Ripple effects of Caris LeVert’s extension and what it means for Nets’ cap space

Fibo Quantum

Ian Begley, SNY.tv Twitter |

Caris LeVert‘s extension leaves the Nets with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and LeVert all under contract through the 2020-21 season. That’s a strong group to build around — and one that doesn’t even include Jarrett Allen, who can sign an extension with Brooklyn next summer.

But the Nets’ core group is also an expensive one. And the LeVert extension — which was necessary for Brooklyn — leaves the club with a little less flexibility in future offseasons.

 

Here’s a look at the Nets’ cap situation with LeVert’s extension factored in, thanks to a huge assist from NBA salary cap expert Albert Nahmad.

2020-21: LeVert’s extension — which is for three years and $52.5 million with no options, SNY sources confirm — kicks in next season. And it means Brooklyn has $122 million in salary commitments for nine players for 2020-21. That number takes into account team options for Allen ($3.9 million) and Dzanan Musa ($2.0 million) and the bonuses for Durant and Irving. The Nets also have a team option for Garrett Temple ($5 million) that season. The cap for 2020-21 is projected at $117 million and the luxury tax line is $142 million. Re-signing Joe Harris or Taurean Prince next summer would likely leave Brooklyn above that luxury tax threshold. To get to 13 players on the roster, Brooklyn would have to spend at least $127 million. If the Nets then wanted to avoid the tax and bring back Harris or Prince, they’d have to do so while spending less than $15 million. That doesn’t factor in signing the first-round pick they are likely to receive from Philadelphia in the 2020 NBA Draft.

So it seems likely that the Nets will be in the luxury tax 2020-21, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. You have to spend money to acquire/retain elite NBA talent. And the Nets won’t be alone in paying the tax. Five teams were tax payers last season, per Larry Coon’s FAQ site on the salary cap. But getting into luxury tax territory could limit the Nets’ avenues to improve the roster. Brooklyn may have just the tax-payer MLE of $6.1M (assuming they are above the apron) and minimum-salary contracts to add players in the summer of 2021.

Worth noting: since the Nets probably won’t be a luxury tax team this season, they will avoid triggering the onerous repeater tax until 2023-24. Also worth noting: we’ve seen veterans sign minimum or below-market contracts to join a team with a shot to win a ring. So if the Nets are successful, they may be able to bring in some talented veterans who are willing to accept less money.

The Nets, obviously, could also obtain players via trade. They appear to have several players — LeVert, Dinwiddie — on contracts that would be attractive in a trade.

2021-22: This is the season that Allen’s presumed extension would begin, and when things could get extremely expensive for the Nets. Assuming they extend Allen, re-sign either Harris or Prince and Dinwiddie exercises his $12.3 million 2021-22 player option, the Nets will almost assuredly be paying the luxury tax. They also will likely be above the apron, which is projected at $158 million. This is significant because tax-paying teams below the apron have access to a higher mid-level exception of $10.6 million compared to an exception of $6.1 million for teams above the apron. Teams above the apron also can’t receive players in a sign-and-trade transaction and can’t use the bi-annual exception.

Of course, none of these financial restrictions will matter much if the Nets’ core group can thrive together. Brooklyn also had no choice but to offer LeVert the extension, which was first reported by ESPN (the NY Daily News first reported there were no options in the deal). With Durant sidelined for most, if not all, of the 2019-20 season, the Nets will probably ask more of LeVert on the offensive end this season.

He showed All Star potential last season, averaging 18.4 points per game before going down with a gruesome foot injury in November. LeVert returned to average a team-high 21 points per game in the playoffs against Philadelphia. And he’s been an integral part of the Nets’ resurgence.

“Caris personifies what it means to be a Brooklyn Net, and we firmly believe his best basketball is in front of him,” Nets GM Sean Marks said in a statement.

Since we’re in New York, it’s always worth referencing what this all means for the Knicks. New York has less than $50 million in expected salary committed to five players for 2020-21. So the Knicks could have significant cap space in the 2020 offseason, if they decline team options on the free-agents signed this summer. The free-agent class in 2020 isn’t strong. But depending on how they spend their money next summer, the Knicks could also have a sizeable amount of cap space heading into the summer of 2021. That projected free agent class is much stronger. And the summer of 2019, it doesn’t seem like the Knicks will have to compete with the Nets for those top free agents.