Like every other old team getting knocked out of the playoffs, there are plenty of questions regarding the future of the Brooklyn Nets. If the combination of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce wasn’t even close to enough now, it’s hard to believe that the near future considering their cap situation is going to be filled with more deep runs in the playoffs and contending for the NBA title.
Some of the Nets tried to look at the bright side of this season. About how they fought back after a rough couple of months to have a fantastic 2014. About coming together as a team under rookie head coach Jason Kidd. How they swept the Miami Heat in the regular season, and how they managed to survive a tough seven-game series with the Toronto Raptors. This wasn’t a bad season, but only if you ignore just how much money was spent on making this team.
Including the luxury tax, this team’s wage bill cost $193 million this season. They have no picks in the 2014 NBA draft, and have $90.5 million guaranteed next season in salary if all players pick up their options. They have the option of signing someone to the low end of the mid-level exception ($3.3 million a year). This isn’t money spent to have an OK season, and with so much money spent on bringing this crop together there isn’t much left to change.
Paul Pierce is hitting free agency. He took the loss hard. After making $15 million last season, the Nets expected more from him in this series, but guarding and facing off against LeBron James in the playoffs is very different than playing against him in the regular season. Pierce looked old, slow and weak. Not retirement material, but not a player you should expect to do a lot for you. Pierce thinks he has one or two more years in him, but he’ll choose a team he can contend for titles with. Not sure the Nets have what it takes.
Kevin Garnett is another mystery. He has one more season worth $12 million next season but for at least half the games in these playoffs he looked like a completely washed up has been. We’re not talking about a veteran who can contribute a few minutes here and there. Garnett often looked like retirement better suits him and the team. He stormed off the court without talking to anyone after the loss. Losing has never been easy for him or handled with grace and dignity.
The Nets have Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez as their foundation for next season. That’s good, with a solid bench, and if they can get Shaun Livingston for a low price things look solid for their supporting unit. But championship team? The East is bad, so playoffs aren’t that hard to reach, but the Nets simply don’t have the leeway in free agency, the chance to nab a big-time draft pick or the talent to have big expectations for the foreseeable future.