The Nets were eliminated from the postseason by the top-seeded Hawks on Friday, and though it took longer than expected thanks to Brooklyn finding away to stay competitive for most of the series, the reality is that the Nets need to undergo a serious set of changes to the roster in order to be more competitive next season.
Joe Johnson, the team’s highest-paid player, knows this perhaps better than anyone else.
“I have no idea. Something’s going to happen. I don’t know what. I don’t see us coming back as the same team. This is my third year here. I could see if we were getting better each year, but it’s kind of been the opposite. So to not even be a .500 ball club in the East. It’s disheartening and I don’t know. I think everyone in that locker room is unsure of the future here. So we’ll see what happens going into the summer.”
In a word: Yep.
Changes most certainly are coming, but exactly what they’ll be remains unclear.
Brook Lopez has a player option for next season, but even if he chooses to become an unrestricted free agent, the Nets seem to be extremely likely to re-sign him. Thaddeus Young is likely to be back, because his player option of $10.2 million is worth taking, especially when considering it will set him up to become an unrestricted free agent just as the salary cap is set to spike in advance of the 2016-17 season. Alan Anderson, who provided a much-needed offensive spark off the bench at times during the postseason, said he’ll be opting out of the final year of his deal to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he may or may not be back depending on what the market decides.
Where it gets much murkier is with Johnson and Deron Williams — both of whom are vastly overpaid, and neither of whom are capable of being franchise players any longer. The Nets would love to move one or both of them to get some players who are on more reasonable contracts, or ones that could more readily contribute to a more consistent level of success.
Johnson is the more likely to be moved, because he only has one year remaining on his contract for $24.8 million, while Williams has two at $21 and $22 million respectively. But it won’t be easy to find any takers.
All we know right now is that changes to the Nets’ roster are, at this point, an inevitability. And Johnson knows it, as well.