The Nets swapped their 2015 first-rounder with the Hawks’ (15 for 29), owe their 2016 first-rounder to the Celtics, must allow Celtics to swap 2017 first-rounders and owe their 2018 first-rounder to the Celtics.
In other words, the aging Nets can’t rebuild by tanking.
So where does Brooklyn – which owns the Nos. 29 and 41 picks in this year’s draft – go from here?
Nets general manager Billy King, via Thomas Duffy of Nets Daily:
I will say that we’re trying to move up in the draft. We’ll explore options to get higher. … We already know of some teams who maybe want to move their pick so we’ll be talking to them next week.
The Nets are short on trade assets unless they’re now willing to deal Mason Plumlee, who had a reduced role in the playoffs. But that’d be risky with Brook Lopez likely to opt out, and Plumlee’s value has likely dropped.
One big advantage the Nets have is their willingness to spend. They entered last year’s draft with no picks and then bought three second-rounders. It might not be possible to buy a pick above 29, but they could purchase second-rounders to contribute to a deal.
Unfortunately for Brooklyn, first-round picks are more valuable with the salary cap rising. The salary scale for first-rounders has already been set based on a lower projected cap, so rookie-scale contracts will occupy an even lower percentage of the cap (and, after they end, have relatively smaller cap holds).