Brooklyn Nets: Conley or Bust in 2016


The Brooklyn Nets will be competing for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference this season and most fans are already looking forward to next offseason as to how to improve the roster.  With the salary flexibility to afford to max-level free agents with the departure of Joe Johnson, Brooklyn will certainly be looking to find two starters in what is sure to be an offseason where teams utilize every cent they can with the projected $89 million salary cap.

Oct 18, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

After signing Brook Lopez to a three-year deal and locking Thaddeus Young into a four-year deal, it is unlikely Brooklyn will be on the market for a power forward or center.  Instead they’ll likely look to replace Johnson or upgrade one of their backcourt spots.  Ideally for Brooklyn fans, the Nets would pursue and secure superstar Kevin Durant to replace Johnson, but it’s more likely Durant remains in Oklahoma City or makes the move to his hometown Washington to play alongside fellow All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal.  That leaves the Nets with second-tier small forward Nicolas Batum as their next best option and they’d have to outbid Hornets’ owner Michael Jordan who just acquired the French swingman this offseason. Add in the fact that Batum has yet to average more than 14.3 points in any of his seven seasons in Portland and it is unlikely Brooklyn ends up signing the 6’8” forward to a long-term deal.

In the backcourt, projected starting shooting guard Bojan Bogdandovic will get the opportunity this season to prove he belongs in the starting lineup as part of the Nets’ long-term core and if he does so, their focus will immediately shift to the point guard spot.  Even if he doesn’t, however, the free agent market is shallow as behind Beal, the next best target would likely be Blazers guard Gerald Henderson, who has been solid, but not spectacular for a struggling Charlotte squad during his six-year career. Looking at the other side of the backcourt, starting point guard Jarrett Jack is heading into what can be termed a contract-year considering Brooklyn’s ability to release him with a $500,000 buyout and backup point guard Shane Larkin isn’t viewed as the successor.

As a result, it’s almost certain that the Brooklyn Nets will target Memphis guard Mike Conley as soon as the free agency period kicks off.  With Memphis capable of offering more years and money it will be difficult for the Nets to match the contract numbers, but the thing that could draw Conley’s attention could be the combination of New York advertising opportunities and the opportunity to work his former coach Lionel Hollins.  Under Hollins, Conley flourished, morphing from an average point guard to an All-Star level defensive talent, averaging over 2 steals during Hollins’ tenure.  Whether that can be attributed to Hollins is questionable, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.  Working with Hollins again would also mean he was able to work with another extremely talented big man in Brook Lopez after playing with Marc Gasol for his entire career.  The duo would become the faces of the franchise and certainly be marketed to their full extent by Nets Marketing Whiz and Barclays’ CEO Brett Yormark.

As Memphis continues to fall short of their championship aspirations, Conley may be looking for a new opportunity.  With a defensive tenacity that will draw the praise of fans, Conley will be a hot commodity on the open market if he doesn’t quickly re-sign with Memphis.  If Brooklyn misses out on their number one target, it will make the offseason a lot drearier for fans as the secondary options like Greivis Vasquez won’t yield the same hype heading into the season.  It’s Conley or bust for Brooklyn and the Nets return to becoming playoff contenders could hinge on whether the Nets’ run at the point guard is successful.

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