The Brooklyn Nets have a major decision to make this summer, as point guard D’Angelo Russell is up for free agency and is likely going to be one of the most polarizing players on the market.
Russell led the Nets to a surprising playoff appearance and averaged 20 points per game this season, so based on that and the fact that he is still so young, there is some thought that he can end up getting a max deal this summer.
Now, Russell is set to be a free agent, so the Nets can match any offer that comes to him, but if Brooklyn wants to avoid Russell hitting free agency, it can offer him a five-year, $158 million max on the spot.
If not, Russell can sign a max four-year, $117 million offer sheet with another, which the Nets can then match. However, it would likely have things like a trade kicker and a whole lot of money up front, so just because it looks cheaper on the surface doesn’t mean it’s more convenient.
Regardless, here are three reasons the Nets should not give Russell a max deal:
3. He Can’t Play Defense
What we know about Russell is that he is a smooth scorer who can sometimes go on scoring binges all by himself, and there are times where he seems like he cannot miss from three.
However, for as much as Russell does offensively, he gives back on the other end.
Russell is not a good defensive player, so much so to the point that Kenny Atkinson has sometimes had to bench him for long stretches in certain matchups because he was getting toasted.
In a league where the ability to guard multiple positions is paramount, do you really want to give a max deal to a guy who really can’t defend at all? And let’s not bring Kyrie Irving into the picture here, because he is a better defender than Russell and is so good offensively that it mitigates his struggles defensively.
2. He is an Overrated Scorer
I know many were salivating at Russell’s scoring ability this season, but he really is not an elite scorer.
Sure, he averaged 21.1 points per game, but he did it off of a very ugly true-shooting percentage of 53.3 percent, well below the league average of 56 percent. Not only that, but his effective field-goal percentage of 51.2 percent, while not terrible, was below the league average of 52.4 percent.
The problem with Russell is that he takes a whole lot of questionable shots and doesn’t get to the free-throw line. As a matter of fact, he took just 2.5 free throws per game this season, his lowest mark since his rookie campaign and below his career average of 2.6 per game.
Basically, Russell relies heavily on his ability to get hot from three, and to be perfectly honest, he is not even a great three-point shooter, clocking in at 36.9 percent. That is still good, but it is hardly elite.
So, really, we can say that Russell is actually an inefficient volume scorer.
1. There are Better Ways to Spend that Money
If the Nets give Russell the max, they will eat up most of their available cap space, and here is another problem: Allen Crabbe has an $18.5 million player option for next season that he will almost certainly exercise, meaning that Brooklyn actually won’t have the cap space for two max free agents.
So, do the Nets really want to put all of their eggs in the Russell basket when they have a serious chance of landing someone like Kemba Walker, who is from Brooklyn and is undoubtedly intrigued at the idea of coming back home?
The Nets really need to think about what they are doing here. Do they seriously want to attach their future to Russell and commit to him as one of their top two players going forward? Because if they do, they likely won’t be contending for any titles any time soon.