NBA training camps open three weeks from Tuesday and the Brooklyn Nets still have roster spots to fill.
Brooklyn added Royce O’Neale, T.J. Warren, Edmond Sumner, Markieff Morris and Yuta Watanabe this offseason. Sumner’s deal is partially guaranteed while Morris and Watanabe both signed non-guaranteed contracts. UNLV forward Donovan Williams is rumored to have agreed to an Exhibit 10 deal (one-year, minimum contract that can be converted into a two-way contract prior to the start of the regular season) with the Nets. Although it has yet to be officially announced.
That would leave Brooklyn with three of its maximum 20 training camp spots open. Two of which could be standard or Exhibit 10 deals along with one remaining two-way contract.
The Nets upgraded their supporting cast this summer. However, backup point guard and center remain important needs on the depth chart. Brooklyn can still exceed the minimum anywhere up to the $6.48 million taxpayer mid-level exception to sign players in free agency.
Here are four veteran free agents the Nets could target early to fill those needs:
Following a period where it looked like Cousins may have been out of the league, the center proved he has something left in the tank. In 48 games with Milwaukee and Denver last season, he surpassed expectations. The four-time All-Star showed he can still perform on the big stage, averaging 10.6 PPG while shooting 19-29 from the field and 4-6 from three in Denver’s first-round series against Golden State.
The Nets could use a stretch big to complement Ben Simmons. Morris is a candidate to fill that need in a small-ball center role. However, Cousins can space the floor as a career 33.1 percent shooter from three while allowing the Nets to match up with bigger, more physical centers.
The 32-year-old would fill several needs for Brooklyn and shouldn’t command more than the minimum.
Whiteside spent last season backing up Rudy Gobert in Utah. The 33-year-old averaged 8.2 PPG and 7.6 RPG in 65 games for the Jazz. The center has been among the top rim protectors in the NBA since catching on with Miami in 2014, averaging 2.2 blocks per game throughout his career.
The Nets could use a veteran presence in a center rotation that currently consists of Nic Claxton, Day’Ron Sharpe and Morris. Claxton has played just 79 total games in the last two seasons. A dependable, experienced backup should be a priority for Brooklyn as the season progresses. While he’s past his prime and is not a floor-spacer, Whiteside proved productive last year as a rim runner, rebounder and shot blocker.
A minimum contract and a chance to earn a role for a contender should be enticing to the nine-year veteran.
Schroder signed for the mid-level extension with the Boston Celtics last summer after turning down a four-year, $84 million extension from the Lakers during the 2020-2021 season. The point guard was then traded to Houston at the deadline in a package for Daniel Theis.
Schroder is still a serviceable NBA floor general. He averaged 13.5 PPG and 4.6 APG on 34.4% shooting from three in 64 games last season. Goran Dragic found success in a backup point guard role for Brooklyn late last year. Schroder would provide a younger option at the position with a greater scoring punch.
The 28-year-old would likely command more than the minimum. The Nets could offer him anything up to the $6.48 million taxpayer mid-level exception to add depth in the backcourt.
Bledsoe was traded from New Orleans to Memphis and then re-routed to the Clippers last summer. The point guard averaged 9.9 PPG and 4.2 APG in 54 games for Los Angeles before being traded to Portland at the deadline.
He didn’t play a game for the tanking Blazers and was waived this summer. Bledsoe is limited as a shooter at 33.6% from three for his career but still presents a competent point guard who can initiate offense. With 31 playoff starts under his belt, the 12-year veteran’s tough defense and experience handling the ball in pressure situations could prove valuable for a contender.
The 32-year-old shouldn’t receive more than the minimum from the Nets at this point.
How much Nets owner Joe Tsai is willing to add to his payroll is the biggest variable when assessing Brooklyn’s remaining free agent prospects. With the Nets in the luxury tax for the third-straight year, they are subject to the repeater tax. This means they are taxed at a significantly higher rate than other teams.
The taxpayer mid-level exception is a valuable asset at this point in free agency and during the buyout market later in the season. Tsai already added to the luxury tax significantly by absorbing Royce O’Neale’s $9.2 million salary into a trade exception. Based on the repeater tax, the Nets using the full $6.48 million TMLE could add upwards of $30 million to the tax.
Brooklyn’s holes at backup point guard and center need to be addressed. Whether Tsai is willing to add a significant chunk to his luxury tax for players in reserve roles remains to be seen.