Allen Crabbe underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and is almost certainly done for 2018-19. Larger questions loom for the Brooklyn Nets guard.
The Brooklyn Nets announced that guard Allen Crabbe underwent arthroscopic surgery on his problematic right knee earlier this week, likely ending Crabbe’s season. It would take a deep playoff run for Crabbe to have a shot at returning this season.
Instead, the six-year NBA veteran heads into his offseason with larger questions looming. The biggest of those is whether he will ever be back in a Brooklyn uniform?
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Crabbe was the highest-paid Net this season at $18.5 million and holds an option for 2019-20 at the same amount, one that he’s all but certain to exercise after a season during which he shot 36.7 percent overall, averaged less than 10 points per game and missed 39 games with injuries.
Money is expected to flow freely this summer as nearly half of the players in the league are likely to hit free agency, but Crabbe has virtually no chance at matching $18.5 million for next season on the open market.
The Nets will have the ability to open up $50.36 million in cap space this summer, as the club has five expiring deals and two non-guaranteed contracts for 2019-20.
But one of those expiring deals belongs to All-Star D’Angelo Russell and in order to retain Russell and bring in a max player such as one of the superstars expected to hit the market, Brooklyn will have to find a taker for Crabbe’s $18.5 million deal that becomes an expiring contract on July 1.
When the Denver Nuggets clinched a playoff spot, that guaranteed the Nets will have two first-round picks to work with in the NBA Draft in June, with Denver’s pick — which had top-12 protection — to fall no higher than 26th overall and no lower than 29th.
Based on current standings, the Nuggets’ pick would convey to the Nets at the No. 27 overall spot. Brooklyn’s pick as of right now would be 16th overall.
That pick could be enough of an incentive for a team with cap space and without a first-round pick this year to take Crabbe’s salary off Brooklyn’s hands.
The cap for next season is projected at $109 million.
The Dallas Mavericks will send their first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks as part of the Luka Doncic–Trae Young trade. The Memphis Grizzlies owe their first-rounder to the Boston Celtics, as do the Sacramento Kings and LA Clippers.
The Houston Rockets are sending their first-rounder to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors owe their first-rounder to the San Antonio Spurs from the Kawhi Leonard trade.
None of those teams has made a corresponding deal to get back into the first-round in 2019 and could be potential suitors for Denver’s selection (or, if they wanted to give more up, the Nets’ own pick somewhere in the mid-teens).
Here is the maximum cap space, per Early Bird Rights, those teams without first-round picks can make available for 2019-20:
- Clippers: $57.49 million
- Dallas: $47.48 million
- Sacramento: $20.3 million
The Grizzlies, Rockets and Raptors are all projected to enter the offseason over the cap.
Brooklyn can open up the third-most space at $50.36 million, behind only the Clippers and New York Knicks ($71.28 million).
But opening up that space would involve cutting the non-guaranteed deals of Shabazz Napier ($1.85 million) and Treveon Graham ($1.65 million) and renouncing free-agent exception rights to unrestricted free agents DeMarre Carroll ($23.1 million cap hold), Jared Dudley ($14.3 million cap hold) and Ed Davis ($5.34 million cap hold).
The Nets would also have to renounce the Bird rights to restricted free agents Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ($7.41 million cap hold) and to the aforementioned Russell ($21.06 million).
Besides Crabbe’s player option, the Nets are already committed for next season to Spencer Dinwiddie ($10.61 million), Joe Harris ($7.67 million), Caris LeVert ($2.63 million), Jarrett Allen ($2.38 million), Dzanan Musa ($1.91 million) and Rodions Kurucs ($1.7 million).
Brooklyn is in a pick-your-poison position with Russell. In order to use his Bird rights and be able to sign Russell while exceeding the salary cap, the Nets would have to use up their cap space first and retain Russell’s cap hold at a shade more than $21 million.
If the Nets renounce Russell’s rights, they free up the cap hold but then would have to use cap space in order to re-sign their All-Star.
Based on the season he’s had, Russell will command a max deal or very close to one, which using Bird rights to give him the extra year would be five years at $158 million, the same deal that Devin Booker got from the Phoenix Suns and Karl-Anthony Towns received from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
That would take the Nets out of play for any of the other unrestricted free agent stars on the market … unless they find a taker for Crabbe’s deal.
Whether or not Brooklyn is successful in its quest to make the playoffs shouldn’t affect the franchise’s attractiveness to free agents. The Nets have done enough at this point to show they are just a piece or two away from being legitimate contenders.
Davis, a pending free agent himself, agrees with that assessment, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
"“We’ve competed and won enough games this year that they know that all we need is another All-Star, another dynamic player to take the franchise over the top. I think that’s what those top-tier free agents, that’s what goes through their minds. That’s how they think.”"
Juggling the math to add talent and retain Russell is the biggest of those.