Inside the Brooklyn Nets’ Sunset Park offices, general manager Sean Marks will be plenty busy this summer as he tries to deconstruct what went wrong for his team and how to fix it. Marks and his staff face a lot of tough questions and even tougher decisions this summer as they try to recover from the disappointment of this season.
Brooklyn has four key players set to become free agents, possible contract negotiations with Kyrie Irving on the horizon and another player in Ben Simmons that the organization needs to decide what his future holds. Mark was not wrong when he called this summer a “pivotal offseason” and it will help shape the direction of the franchise going forward.
Here are just a few of the issues that the Nets front office will have to attend to now that the team has been eliminated from the playoffs.
The future of Ben Simmons
There may not have been another NBA player that never played a single game this season as heavily covered as Ben Simmons was. First in Philadelphia and then in Brooklyn. Now the question is, will he be a Brooklyn Net next season and when will the be ready to play?
The Simmons saga took its final turn before Game 4 when it was announced he would not play and that Simmons, his agent Rich Paul and Nets management met on Monday. Plenty of eyebrows were raised when it was reported the following day that the issues that kept Simmons off the court may have had more to do with a mental component than a physical one.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that during the Monday meeting “Simmons told those in the room that a mental block exists for him, dating in part to last summer’s postseason, which is creating stress that could serve as a trigger point for his back issues.” The Nets have said they’re ready to do what they have to in order to help Simmons get back on the court, but with three years left on his contract, it’s unclear now where Simmons stands in his return.
Now the Nets will have to decide whether to stick with it when it comes to Simmons or see if there is a move to made to try to recoup some of their losses. Though, as Bleacher Report’s Jake Fisher noted, there likely isn’t a huge market for Simmons after the evens of this season.
Which Free Agents stay and Which go?
The Nets have a slew of players that will need new contracts and a pair that have player options for next season. Bruce Brown, Goran Dragic, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond, David Duke Jr. and Blake Griffin are all set to become free agents. Nic Claxton will be a restricted free agent and Patty Mills and Kyrie Irving can opt-out.
Irving’s situation will be one to watch, but looking at the others for a moment, Marks may have to make a few tough calls when it comes to who stays and who won’t. Bruce Brown will be due for a pay raise, especially after the season and playoffs he had for the Nets.
Brown became a crucial part of the team on both ends of the floor and helped drive the offense at times in their series with the Boston Celtics. The same can be said for Claxton, a restricted free agent, is also going to be due for a pay raise and the Nets are going to want to retain the talented young big man after the way he developed and played a pivotal role down the stretch.
Mills will be another player the Nets may want to hold onto after he filled in admirably for Joe Harris. Drummond is a big question mark going into the offseason, even he wasn’t sure earlier this year if the Nets would be able to hold onto him.
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Dragic is also up in the air if he returns, but he could be willing to sign a low contract if he thinks Brooklyn gives him the best chance to win. After their limited use, it seems unlikely that Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge return next season.
The Kyrie Conundrum
If you thought the Irving drama would be over, guess again. Irving, as previously mentioned, has a $36.8 million player option next season. It seems that Irving is set on declining the player option, but likely to negotiate an extension in Brooklyn.
If Irving opts out he can sign a four-year deal with the Nets that would line him up with Kevin Durant’s contract. While Irving could opt out and sign a new deal elsewhere, it seems unlikely that would occur. Irving said he remained committed to the Nets after the loss in Game 4 and after the dramatic nature and off-court issues that followed Irving, teams may not be so keen on offering him up such a big contract anyway.