Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young made their new contracts official on Thursday, putting a stamp on the solution of the Nets’ main concern entering the offseason.
But this team isn’t out of the woods just yet. The Nets are staring at more payroll problems with about $96.8 million in guaranteed salary earmarked for 13 players. That’s still well over the luxury tax threshold of $84.7 million.
Rumors have swirled for months — and intensified of late — about the Nets’ desire to offload the bulky contracts of Joe Johnson (one year, $24.9 million remaining) and Deron Williams (two years, $43.4 million).
Johnson’s contract, while larger this season than Williams’ $21 million salary, should be easier to unload given the 34-year-old remains both healthy and productive. Large, expiring contracts such as his aren’t impossible for teams to accept, either.
Williams is another story. Although just 31, various injuries during his time in Brooklyn have left him a shell of his former All-Star self. He failed to appear in 70 games for the second year in a row (and fourth time in five years). His minutes (31.1) and points (13) per game last season dipped to their lowest since his rookie campaign.
The Nets have three other point guards with guaranteed money on the roster — Jarrett Jack (two years, $13 million), Steve Blake (one year, $2.2 million) and Shane Larkin (two years, $3 million). The 31-year-old Jack offers excellent value, averaging 12 points and 4.7 assists over 28 minutes last season on a friendly contract. Blake, acquired in a draft-day trade from the Trail Blazers, is a 35-year-old backup. Larkin, 22, isn’t going anywhere after finalizing his contract today.
In other words, the team is covered if it can find a trade partner for Williams. That hasn’t been easy thus far, and it won’t get any easier. The Kings were often linked to any trade talks regarding Williams, but they added former All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo on a one-year, $9 million deal this month. Sacramento has made some wacky moves of late, but it’s unlikely they’d want Williams now.
Perhaps the Mavericks would be willing to take Williams in the wake of the DeAndre Jordan saga, which saw Jordan agree to a deal then be persuaded to return to the Clippers instead at the eleventh hour. Williams once chose between playing in his home state of Texas and sticking with Brooklyn, and Mavs owner Mark Cuban might be desperate enough to keep his team competitive to pursue Williams again.