Nets after the All-Star Break (and trade deadline), the front office may be interested in seeing what the Nets have in the two veterans. The two have only been on the court for 180 minutes together, per basketball-reference. With the market set on a Lopez trade.
Depending on the source, some may say that swingman Bojan Bogdanovic is a more attractive trade asset than Lopez. A sharpshooter that has been consistent for the Nets, Bogdanovic could slide into a sixth man role for any team in need of a scoring punch. Yes, his flaws are well known: he tends to struggle defensively, especially as a starting wing. But Bogdanovic will be a Restricted Free Agent this summer, and the team acquiring Bogdanovic will retain his bird rights. That’s a key detail for teams that are capped out but still looking to add quality talent.
Several teams are looking for wing depth. The Washington Wizards, in particular, have expressed interest in Bogdanovic, among other shooters, per Adrian Wojnarowski. Ideally, the Nets would want a first round pick in exchange for Bogdanovic. While likely to be a late-round selection, adding another first rounder would allow the Nets to add more talent without their own draft pick both this year and next year. Other teams could also use a player the caliber of Bogdanovic as well. The aforementioned New Orleans Pelicans gave up several key role players in the Cousins deal. They may want to add a shooter as a deadly weapon in their run to make the playoffs. With Terrence Ross gone from Toronto, they may be looking to bolster their bench as well.
Bojan Bogdanovic is likely to command upwards of $10 million per year in the Restricted Free Agent market this summer. The Nets, likely looking to go younger, may not match an RFA offer for Bogdanovic, so now may be the time to part ways with him. In the process, the Nets can acquire an asset, rather than watching him walk away empty handed. While the Nets may keep Brook Lopez, Bogdanovic is likely to be moved.
Veterans and Contract Absorbing
The Nets have three veterans that could potentially draw interest in the form of second-round picks. Luis Scola, Trevor Booker, and Randy Foye are high character veterans that would be a nice end of the bench pieces for potential playoff teams. While they may not garner high profile attention, acquiring second rounders again gives the Nets another chance to add young talent. Foye and Scola, the two oldest players on the Nets, will be free agents this summer. They may eventually be part of the buyout market post-trade deadline, but it will be interesting to see if Sean Marks can acquire any sort of value for the two solid veterans.
Another (non-player) asset the Nets have is cap space. They are several million dollars under the salary cap floor, so they can absorb up to $16 million dollars in contracts. This could be important, as the Nets can act as a third team for uneven trades. They can acquire talent or more draft picks just for paying the price of a contract. For example, if Jimmy Butler were to be traded to the Celtics, the Nets could absorb the expiring contracts of Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller in exchange for some type of compensation. The Nets’ flexibility could be their biggest weapon leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline.
At 9-47, this Brooklyn Nets season is essentially over. The team will now be looking to develop their young pieces, and assess whom to retain next season. With two interesting trade chips in Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic, the Nets are in a position to sell. With their salary cap flexibility, the Nets may also look to do other teams a favor, and absorb bloated contracts for some compensation. Sean Marks is sure to be active in the next few days. His phone will be ringing, for sure. Nets fans are hoping for some trade deadline optimism amidst a ho-hum season.