Here is a look at five key questions facing Nets management this offseason:
1. What is the pecking order at point guard with the return of a healthy Jeremy Lin to join D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie?
Lin has recovered from the ruptured patella tendon he suffered in the opener and has said on social media that he expects to be a starter in a “main role.” He and Russell began this season as starting guards, sharing responsibility for ballhandling and running the offense. That’s the most likely scenario going forward because Russell played inconsistently off the bench after his knee surgery. The Nets reportedly could have gotten a late first-round pick for Dinwiddie at the trade deadline and might have a similar opportunity this summer. They could trade him, knowing Caris LeVert also developed his point guard skills, or they could stand pat because of the need for depth at this vital position.
2. Should they sign free agent Joe Harris?
This is a no-brainer. Since Jan. 1, Harris has been the best three-point shooter in the NBA (with a minimum of 100 attempts), shooting a 46.7 percentage. He is No. 1 just ahead of LeBron James among players with at least 100 field goal attempts at the rim, shooting 62.7 percent, and his effective field goal percentage of 61.2 percent, which accounts for the added value of three-point shooting, is second among NBA guards and wings behind only Steph Curry. Harris is the shining example of the Nets’ development program, and they must sign him to a deal starting in the range of $5 million to $6 million.
3. What is the future for Okafor and Stauskas?
When the Nets acquired Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick in 2015, and Nik Stauskas, the No. 8 overall pick in 2014, in December in exchange for Trevor Booker, it seemed a worthwhile gamble on two lottery picks who needed a second chance. But just as happened with the Sixers, neither one managed to crack the regular playing rotation with the Nets. Many fans were upset by the lack of playing time for Okafor, who averaged 17.5 points as a rookie in 30 minutes per game. Clearly, the Nets weren’t satisfied with his impact at the defensive end. Unless that’s going to change, there is little point in using a roster spot and cap room to sign him. Free agent forwards Dante Cunningham and Quincy Acy are more likely signings.
4. Can the Nets find a top-notch “stretch four” in free agency?
Marks is famous for tendering restricted free agents, so it would not be surprising if he took another stab at that market. The Nets’ most glaring need is for a versatile power forward who combines three-point shooting ability with enough size and athleticism to be formidable in the paint on both offense and defense. Such talented players as Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle will be RFAs. It seems unlikely their current teams won’t match, which is what happened with every other RFA Marks has signed, but it’s worth a shot.
5. What is the goal for season three of the Marks/Atkinson rebuild?
The Philadelphia 76ers saw the fruits of their four-year “Process” pay off in this fifth season with a quantum leap from lottery team being assured of homecourt advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Unlike the Nets, the Sixers had control of their lottery picks. What is realistic for the Nets in 2018-19? If not for major injuries this season, the Nets likely were headed for 30-plus wins. Even without lottery picks, the Nets have developed a quality young core group that is capable of reaching the fringe of playoff contention with 30 to 35 wins next season.