The Brooklyn Nets have more to lose than gain via free agency this offseason, but there is hope for improvement.
Because of the bloated contracts anchoring their roster, the Nets could see key role players suiting up elsewhere in the near future. Shaun Livingston and Andray Blatche will gauge interest around the league, while Kevin Garnett, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com, is rumored to return for his 20th season.
Upgrading a franchise without any salary-cap space is challenging, but not impossible. Let's take a look at what's potentially in store this summer for the Nets.
Replacing Shaun Livingston
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings are reportedly interested in Livingston, and with the most Brooklyn can offer being $10 million over three years, there's a decent chance the 6'7" point guard goes to the highest bidder.
Livingston played a crucial role in the Nets' turnaround after the franchise struggled to start the season, and his departure could stymie the flow of head coach Jason Kidd's offense.
Brooklyn has targeted Jarrett Jack, per ESPN's Marc Stein, who would be a potential replacement for Livingston. If the Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers fail to agree on a trade, a cheap alternative will have to be found.
The Nets could find themselves entertaining free-agent veterans like Earl Watson, Ramon Sessions and Shelvin Mack if that becomes the case.
Andray Blatche Stays Put
Prior to trading for Omer Asik, the New Orleans Pelicans were rumored to have interest in Blatche:
With Asik in the middle and Ryan Anderson returning to action, signing Blatche could create a logjam in the frontcourt, which may signify the end of interest between the two parties.
After nearly vanishing from the league, Blatche found himself with the Brooklyn Nets and has grown as a player and person more than one would have expected during his tenure with the Washington Wizards. The Nets were one of the few organizations that believed in him, and he may return the favor this summer by re-signing after briefly testing free agency.
Blatche has a guaranteed role with the Nets, and with Garnett's age—if he does return—and Brook Lopez's fragility, Brooklyn provides him with the best combination of playing time and responsibility.
Unless an organization comes from left field and offers Blatche a contract far richer than the Nets' desires, he'll be back at the Barclays Center next season.
Markel Brown Makes the Roster
Markel Brown was the first of Brooklyn's three second-round draft picks, and out of Xavier Thames, Cory Jefferson and himself, he has the highest ceiling.
The 6'3" combo guard from Oklahoma State is explosive, and at the draft combine, he tied for the highest vertical leap with 43.5 inches, via Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com.
Brown may never reach Westbrook's level of dominance and productivity, but with his athleticism and under the tutelage of Kidd and Deron Williams, he should become a reliable sparkplug off the bench for the Nets.
Like Westbrook, Brown plays with a ton of confidence and a full head of steam.
He'll be tough to guard in the open court and could be electric in spurts if his jumper continues to improve. With his 6'9" wingspan, Brown should also find some success as a one-on-one defender and in the passing lanes.
KG and Paul Pierce Retire Together
Paul Pierce has noted that he has one to two years left in him, and with Garnett likely to call it a day after his 20th season, there's a decent chance the two get together for one more try at leading the Nets to greatness.
Pierce hasn't indicated much on whether or not he will re-sign, and while there is always the potential for a reunion with Doc Rivers, the sour taste of coming up short with the Nets last season is sure to linger.
Brooklyn won't be listed as potential favorites this upcoming year—like some thought they would be last offseason—but the franchise will be competitive enough in the mediocre Eastern Conference to have a chance at making an NBA Finals run.
Garnett and Pierce still have enough left in their tanks to be contributors, and their chemistry together—and with the Nets—is unlikely to be tinkered with as they inch closer to retirement.