Andre Drummond’s Recent Admission Is a Harsh Reminder That the Brooklyn Nets Are Facing an Ominous Offseason

Andre Drummond just provided another reminder that an ominous offseason could be on the horizon for the Brooklyn Nets.

On Wednesday, March 23, the center made a telling admission. “If we’re all being honest, I’m only here til the rest of the season,” Drummond, who’s out of contract this summer, said (h/t to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports). “Who knows what’s gonna happen in the offseason?” He’s since tried to walk back those comments, suggesting that he was taken out of context and would be happy to stay in Brooklyn, but the implications are still clear.

Since joining the Nets in the James Harden deal, Drummond has been a solid contributor, averaging 12.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game across 18 contests. His performance isn’t the problem; instead, Nets fans should point the finger at the team’s finances. 

The Brooklyn Nets simply can’t afford to give Andre Drummond a starting-caliber salary

Drummond, 28, is currently playing on a veteran-minimum deal. The likelihood that he signs a similar contract with the Nets, though, is almost non-existent. Why? Brooklyn has a boatload of financial issues, and the big man can command more on the open market.

First off, Drummond is a walking double-double. He’s money in the paint, hits the boards at a high level, and is still in the prime of his NBA career. He signed with the 76ers at a cut-rate price, presumably accepting less money to compete for an NBA championship and back-up Joel Embiid. As a free agent, though, it’s fair to expect Drummond to pursue a more lucrative — or longer term — contract while he still can. 

Now, let’s move on to the Nets.

Working under the expectation that Kyrie Irving will opt out of his current deal and re-sign in Brooklyn on a max contract, he, Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, and Joe Harris will account for roughly $135 million of payroll. Next season’s salary cap, however, is expected to clock in at $121 million, with the luxury tax threshold level landing around $147 million. That means general manager Sean Marks will have some work to do to fill out the bench, let alone assemble a championship-caliber roster. 

Center Nic Claxton, a continually improving and reliable interior player, is a restricted free agent after this season. After refusing to move him for value at the NBA trade deadline, the Nets probably won’t be able to afford to match the hefty offer sheet that Claxton could sign with another team. That, combined with the (assumed) loss of Drummond, puts the onus on young big man Day’Ron Sharpe to make strides or at least admirably take on a high-minute role next season. 

Then, there’s the question of when Simmons is going to play. At this point, there’s a legitimate chance he doesn’t take the floor for the Nets until next season, especially if they don’t get past the NBA Play-In Tournament or the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Given the club’s financial bind, spending millions on someone who can’t make an on-court impact further limits any wiggle room.

The Brooklyn Nets’ payroll bind is similar to the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2021 offseason

Looking at the salary cap numbers, it seems safe to assume that the Nets will be hamstrung this offseason. If you want to know how that could potentially play out, look no further than last summer’s Los Angeles Lakers.

After trading a handful of youthful and productive scorers for Russell Westbrook, LA had tied the majority of their payroll to three players (Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis). That forced the club to fill out half their roster with bit-part players and league minimum deals. As of March 31, the Lakers are 31-44 and have a legitimate shot of missing the playoffs.

In fairness to the Nets, they won’t necessarily collapse like Los Angeles did this season. Brooklyn boasts a pair of stars in their prime (Durant and Irving), a highly skilled player in Simmons, a pair of exciting rookies (Sharpe and Cameron Thomas), and a first-round selection in this year’s NBA draft. At the same time, though, the Eastern Conference club will have to shop in the bargain bin, either picking up lesser talent or trying to convince bigger names to accept smaller salaries for a chance to win a title. It’s an immense challenge for a team to improve while working in that way. And, in the NBA, you have to constantly improve in order to avoid falling behind.

Championship windows can close as quickly as they open. A lot can go wrong for even the most talented teams in the blink of an eye. Just look at how the Lakers have fallen off or how the Nets’ season didn’t go according to plan.

At this point, all the Nets can do is get into the playoffs. Brooklyn is 40-36, which is good for the eighth seed in the East, and, at full force, they’re as dangerous as any team in the conference. While the odds may be stacked against them, winning a championship is of the ultimate goal for this squad.

Drummond’s comments serve as a friendly reminder of the challenging offseason that awaits them. Moving forward, nothing is guaranteed.

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference. Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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