In only a few minutes, the Brooklyn Nets are scheduled to make their season debut … for real this time. The Nets are a sexy team this year, given their very active offseason that most notably included the permanent move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the re-signing of Deron Williams and a trade for the Atlanta Hawks’ Joe Johnson.
This is a playoff team, let’s not fool ourselves. But this is not a championship contending club, nor will it be any time soon.
Cap flexibility, or lack thereof…
I understand the win-now-or-else mindset in Brooklyn, I do, but I don’t understand the move for Joe Johnson. BK now owes Joe Johnson, a very good second- or third-tier star, close to $90 million over the next four years. The Nets also signed Brook Lopez to a four-year, $60 million deal, which he’s not worth; Kris Humphries to a two-year, $24 million deal, which he’s not worth; and Gerald Wallace to a four-year, $40 million deal, which he’s not worth. You get the picture.
And with Williams locked up for five years at the cut rate of $98 million, which he’s worth every penny of, BK has a cap roll exceeding $85 million. Hell, the Nets have almost $78 million in payroll locked up … for 2014-15, even after Humphries’ $12 million per comes off the books.
Of course, this isn’t an issue for Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov, whose net worth exceeds $13 billion (with a b), according to a Forbes valuation in March. Almost $30 million over the league’s $58 million cap? Pay the luxury tax!
But this roster is not good enough…
Luxury tax means no free agent signings, or at least none that pay more than the league’s mid-level exception, putting the Nets between a rock and a hard place. They seem to want a build a super-team, ala the Miami Heat, especially considering their failed courting of Dwight Howard … and Orlando Magic executives. But they don’t have a third star, and that’s if we’re going to consider Joe Johnson, a career 16.9 points per game scorer in the playoffs, a star; Chris Bosh, the lowest scoring member of Miami’s “Big Three,” has a career 17.6 points per game average in the postseason.
Nor is their roster deep enough. Miami won a championship with timely shooting from Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Norris Cole and Mike Miller. New Jersey’s bench roster, though with a few nice pieces like MarShon Brooks, Josh Childress and C.J. Watson, hardly strikes that same kind of fear into opposing defenders.
So … now what?
Well, Brooklyn, based on Williams and Johnson alone, is a playoff team. But putting them in the same sentence as heavyweights Boston or Miami is not practical, and whether they can beat second-tier teams like Indiana, Chicago (first-tier upon Rose’s return), Philadelphia and New York remains to be seen.
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