Brooklyn Nets: D’Angelo Russell era in Brooklyn nearing its end

Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

With Spencer Dinwiddie set to sign a 3-year, $34 million extension, it is obvious that D’Angelo Russell’s days with the Brooklyn Nets are numbered.

The Brooklyn Nets and guard Spencer Dinwiddie agreed Thursday to a three-year, $34 million extension, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that D’Angelo Russell — one thought to be the Nets’ point guard of the future — is now the point guard for only the very immediate future.

General manager Sean Marks had a choice to make heading into an offseason next July that includes significant cap space and both of his point guards heading into free agency.

He could extend Dinwiddie before the fifth-year symbol of Brooklyn’s player development system could hit the open market. He could look to re-sign Russell, whose rookie contract expires June 30, as a restricted free agent.

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Or he could take a gamble on one of the two star point guards expected to be available as free agents next July 1, either Boston Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving or Charlotte Hornets All-Star Kemba Walker, a New York product.

But that market appears to have dried up. Irving has already stated his intention to decline his 2019-20 player option and re-sign with the Celtics for a max deal.

Walker, meanwhile, told the Charlotte Observer recently that he fully expects to remain with the Hornets after the four-year, $48 million extension he signed in 2014 expires this summer.

Of course, Walker remaining in Charlotte is a no-brainer for the Hornets, with the one caveat being that Charlotte GM Mitch Kupchak is the same basketball mastermind who threw $128 million at Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng in July 2016.

So no scenario should be considered too stupid to be off the table for Kupchak.

Faced with that Marks had a choice between Dinwiddie, the former second-round pick the Nets rescued from the NBA Developmental League in December 2016, or Russell, the former No. 2 overall pick Brooklyn acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers in June 2017.

The salary cap scenarios don’t favor Russell remaining, now that Dinwiddie has gone from a $1.6 million cap hold in July to a $10.6 million cap hit for next season.

Russell’s cap hold, per Jeff Siegel at Early Bird Rights, is roughly $21.1 million. Their max cap space for next summer is $53.8 million, with the assumption that Allen Crabbe exercises his $18.5 million option for next season.

That scenario also involves Brooklyn renouncing its rights to Russell and all its other free agents (cap holds in parentheses): DeMarre Carroll ($23.1 million), Kenneth Faried ($20.65 million), Jared Dudley ($14.3 million), Ed Davis ($5.34 million) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ($7.41 million).

Bobby Marks of ESPN figured the Nets’ available cap space at $19 million if they don’t renounce Russell and Hollis-Jefferson.

RealGM’s Keith Smith, meanwhile, put that available cap space figure at nearly $41 million based on an assumption Brooklyn would renounce Russell’s rights, but retain Hollis-Jefferson.

That scenario still gives Brooklyn an opportunity to lure a star/superstar, with the most they could offer premier wings such as Jimmy Butler (if he declines his 2019-20 option as expected) or Khris Middleton would be $140 million over four years.

The Nets also currently hold two first-round picks — their own (currently sixth overall, without figuring in lottery results) and the Denver Nuggets’ top-12 protected pick which currently projects at No. 28 or 29 overall (the Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks have identical records).

So the question becomes not if Russell is gone, but when. With teams such as the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic in the market for point guard upgrades, there are potential trades to be had.

The Suns reportedly make a pitch to the Lakers that would have included Lonzo Ball as part of a deal for Trevor Ariza once Ariza’s trade restriction is lifted on Saturday.

But the Arizona Republic‘s Duane Rankin reported Thursday that the Lakers balked at including Ball or several other young players in such a deal.

Ariza could be the 3-and-D wing Carroll has not been able to be for the Nets this season because of his shooting struggles.

But because of Ariza’s $15 million salary, Brooklyn would have to include more than Russell (with a $7.02 million cap figure) because both teams are over the 2018-19 salary cap. The Nets’ options for balancing such a deal get more complicated.

The most attainable contract to include would be Dudley’s at $9.53 million, but it is very unlikely Phoenix would take Dudley back after dumping his salary on Brooklyn in July.

The other likely candidates on expiring deals would be Carroll ($15.4 million) or Faried ($13.76 million), but then the Suns would have to add something to the deal, with a combination of Dragan Bender ($4.66 million) and Troy Daniels ($3.26 million) the best available math balancers.

Russell would like that scenario because it would unite him with longtime friend Devon Booker, who could then be freed up to move back to shooting guard. Phoenix had been using Booker as their point guard since waiving Isaiah Canaan, at least before Booker injured a hamstring.

Trades when everyone is over the cap become much more complicated to manage, because each team’s total of the salaries being traded has to be within 20 percent of the other club’s total.

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But whether the Nets attempt to recoup some sort of asset or assets in exchange for Russell or simply let him walk away as a free agent, his departure from Brooklyn is now a matter of when rather than if.