4. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets spent the past half-decade digging out from their disastrous acquisition of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in 2013. After three straight sub-30-win seasons, they bounced back emphatically this year, finishing 42-40 and earning the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
This summer, they’re looking to build upon that success and propel themselves forward with a splashy free-agent signing.
Several league sources told Anthony Puccio of SNY that “top-tier free agents” such as Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Tobias Harris “will at least consider Brooklyn this upcoming July when it’s time to find their next home — if they decide to leave.”
During his exit interview, Nets general manager Sean Marks expressed optimism about the team’s ability to lure marquee free agents, saying, “The process we went through this year — and there’s a lot of positives that’ve come out of this year — can only help.” Meanwhile, veteran forward Jared Dudley made the case for why free agents should prefer the Nets over the crosstown New York Knicks (via Bryan Fonseca of Nets Daily):
"The advantages they have here is, for one, the foundation and the culture we have. And not just in New York and in the NBA, one of the best young cores here. They have draft picks, they have cap space… The advantages depend on the player. And I would say that they have, right now, Brooklyn has put [itself] in fighting position to be able to land somebody."
If the Nets renounce the rights to all of their free agents — including All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell — they could carve out roughly $50.5 million in salary-cap space, more than enough to sign Durant and a few role players. If they keep Russell’s $21.1 million cap hold on their books, they’d need to salary-dump Allen Crabbe or waive and stretch his $18.5 million salary to have enough room for KD.
The Nets do have two first-round picks (Nos. 17 and 27) and intriguing young prospects and role players they could use to dump Crabbe if necessary. If that’s the cost of business for signing Durant, Marks wouldn’t bat an eye.