The Nets have holes at center.
LaMarcus Aldridge has produced and just got his desired promotion to the starting lineup. But that happened in part because Blake Griffin has really struggled. Nicolas Claxton is battling illness. Paul Millsap, who missed time for personal reasons, hasn’t found a rhythm. Rookie Day'Ron Sharpe isn’t ready.
Nets coach Steve Nash was a rookie head coach last season, but when asked at the Monday morning shootaround how tough it was to send back Allen as part of the Harden trade, Nash said, “For sure. We loved him and wish him a lot of success and are happy for him to get a contract. The reality is he was probably out, we couldn’t probably have re-signed him anyway. Looking at the marketplace, he probably would have gotten a lot of money, and it would’ve been a huge gap compared to some of the other priorities.
“So that was part of the decision in being able to let something like that go. Obviously, the other part is James Harden is a special, special player. But no question we still root for [Allen] and support him.”
Asked if he has been surprised at all by Allen’s play this season, Nash said, “No, we know he’s got a bright future. He’s a terrific player, and I think he’ll have a great career here in Cleveland.”
The Nets had Allen’s Bird Rights and could have re-signed him under salary-cap rules. He was also a restricted free agent, limiting his ability to unilaterally leave. Well above the cap, Brooklyn faced minimal opportunity cost in terms of team-building if paying to keep Allen.
It would have just cost a ton in luxury tax.
If they somehow assembled their current roster but with Allen (on his current contract) rather than one of their minimum-salary players… the Nets’ luxury-tax liability would have been about $109 million higher. Plus, they would have had to pay Allen’s $20 million salary.
Of course, the Nets didn’t just dump Allen. They used him – along with three first-round picks, four first-round pick swaps and Caris LeVert – in a package for Harden, a star. Even Allen said he would have made the trade.
But maybe Brooklyn could gotten Harden without surrendering Allen.
The Nets could have dealt another first-rounder (though one fewer swap). They still had several second-rounders. They also had Landry Shamet, who was later traded to the Suns for the No. 29 pick in this year’s draft and Jevon Carter.
The Rockets didn’t even covet Allen, who got re-routed to the Cavs in the deal.
Playing out that hypothetical, Nets owner Joe Tsai theoretically could have approved the luxury-tax expenditure.
It sounds as if Brooklyn preferred trading Allen to re-signing him. The Harden trade just happened to be the Allen deal that made most sense.
Maybe the Nets wouldn’t have acquired the same supporting players if keeping Allen. Their payroll could have gone the other way, though. Brooklyn dealt four second-rounders to dump DeAndre Jordan‘s contract. If those picks got included in the Harden trade, they wouldn’t have been available for a Jordan trade, leaving the payroll even higher.
To be fair, the Nets are spending big. They have the NBA’s second-highest payroll (behind the Warriors). We also don’t know Brooklyn could have gotten Harden without including Allen.
But if they were more open to paying Allen, it’s at least possible the Nets would be even better.