Lopez and Young each re-signed almost immediately upon the start of the NBA's free agency period early Wednesday morning. And though the contracts look expensive, they were fully necessary for the Nets to retain the little magic they produced during an otherwise underwhelming 38-44 season.
Here are the details, courtesy of Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
Lopez, 27, will receive a three-year, $60 million maximum contract that includes some protections for the Nets should a recurrence of Lopez’s foot issues sideline him again, sources said. The deal will include a player option after the second season, which would allow him to re-enter free agency once new television money raises the salary cap.
Young, 27, who opted out of $10.2 million owed him next season, will sign a four-year, $50 million deal with a player option, sources said.
This was basically inevitable. We've known for months now that the Nets' No. 1 offseason priority was to make sure both Lopez and Young returned. Now, they have. And the best news is that the team got the deals done quickly, enabling it to start looking for role players to bolster the fringes of a roster still trying to compete in the wretched Eastern Conference.
Sure, you can look at Lopez's three-year, $60 million contract and think, "Oh my gosh! That is so much money! Think about how many foot surgeries that contract can buy!" But this is a different economic environment than the one we're used to, so out of the ordinary that even NBA officials went into this summer somewhat confused as to how contracts would look across the board.
This is the same league that has a reported four-year, $80 million offer on the table for Paul Millsap (per ESPN's Chris Broussard). DeMarre Carroll signed for four years, $60 million, per Wojnarowski. Heck, Alexis Ajinca can now whip out a contract that will pay him $20 million over the next four years, per ESPN's Marc Stein).
The NBA offseason makes no sense...until you realize it actually does.
Let's get nerdy for a second.
We're still unsure of exactly what next year's salary cap will be, but recent projections have the figure somewhere between $67 million and $69 million. We haven't seen the year-by-year breakdown for Lopez's or Young's salaries, but to make things easy, let's assume they're both getting paid their average annual value during each season of the deal: $20 million for Brook and $12.5 million for Thad.
So, their combined salaries will take up somewhere between 47 percent and 49 percent of the cap in 2015-16. Seems like a lot for two guys who you'd rather be one step down on the totem pole, secondary and tertiary options instead of the initial ones, no?
But don't forget about that rising basketball-related income once the league's new monster TV deal kicks in for the following season, when the cap could jump to $88 million or more. The combined salaries of Lopez and Young would be less than 37 percent of that salary cap, the equivalent of those two equaling about $25 million in today's environment, which appears far more reasonable of a price.
It becomes even more team-friendly in 2017-18 (if there's no lockout, of course), when the cap could climb as high as $108 million, meaning Lopez and Young will join to make for only about 30 percent of the cap, the equivalent of a $20 million combined figure today.
If Young or Lopez had left Brooklyn, it's not like the Nets would be able to find a viable replacement for them. They couldn't go out and sign a Tyson Chandler type to be plan B for Lopez. Those guys are too expensive now, and the Nets are still bogged down with the bulky contracts of Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and—don't forget—Jarrett Jack. Even if both Young and Lopez had walked, Brooklyn wouldn't have had much cap room at all.
But by the start of 2016-17, the Nets will have room to operate with Johnson's deal coming off the books (unless they're actually able to trade him) along with the cap explosion.
Sure, their future will still be in question considering they won't have first-round picks in 2016 and 2018 (both will head to the Boston Celtics as a result of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade from 2013). They may not have their own selection in 2017 either, when the Celtics have the right to swap picks with them as the Atlanta Hawks did this past season. But Brooklyn, like many other organizations out there readying for the cap spike, will have space to sign players.
Whether the organization will be able to bring in big names is anyone's guess. I can't see that far into the future. Don't pretend like you can, either. But the Nets will have more flexibility than people like to talk about, and as he enters the final year of his deal, Williams will become easier to unload as well. Expiring contracts are always tradable.
For now, the Nets should be excited not only that they retained their two best players, but also that they did it so swiftly, only a few hours after the free-agency period began.
Prioritizing guys of that caliber to such a degree is certainly the sign of a hamstrung organization, but they can't change the past. Those bad contracts, the regrettable trades, they already happened. So, on the first day of free agency, Brooklyn made the only move it could, bringing back the two men most responsible for getting its team into the playoffs this past season.
Follow Fred Katz on Twitter at @FredKatz.