Brooklyn Nets Will Likely Face Tough Competition in This Year’s NBA Buyout Market

Last season, the Brooklyn Nets landed two of the biggest prizes on the post-trade deadline buyout market, signing Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. Griffin ended up supplanting DeAndre Jordan as the starting center by playoff time after Aldridge retired briefly because of a heart condition. This time around, Brooklyn will have competition for two of the top players expected to become available.

The Nets host the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 25, looking to complete a season sweep. They’re coming off one of their worst defensive performances of the season in a 136–125 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves. With Kevin Durant and Joe Harris out and Kyrie Irving only available as a part-timer, James Harden is the lone member of the vaunted Big Three who’s playing every night.

Before looking at who might be on the market for Brooklyn, it’s worth looking at the roster spot it will be opening soon.

The Brooklyn Nets plan to move Paul Millsap

Last summer, the Brooklyn Nets signed free agent Paul Millsap to augment the frontcourt rotation. In December, Millsap missed four games in the NBA’s health and safety protocols but played only three times since he returned.

Since Millsap played 19 minutes in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 13, the Nets deactivated the former All-Star at his request. Shams Charania of The Athletic tweeted on Jan. 21 that the Nets agreed to find a new team for Millsap.

The emergence of rookie Day’Ron Sharpe made Millsap expendable. Sharpe replaced injured Nic Claxton in the starting lineup on Jan. 13 and averaged 10.6 points and 7.7 rebounds on 56.7% shooting in 20.6 minutes per game since the move.

The Nets also have Griffin and Aldridge available up front. Millsap became the odd man out. It’s unknown whether Brooklyn can find a trade partner to take on the four-time All-Star’s veteran’s minimum deal. But a buyout won’t impact the team’s luxury tax situation — the contract is a sunk cost at this point.

Backcourt help expected to hit the market via buyout

The Brooklyn Nets won't be alone in pursuing the top candidates to his this year's buyout market before the March 1 playoff eligibility deadline.
The Brooklyn Nets won’t be alone in pursuing the top candidates on the buyout market before the March 1 playoff eligibility deadline. | Sarah Stier/Getty Images

According to John Hollinger of The Athletic, a pair of veteran guards are likely buyout candidates. But if the Brooklyn Nets have interest, there will be tough competition for both players.

One player is Gary Harris of the Orlando Magic. He went to Central Florida in the Aaron Gordon trade last year, and the 27-year-old in his eighth NBA season doesn’t fit the timeline for the rebuilding Magic.

He’s also on an expiring contract, so there’s no additional money to be stretched in a buyout. Harris signed a four-year, $84 million extension with the Denver Nuggets in 2017. Only half of this year’s $20.5 million was guaranteed, but that point became moot on Jan. 10, the date all contracts reach guaranteed status.

Harris is a 3-and-D wing capable of defending 1 through 3, and he’s been solid in Orlando, averaging 11.6 points in 29.7 minutes a game. He’s shooting 53.0% from 2-point range and 35.6% on 4.9 triple tries a night.

Brooklyn could use some defensive help on the perimeter. Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell picked them apart in the Jan. 23 loss, combining for 48 points and 14 assists. But Hollinger thinks it’s more likely Harris would return to the Nuggets. He knows the system and would also play more.

Another potential buyout candidate is Goran Dragić of the Toronto Raptors. He’s in the final year of his contract, like Harris, and doesn’t have a role in The North, as evidenced by the team permitting him to leave the club in late November.

But if the Raptors buy out the former All-Star, a Slovenian reunion with Luka Dončić is all but guaranteed. The Dallas Mavericks hoped Dragić and Toronto would part ways last summer.

Other potential buyout candidates don’t help the Brooklyn Nets

Harris and Dragić are likely the best available candidates for the buyout market. They’re also the only ones with skill sets fitting the needs of the Brooklyn Nets.

Others who could receive buyouts include Juancho Hernangómez, traded Jan. 19 to the San Antonio Spurs, Willie Cauley-Stein in Dallas, or Jordan with the Lakers.

San Antonio also has veteran forward Thaddeus Young, like Jordan, a former Net. The Spurs won’t buy out Young if they can get something back for him. But Brooklyn’s needs are on the wing, not the frontcourt.

The Brooklyn Nets’ status as a contender hinges on the strength of their Big Three. Anything general manager Sean Marks does at the trade deadline or in the buyout market is strictly around the edges. But based on their uneven performance this season, some of those edges are pretty rough.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com. Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.

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