There are reports that C.J. Watson plans to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Nets.
The Brooklyn Nets have four players set to become free agents this summer, and general manager Billy King must decide whom he wants to keep and whom he wants to cut.
When the offseason begins, Andray Blatche, Keith Bogans, Jerry Stackhouse and C.J. Watson will enter the open market as unrestricted free agents. As such, these players will have the option of signing with any team, and the Nets won’t be able to match the offer.
With Stackhouse likely to retire, the big free-agent decisions must be made on Blatche, Bogans and Watson. All three were key bench contributors last season, but given the Nets' unfavorable salary-cap situation, some tough decisions will have to be made in the coming weeks.
Andray Blatche: Keep
The Nets must do whatever it takes to re-sign Blatche.
Blatche led the Brooklyn bench in scoring last season, averaging 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds in just 19.6 minutes per game. The 26-year-old was mostly used as a backup center by interim coach P.J. Carlesimo and thrived in that role.
He could, however, be even more effective as a starter playing alongside center Brook Lopez. In the first six games of the first-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn outscored Chicago 91-53 in the 36 minutes the two big men played together.
The Nets got Blatche at a discount price last season. After a tumultuous few years with the Washington Wizards, he was amnestied then signed a non-guaranteed minimum one-year contract with Brooklyn.
Because they’re well over the salary cap and deep in the luxury tax, the Nets can only offer Blatche the mini mid-level exception or the minimum. There are rumors the team will use the mid-level exception on Croatian Bojan Bogdanovic, according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com, so it will most likely be the minimum.
Under normal circumstances, it’s unlikely Blatche would take a one-year minimum contract after having such a productive season. But he’s still being paid $16 million over the next two years by the Wizards. That extra cash plus an opportunity to start for a playoff contender should be enough to keep him in Brooklyn for at least one more year.
Keith Bogans: Cut
Bogans started in 23 games for the Nets in 2012-13. The 33-year-old swingman averaged a modest 4.2 points on 38 percent shooting in 19 minutes per game.
Bogans was a serviceable backup and did a nice job filling in for an injured Joe Johnson and spelling Gerald Wallace, but if the Nets plan on signing Bogdanovic, there’s no reason to keep him around.
At this point in his career, Bogans provides toughness, leadership and the occasional corner three. If the Nets plan on becoming a serious title contender in the next two years, they’ll need to upgrade their depth at small forward by finding a player who can space the floor and provide a legitimate scoring option off the bench.
Bogdanovic could be that guy. The 6’8” European averaged 15.5 points and shot 40.5 percent from three-point range in 21 games with Turkish club Fenerbahce during 2012-13.
The Nets haven’t expressed the desire to retain Bogans, and it’s unlikely they’ll keep him if the sharpshooting Bogdanovic is in their plans.
C.J. Watson: Cut
The Nets signed Watson to a two-year contract with a player option last summer. The combo guard averaged 6.8 points on 42 percent shooting in 19 minutes per game in 2012-13. He shot 41 percent from three-point range and was a solid second option behind Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
Watson has a $1.1 million player option for 2013-14, which means he’ll have the option to either stay with the Nets or opt out and seek more money elsewhere.
The Nets can only offer Watson a minimum deal, and the New York Post's Peter Vecsey reports that he plans to opt out of his contract and seek more cash and playing time with a different team.
If Watson turns down his player option, it will be up to 23-year-old Tyshawn Taylor to fill the void.
Taylor averaged 2.2 points in just 5.8 minutes per game during his rookie season, but showed signs that he’s capable of becoming the primary backup to D-Will. The former Kansas star scored 12 points in 34 minutes in an 89-84 win over the Indiana Pacers on Feb. 11 and recorded 14 points, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals against the Wizards on April 15.
The Nets lack the cap room to offer Watson the money he’ll demand, and with Taylor waiting in the wings, they’ll have no choice but to let the six-year pro become an unrestricted free agent.
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