They say the universe giveth and universe taketh away, but in the case of the Brooklyn Nets the universe tooketh and then giveth to the second power.
The Nets were dealt a blow early in the season when Spencer Dinwiddie partially tore his ACL in the team’s third game of the season. The guard’s absence was quickly erased from headlines once the Nets were able to land former MVP James Harden to form a Big Three with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. To add to Brooklyn’s good fortune, the league granted the Nets a $5.7 million disabled player exception [DPE] as a result of Dinwiddie’s injury.
With the DPE, Brooklyn can sign a free agent for up to $5.7 million or can acquire a player in a trade whose salary is equal to or less than that value and is in the final year of his contract.
The DPE expires on April 19, so here are five players the Nets should be targeting with it.
5. Andre Roberson, SF
Andre Roberson is a defensive specialist who has struggled with injuries for the past several years, appearing in just 46 games over the past three seasons due to a torn left patellar tendon. Roberson went unsigned during the offseason, and he remains waiting for his next opportunity.
At his best, Roberson was an All-NBA defender in 2016-17. Nets star Kevin Durant is also a former teammate of Roberson’s with the OKC Thunder and someone who he has spoken highly of in the past. In fact, in 2018, Durant labeled Roberson as “probably the best” defender in the entire league.
The Nets are in the market for wing defenders. James Harden and Kyrie Irving aren’t known to be exceptional on-ball defenders – a fact exposed in their matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Roberson isn’t the player he once was because of his injuries, but he could be a wild card if he comes even anywhere close to regaining his prior form.
4. Ed Davis, PF/C
Ed Davis was an integral part of the Nets’ 2019 playoff campaign – a run that saw the franchise make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
In that run, Davis wasn’t one of the guys whose stats jumped off the page, but he is one of those players who does the little things to help grab wins. Right now, the Nets are in need of guys who can do something outside of scoring – their Big Three has that department triple-checked. Davis fits that role through his rebounding and defensive activity.
The Timberwolves are just $2.9 million below the luxury tax. They could look to unload Davis in order to gain more flexibility in a potentially bigger deal elsewhere and create a $5 million trade exception for him.
3. Hassan Whiteside, C
Hassan Whiteside signed with the Kings to serve as a rim protector off the bench. With the Kings currently positioned firmly in the bottom half of the Western Conference standings and Whiteside barely playing, he is expendable.
Whiteside’s offensive production has not been the same since his time in Miami, but with the current Nets roster, Whiteside would only need to rebound the ball and protect the paint, which would be much-needed in Brooklyn. Anything outside of those services would be a bonus.
2. JaVale McGee, C
JaVale McGee is another player who could provide help in the paint to help fix the Nets’ struggling defense. His rim protection, athleticism, championship pedigree, and experience playing with superstars – including Kevin Durant – would make him an ideal fit.
McGee could have more suitors as a former champion who is a proven rim protector in deep playoff runs. He will be sought by contending teams before the trade deadline.
1. Maurice Harkless, SF/PF
Out of all the players the Nets can acquire using the DPE, Maurice Harkless makes the most sense. He is the best fit for their team offensively and defensively. Harkless is a solid role player who would provide Brooklyn with further lineup flexibility and some needed experience and toughness.
Harkless hasn’t played all that much with the Miami Heat, despite how shorthanded they have been. The veteran could be there for the taking.
If that is the case, the Nets should be ready and waiting with arms wide open. Harkless is a versatile defender. With Portland, he was tasked with defending stars, including Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for much of the Blazers’ 2019 Western Conference Finals matchup against the Golden State Warriors.
Harkless has had his moments as a 3-point shooter and knows where to make himself available on the court while a guard goes iso, and he can also play with a second unit that depends on motion offense.
Harkless is the best option for a Nets team trying to find their identity.