Welcome back to the Business Casual Basketball "Salary Series."
In these weekly posts, we will take a look at a particular player or team with an interesting salary structure.
For example, certain contracts around the league have with interesting incentives, rare escalating, or declining dollar amounts, or vary significantly from typical market value.
When it comes to teams, there will be a deep dive on their spending habits, how they got to their current position, and what they can do take advantage of their spending power. Conversely, if they are deep into luxury tax territory, we will look at what they can do to mitigate the damage as much as possible, both short-term and long-term.
This week we will be looking at the Brooklyn Nets financial flexibility that has developed due to smart decisions and a quick rise during the 2018-2019 season.
Let's get into it.
Contrary to what you might believe, there is always a way out.
There is a way out of suffering, no matter how deep the void. The Brooklyn Nets are a living testament to the impact that hard work, ingenuity, and a little luck can have on ones upside down fortunes.
See not too long ago, the Nets were all but lost. In 2013, Brooklyn acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans and their unprotected first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 via ESPN.com. Players were flying all over the place, honestly. (For more information regarding how the Celtics fared in this trade, please check out the Boston Salary series post here.)
You know the story. Brooklyn rode a high of optimism in their new and hype in their new arena all the way to the second round of the 2014 playoffs, where they met their merciful end at the hands of LeBron and the Miami Heat. They shouldn't feel bad about this loss...many men stronger than over the hill KG and Paul Pierce have tried and failed to best LeBron James in the Eastern Conference playoffs. What is indefensible however, would have to be the trade itself. Billy King shot for the stars when looking for big names to supplement Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
Let's not forget that Deron Williams and JJ came with a heavy cost as well. The Nets sold off talented young players like Derrick Favors and Devin Harris to acquire the former Jazz guard. Joe was brought on board for the measly price of Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams, their 2017 2nd round pick and 2013 1st round pick. Ok, so it wasn't so measly. Big names don't come cheap. Ever. Did you notice how many picks have been involved to this point? As is the case in any legitimate pursuit of instant gratification, all of the sacrifice came back to collect rent. Similar to buying an expensive item with your fancy credit card, you gotta pay up eventually. And boy did that team PAY UP. At the time, Brookyln faced luxury tax bills that were unprecedented in quantity. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams combined to make around $40 million together. It may not seem like too much today where top tier players are getting $35 million by themselves. But remember the salary cap was significantly lower then. $40 million was over half of the teams' salary cap. Mikhail Prokhorov, the teams owner at the time, was probably breathing through a brown bag when he was delivered the final tax amount by the league office.
The worst part about the Nets situation back then was the success creating by the 'Big 3" had a short shelf live. By the 2015-2016 season, They had already bottomed out at 21 wins. Not exactly a successful gamble. Probably isn't worth giving up your future for a few early playoff exits. Regardless, that is the gamble Brooklyn took and they had to live with the consequences. A dark cloud hovered over the franchise and all hope was lost...for awhile.
These days, the forecasts for Brooklyn are looking quite a bit rosier. Currently, they sit at 6th place in the East with a 28-25 record. FiveThirtyEight's projections estimate them finishing with a playoff birth and a 40-42 record. Truthfully, we have to view that win total as a worst-case scenario. If they maintain their current pace, they should be able to reach 45 wins. The fact that this team has been able to solidify their place in the playoff picture this quickly is nothing short of spectacular. Their odds of reaching the postseason according to FiveThirtyEight: 83%. Very solid. They have not owned their own 1st round pick in several years and the picks they have been able to snag from willing partners have not been of very high quality. Their back was against the wall, so they certainly had to get creative with how they stockpiled young talent. Basically, Brooklyn followed the roadmap of the Process Era Sixers, just much less extreme.
When you are not a free agent destination and you have no draft picks of your own, the only other options are to -
A. acquire unproven players and low 1st round/2nd round picks by taking on negative contracts attached to them or
B. Search for a diamond in the rough by utilizing the G League and working through trades.
Glancing at their cap sheet, the two most expensive players are obviously overpaid.
1. Allen Crabbe - $15,500,000 with a player option for next season for the same value
2. DeMarre Carroll - $15,400,000 expiring contract (He comes off the books this Summer)
Ironically, Brooklyn originally offered Crabbe that contract in 2016, but Portland matched it. *Shrugs*
This contract was a terrible offer on Brooklyn's behalf looking back, but in the last 12 months, they've handed out much more reasonable deals. This is part of the reason they have experiences so much success this season and remain flexible going forward.
"One mans trash is another mans treasure." That's how the saying goes, right? Well Joe has transformed his image in short order. The Cavaliers were in the midst of a legendary run when they drafted Harris and quickly discarded him. They didn't have time for tedious matters like player development. Maybe they should have been a little more patient.
So far this season, Joe has solidified himself as one of the premier shooters in our league. It might as well be the second coming of JJ Redick. He's shooting a scorching 46% on three points on five attempts per game. This isn't likely to be a fluke either. He has improved his accuracy every season going from 38% two years ago to 41% last season. Surprisingly, he is shooting 52% inside the arc, so he is far from a one trick pony- he's not afraid to finish among the trees either. He found his calling card and it grabbed him a nice payday last year. He was awarded a two-year, $16 million contract for his efforts. He is a huge asset on that deal considering his accuracy and consistency. He is already 27, but considering he takes care of his body like his counterpart Redick, he should be plenty effective well into his 30's.
For Brooklyn, this is a huge asset. If a disgruntled player becomes available, he is very tradable on a short term contract that's barely worth the league average. On the other hand, $8.3 million (decreases to $7.6 million next season) is small enough that it won't complicate matters if BKN goes hard after a free agent like Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard in a few months. More on that in a minute.
Oh, Spencer. Started at the bottom and now he's here! This former 2nd round pick started off his career by getting cut by Detroit and Chicago and is now armed with a three-year, $34.4 million deal.
With season averages of 17ppg, 2.5reb, and 5ast, gives you the numbers of a Eric Gordon or a Lou Williams. It's easy to forget that the guy is 6-