The Brooklyn Nets' season came to a merciful close on Sunday. After a letdown campaign during which his team posted the NBA's ninth-worst record, General Manager Sean Marks enters a pivotal offseason. With that, we turn our focus to the Nets' impending free agents and their prospects of returning to Brooklyn.

Nic Claxton

Brooklyn Nets center Nic Claxton (33) controls the ball against Memphis Grizzlies center Trey Jemison (55) during the first quarter at Barclays Center.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Nic Claxton enters the summer as one of the top centers available on the free agent market. League executives expect him to command a deal in the range of $20 million annually. After trading Spencer Dinwiddie at the deadline, the Nets can afford to pay him that while filling out their roster and remaining under the luxury tax.

The 24-year-old was asked on Monday whether he's confident he'll reach a deal with Brooklyn.

“We’ll see. At the end of the day, business is business. I’ll have to weigh my options,” Claxton said. “I’m an unrestricted free agent, so it’ll be my decision, at the end of the day. So I’ll have to talk with my family, my agents, pray about it, and see if that’s the best fit.”

“This is my first time being an unrestricted free agent, it's definitely a blessing. The situation that I was in this year, I had a lot of different feelings, a lot of different emotions, just knowing the whole contract situation. But at the end of the day, I trusted in my body, I trusted all the work I put in over the offseason, and now that time is here, so we'll see what happens.”

Claxton is one of several successful development projects during Marks' eight-year tenure as GM. After Brooklyn selected him 31st overall in 2019, the Georgia product bet on himself in 2022, signing a two-year, $17 million contract. Since then, he's emerged as one of the NBA's top defensive centers and is eager to reap the rewards.

“I think it's exciting, for me at least,” Claxton said of free agency. “I know everybody's situation is different, but for me personally, it's fun, it's exciting, the unknown of everything. The position I've put myself in over these past couple of years is really amazing and I just have to thank God and just be grateful because a lot of things could've happened. I'm appreciative of Brooklyn for just giving me the opportunity to be here and support me.”

While he was coy when asked about his confidence level in re-signing with the Nets, Claxton had good things to say about his Brooklyn lifestyle.

“Brooklyn has really grown on me. It's a city that I've grown to love since I've been here these past five years,” he said. “Just everything about it — the fashion, the culture, the pride that the people have here. Obviously, we have good fans, but this year we didn't deliver the way we wanted to. But Brooklyn, the support [I get] here definitely means a lot.”

Lonnie Walker IV

After he signed for the minimum this summer, many penciled Lonnie Walker IV in as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate early this season. The shooting guard averaged 15.7 points on 50/47/79 shooting splits while coming off the bench over his first 15 appearances. That led the NBA among those playing 26 or fewer minutes per game.

However, Walker suffered a hamstring injury midway through the year that sidelined him for 17 games. And like his 2022-23 campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers, he fell out of the rotation during the second half of the season.

“I think my Lakers year was kind of similar to this season as far as I was hooping in the beginning, got injured, trades happened, and then I stopped playing. I was hooping here again, got injured, and things happened,” Walker said. “At the end of the day, that’s how the game goes. You can’t blame nobody, you just gotta take it on the chin as a man and continue to get better.”

“But on a positive aspect, I’m continuously showing certain aspects of my game, as far as scoring and doing other things. I haven’t reached my prime yet, and I think this is another stepping stone that I’m using as far as watching how well I did compared to the Lakers year. I’m only gonna get better and better and better as the years go on. I’m upset, just because I’m a competitive player, but I’m very proud of just the overall effort and just happy that I got to play with the Nets organization and players.”

While Walker's rebounding and defense can leave much to be desired, he has the scoring ability to swing a matchup, as he did in a Lakers Game 4 win during the second round of last year's playoffs.

When asked what he would be looking for in free agency, the six-year veteran pointed to a consistent role, something he did not receive in Brooklyn late in the season.

“I’m just looking for a home, like I've said during this season,” he said. “Just looking for a team that finds me valuable. [I want to be] an important piece for a team that can consistently play… We’ll see how things go.”

The Nets do not own Bird rights on Walker, Trendon Watford, or Dennis Smith Jr., their free agents who were on one-year contracts. Brooklyn has the $12.9 million mid-level exception at its disposal in free agency, which can be used on one or multiple players.

Trendon Watford

Trendon Watford, another minimum signing, was impactful despite an inconsistent role this season. After playing primarily small-ball center his first two NBA seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Nets utilized him as a primary ball handler off the bench.

The 6-foot-8 point forward said he enjoyed the role change, which allowed him to showcase his versatility. He was effective in his limited opportunities, finishing 68 percent of his attempts at the rim, per CleaningTheGlass.

The 23-year-old was productive while receiving extended minutes during the final weeks of the season, averaging 12.9 points and 2.2 assists on 54 percent shooting over his final 11 appearances. He also began to expand his range as a three-point threat, shooting 44.0 percent on 2.3 attempts per game during that span.

“I feel like I played well down the stretch when I got an opportunity,” Watford said when asked about his prospects of re-signing with Brooklyn. “Even when I felt like I should have been playing in the beginning of the year, middle of the year, whatever it was, I knew my opportunity was going to come. I hope I left a good impression.”

“This is definitely a place I can see myself again. I love the fans, I love New York… It was a great season [for me]. It was great being around these guys, great being around the organization. Now we step into free agency, and we'll see how it goes, but I definitely had fun this year.”

Dennis Smith Jr.

After emerging as an elite point-of-attack defender with the Charlotte Hornets, Smith also signed for the minimum this summer. He lived up to his defensive expectations with Brooklyn this season. Smith ranked first among all point guards in Defensive Estimated Plus-Minus, per

However, his offensive deficiencies continued to limit his role, as he averaged 6.6 points per game on 43.5 percent shooting. Smith's lack of a three-point shot (29.4 percent on 1.9 attempts per game) makes it challenging for him to run pick-and-roll or play off the ball. Despite those struggles, Dorian Finney-Smith – his teammate with the Dallas Mavericks from 2017 to 2019 – said Smith's defensive impact will land him another contract.

“I really just wanted him to get to the playoffs, if I’m being honest,” Finney-Smith said. “Most times, when you’re in a situation like him, making it to the playoffs is definitely helpful when you’re trying to get a contract… I know when I got paid, we were winning. Winning always makes everybody look good. We didn’t do that this year,  but he’s still a dog on defense, so I feel like somebody’s gonna pick him up if it’s not us.”

With decisions to make on their impending free agents and a new head coach, this will be a summer of uncertainty in Brooklyn. And following a blowout in their final game of the season, Finney-Smith said he and his teammates are bracing for change.

“We ain’t perform as well as we thought, and most times, teams make changes. It’s the NBA, they're trying to get better, so they're gonna do what's best for the organization,” he said. “I don't think any of my years in the league I've had the same team two years in a row. Even if you win, teams still make moves. So I can only imagine how this summer's gonna be.”