Summer agenda: Nets, Suns have plenty of work ahead

Bobby Marks
The Vertical
The Nets’ Brook Lopez has one year left on his contract, and the Suns’ Alex Len will be a restricted free agent. (AP)

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a former 20-year executive with the Nets, looks at the possible offseason plans and roster details for each team. Monday’s first installment features the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns.

BROOKLYN NETS

Offseason focus and team needs

1. Choose a direction to utilize cap space: restricted vs. unrestricted free agents
The Nets were 0-3 in offer sheets for restricted free agents in 2016-17.

2. Find a backup point guard as insurance for Jeremy Lin
Lin played in only 36 games during the regular season because of injury, and 14 of the Nets’ 20 wins occurred when Lin was on the court.

3. Determine Brook Lopez’s value
He is in the last year of his contract, which is worth $22.6 million, and has missed only two games in the past two seasons. He also elevated his game this season, shooting 34.7 percent from three-point range.

4. What is the value of the Nets’ two mid-20s first-round draft picks?
Can the two picks return one in the teens? Or would rotational players taken in the 20s have more value than an impact player drafted in the teens?

5. Cap space vs. retaining the non-guaranteed contracts
The Nets have six non-guaranteed contracts, which are worth $11.3 million in room.

Brooklyn learned the hard way this season about having a quality backup point guard.

With Lin battling injuries throughout the season and Greivis Vasquez not fully recovered from the previous year’s surgery and eventually waived, Brooklyn relied on rookie Isaiah Whitehead, shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick and D-League player Spencer Dinwiddie for point-guard minutes.

Besides finding a backup point guard, there are holes throughout the Nets’ roster.

Brooklyn will need to use a combination of the draft and cap space ($25 million-30 million) to find a starting shooting guard and depth at power forward and center.

Nets summer cap breakdown

Guaranteed                                  2017-18                         Insider info
Brook Lopez                             $22,642,350                  Extension eligible
Jeremy Lin                                $12,000,000                     Trade bonus
Trevor Booker                            $9,125,000
Andrew Nicholson                    $6,362,998
Justin Hamilton                        $3,000,000
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson           $1,471,382
Caris LeVert                               $1,632,480
Isaiah Whitehead                      $1,312,611

Non/partial                                  2017-18                      Guarantee date
K.J. McDaniels                            $3,476,873                Team option June 24
Sean Kilpatrick                          $1,524,305                          June 30
Joe Harris                                   $1,524,305                          June 30
Spencer Dinwiddie                    $1,524,305
Quincy Acy                                 $1,709,538                           July 16
Archie Goodwin                         $1,577,230

FA cap hold                                  2017-18                           FA status
Randy Foye                               $3,000,000                        Non-Bird

First-round cap hold                   2017-18
No. 22 selection                        $1,713,720
No. 27 selection                        $1,423,560

Dead cap space                          2017-18
Deron Williams                         $5,474,787

Salary table                                   2017
Guaranteed salaries               $57,546,821
Dead money                             $5,474,787
Non-guaranteed                     $11,336,556
FA/draft cap holds                   $6,137,280
Salaries: cap                           $80,495,444
Salaries: tax                             $74,358,164
Salary cap                              $101,000,000
Luxury tax                              $121,000,000
Cap space                               $20,504,556
Tax room                                 $46,641,836

Jeremy Lin’s injury-filled season was an issue for the Nets. (AP)

Projected cap space

The Nets are one of the few teams that can create a $25.5 million max salary slot without juggling their roster.

Removing the Randy Foye cap hold will give Brooklyn $23.5 million in room that could increase based on the decisions of the six non-guaranteed contracts that have a cap value of $11.3 million.

The Nets will also have the $4.2 million room mid-level exception available if cap space is used to fill out their roster.

June draft picks

Because of the swap with Boston, Brooklyn has the Celtics’ first-round pick at No. 27.

From the trade of Bojan Bogdanovic, the Nets have the Wizards’ first-round pick at No. 22.

In the second round the Nets have the Celtics’ pick at No. 57.

