A couple weeks ago we published this thing on Sean Marks and his restricted free agency dealings. You should probably read that first, go on ahead and I’ll wait for ya.
Rightio then. No team was hit worse by Marksy Marks’ RFA traps than the Portland Trail Blazers. Stuck spending way over the luxury cap for a team that finished 41-41 and were swept in the opening round of the playoffs. That’s not ideal. Matching Allen Crabbe’s offer sheet, giving Evan Turner four years an $70m, re-signing Meyers Leonard, Mo Harkless and especially C.J. McCollum to significant money while nursing the max deal given to Damien Lillard… it all certainly adds up.
And with some of the booby traps left in that Allen Crabbe contract they didn’t have a lot of options. In hindsight a couple of those contracts maybe probably potentially shoulda been torn up before they were signed as they’re now left with a squad that isn’t strong enough to compete but without the cap flexibility to do anything about it.
So… how do you escape such a conundrum? You call up the evil genius who put you in that position in the first place.
This wasn’t necessarily the intended endgame for the Brooklyn Nets but they definitely knew it was a possibility. Their excessive cap space allowed them to offer that contract in the first place, knowing they could absorb the hits far better than anyone else. They also knew that if they missed out then they’d still have all of that cap space. Lately they’ve been using it wisely as a bargaining tool and with the NBA salary cap unexpectedly dropping slightly there’s a squeeze on for cap space that suddenly has the Nets poised to facilitate.
Hence oh look there’s Timofey Mozgov there wearing a Nets jersey. And here comes DeMarre Carroll too. D’Angelo Russell? Sure he’s in it for the long haul. And now Allen Crabbe joins that core as well. No coincidence that the Raptors, Lakers and Blazers all had contracts they needed to escape there. Brooklyn didn’t really seem to bother with free agency, knowing they’d have to overpay players to join them anyway. May as well get the players that were overpaid to play for better teams, and are therefore better players.
The Lakers don’t count in that. That trade was all about getting D’Angelo Russell for an expiring Brook Lopez (and a 27th overall pick). Which, by the way, is rather sharp business made possible by absorbing a terrible contract for Mozgov at the same time.
DeMarre Carroll came over in exchange for Justin Hamilton. Not only is Carroll comfortably the better player there but he also arrived with a first and second round 2018 draft pick too. And for Allen Crabbe? All they had to give up was Andrew Nicholson, a player who only played 10 games for them last season and they clear his contract off the books as a bonus. Portland intends to stretch Nicholson out, meaning they’ll pay a fraction of that salary against the cap for the next seven seasons in exchange for waiving him. The Nets pretty much got their guy for free.
Of course, the Trail Blazers had their reasons…
That’s $60m this season alone. Close to $19m in Crabbe’s salary and the rest in luxury tax savings. And Crabbe’s still earning $18.5m the next two seasons as well. He’s chosen not to enforce the trade kicker that would’ve added plenty more to that but that’s because as a career bench player so far, he was actually pretty enticed by the Nets thing the first time around and has embraced his second opportunity to get there. Plus, you know, he’s only getting that money in the first place because of Sean Marks’ devilishness and he’ll be pretty grateful for that.
Close to the last trade deadline the Nets made a trade with the Washington Wizards. Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough went to Washington in exchange for Andrew Nicholson, Marcus Thornton and a first round draft pick.
That first rounder became Jarrett Allen and having that pick made it more comfortable to trade another first rounder (the Celtics’ one from the pick swap) to get D’Angelo Russell. Initially the Nets had said Nicholson would be a valued member of their team going forward but having now been traded twice a year into a four year contract his NBA career is gonna be tough to rebuild from here. Meanwhile Thornton was waived the next day. Bogdanovic was expiring and has since signed with the Indiana Pacers. So really all the Nets were after was a first round pick there but not only did they get that, they were also able to use the terrible contract of Nicholson to barter down the Blazers for Allen Crabbe.
And the Crabbe-man ain’t like Mozgov, who was a price they had to pay. He’s not like Carroll who is a convenient enough fit but hardly the perfect fit. Allen Crabbe is a player that the Nets specifically targeted themselves a year ago and now that the required time has passed they’ve been able to trade for him anyway. This is a skilled wingman who just hit 44% from deep last season and could well thrive with a bigger role in Brookie. He’s only 25 with plenty of room to grow and he fits the cultural and tactical system that the Nets are trying to implement under Kenny Atkinson.
See, as much as other teams are bound to get furious at the way Sean Marks has gone about these RFA trapdoors, they’ve also gotta admit that he’s the one GM out there really seeking to offer a way out of them as well. He dug a big hole and covered it in sticks and foliage then dangled some money over it so you’d stumble on over and fall in. But he’s also the first one there with a rope and a spare hand to get you out.
Plus, you know, it ain’t personal. It’s just business.
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