NBA

The Nets have other decisions beyond what to do with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving

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It’s getting late in the offseason. According to one estimate, there are only 18 open spots in the league, not counting bilateral contracts or training camp invitations. The Nets, paralyzed by trade demand for Kevin Durant (or if you like, demand) and uncertainty surrounding Kyrie Irving, still have a lot of decisions to make before camp opens the last week of September.

They currently only have 12 players on guaranteed NBA deals — including KD and Kyrie — as well as a partially guaranteed deal (Edmond Sumner) and a two-way deal (Alondes Williams). That gives them two open spots on the roster and a two-way deal, some flexibility if a trade emerges for Durant and Irving where the Nets will have to hire additional bodies.

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David Duke Jr. remains a restricted free agent who could fit into either or both of those standard offers. As our Chris Milholen reported, Duke wants a standard deal but the Nets remain uncertain, their decision no doubt also affected by what happens with the more expensive talent.

Brooklyn has never used its $6.5 million MLE taxpayer, whether it’s because they haven’t seen anyone worth it or their unstable roster has caused free agents to look elsewhere. There is no deadline to sign one or more players using this exception, but there is one on their $6.3 million trade exception from last year’s DeAndre Jordan salary waiver. It will expire one week from Friday. (The other three TPEs are all small – between $1.3 million and $2.5 million – and unlikely to play a significant role in deals.)

Then there are two possible extensions. As Alex Schiffer reports, Thursday is the first day the Nets can negotiate with Ben Simmons and Seth Curry on multi-year extensions to their deals.

On Thursday, Ben Simmons and Seth Curry, the two Harden trade grand prizes of February, are both eligible for the extension. Simmons, who will earn $35.4 million this season, is eligible for a two-year extension worth up to $88 million starting in 2025. Curry can be extended up to four years and $58 million dollars.

Schiffer doesn’t think the Nets will engage in negotiations for any major moves at the time. For Simmons, the reasoning is obvious. When he takes the floor (hopefully) in October, he won’t have played since June 20, 2021. The Nets will want to see how he’s doing and if he’s healthy. Back surgery can be tricky…and problems often recur. Also, there is no rush. Simmons is under contract for the next three years at over $113 million. Plus, he just turned 26.

And lost in a lot of off-season hype over the other two members of the latest iteration of the “Big Three,” that’s the Nets’ very strong belief in 6’11” point guard Shams Charania, speaking of the Durant’s ultimatum two days ago also said this about the team’s take on Simmons:

The Nets are incredibly high on Simmons’ return to play after recovering from back surgery in May, viewing him as a perfect complement around Durant and Irving.

Similarly, Shams Athletic colleague Schiffer quoted Sean Marks’ end-of-season press conference on Thursday as a reminder of that belief:

“We’re doing everything we can to get him into our group,” Marks said. “That’s the key. He needs to be here, feel the gym again, around his friends, family and participate in that and let us help him build a culture together. Build together, rebuild it. Because, as Steve (Nash) alluded to, he plays a very important role in all of this. It punches a lot of holes, plugs a lot of holes that we think we potentially have. With him, it’s a different dynamic.

Schiffer notes that Curry’s situation is different. He is on an expiring contract worth $8.5 million this season. He played well for the 76ers and Nets, having his best year statistically despite a sore left ankle that also required offseason surgery. He ranks third all-time in the regular season in 3-point accuracy and fourth in the playoffs.

But is he surplus to a team that already has Joe Harris and Patty Mills and this summer added three more wing shooters. TJ Warren shot 42.8% and 40.3% in his last two healthy seasons in the NBA and Royce O’Neale shot 38.5 and 38.9 in his last two years. Even Sumner has 3-point numbers, hitting just under 40 percent in his final season with Indiana before tearing his Achilles tendon.

The Nets haven’t closed the door on a Curry extension, but there are reasons for both sides to wait. Curry, who could be a solid trade item at the deadline for a leasing candidate, can’t be traded for six months if he signs the full extension. Curry turns 32 on Aug. 23 and a four-year contract could be his last big NBA salary, depending on how he plays in the years to come. Leaving money on the table with all the uncertainty doesn’t make sense, which is why Curry could still agree to an extension past the trade deadline, if he was still on the Nets.

And as others, including Schiffer, have written before, the Nets are not interested in moving Harris, who is the Net’s oldest, front office and fan favorite who is second only to Curry on the percentage list. all-time 3-pointer.

Schiffer writes that he can see Curry, on a reasonably expiring deal, possibly being part of a bigger deal involving Durant, perhaps a sweetener to get another club to give up something the Nets want.

When can we expect the Nets to start addressing their issues and taking action despite the KD and Kyrie rumors? There are still some intriguing free agents left, and the Nets were still filling their roster the first week of September last year and the day before the season started two years ago. Reading tea leaves here and there, expect to see some movement next week but of course nothing major until they know more about the guys at the top of the payroll.

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