Future draft picks

Boston has the Nets’ unprotected first-round pick in 2018. Starting in 2019, the Nets will have their own future first-round picks.

PHOENIX SUNS

Offseason focus and team needs

1. Establish a winning culture
The Suns haven’t made the playoffs in seven years and have posted season win totals in the 20s in three of their last five seasons.

2. Draft the best available player
The Suns will likely have a top-three pick in a point-guard heavy draft. If point guard is the best option, they should draft one even though that position isn’t their biggest need.

3. Find a home for Brandon Knight
The guard has three years and $43.9 million left on his contract and has fallen out of the rotation. With Tyler Ulis developing as the team’s backup point guard, Knight no longer has a role.

4. Retain homegrown talent Alex Len and Alan Williams
Both players are restricted free agents but have shown enough to be considered part of the franchise’s future.

5. Emphasize player development
Phoenix has fourth-youngest roster in the NBA with an average age of 25.4. Improvement for the Suns must come from within for them to make positive strides.

With 11 players under contract, not including Len and Williams, and three draft picks – one first- and two second-round picks – Phoenix will need to balance its roster this summer in an effort to determine whether the last two 20-win seasons are a reflection of a roster that does not fit or a young team going through growing pains.

Phoenix has proven it can score points (10th in points per game), but it’s in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency.

Things do not get much better on defense, where Phoenix ranks in the bottom three in defensive efficiency.

The Suns need to focus on finding veterans with a defensive mind-set at backup shooting guard and power forward.

Can Phoenix get an asset for Brandon Knight? (AP)

Suns summer cap breakdown

Guaranteed                                        2017-18                                Insider info
Eric Bledsoe                                    $14,500,000                        Extension eligible
Brandon Knight                               $13,618,750
Tyson Chandler                               $13,000,000                        Extension eligible
Jared Dudley                                   $10,000,000
Dragan Bender                                 $4,468,800
Marquese Chriss                              $3,073,800
T.J. Warren                                       $3,152,931                     Rookie extension eligible
Devin Booker                                    $2,319,360
Tyler Ulis                                            $1,312,611

Non/partial                                       2017-18                           Guarantee date
Leandro Barbosa                            $4,000,000                                 July 3
Elijah Millsap                                   $1,524,305
Derrick Jones                                   $1,312,611

FA cap holds                                     2017-18                                FA status
Alex Len                                          $12,059,053                         Restricted Bird
Alan Williams                                    $1,671,382                      Restricted early Bird

First-round cap hold                        2017-18
Projected No. 2 selection                $6,286,560

Salary table                                        2017-18
Guaranteed salaries                       $65,946,252
Non-guaranteed                              $6,336,916
Tax variance                                       $158,771
FA/Draft cap holds                         $21,488,377
Salaries: cap                                    $93,771,545
Salaries: tax                                     $72,441,939
Salary cap                                      $101,000,000
Luxury tax                                      $121,000,000
Cap space                                         $7,228,455
Tax Room                                         $48,558,061

Projected cap space

Phoenix can go in several different directions this summer when it comes to cap space.

With $7.2 million in room, Phoenix could see its room increase to $25 million but at the expense of waiving Leandro Barbosa and letting Len sign with another team and not matching.

The Suns can also go the conservative route, bringing back Len and using the $8.4 million and $3.2 million exceptions to fill out their roster.

Not including their first-round pick and restricted free agents Len and Williams, Phoenix has nine guaranteed contracts and three players on non-guaranteed deals.

June draft picks

Phoenix has its own first-round pick, currently No. 2 before the May 16 lottery. The Suns also have their own second-round pick at No. 32 and the No. 54 pick from the Raptors.

Future draft picks

The Suns own their future first-round picks. And as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, Phoenix obtained two first-round picks from Miami.

The Heat sent Phoenix a 2018 first-round pick, protected Nos. 1-8. The pick will roll over to 2019 with no protection if Miami is in the top eight of the lottery.

Phoenix also has a 2021 unprotected first from Miami.

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