Of all NBA teams, the Nets were in the best position to land shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He was considered the best remaining unrestricted free agent on the market after the Pistons renounced his contract last week.
The fact that Caldwell-Pope reportedly agreed on Tuesday to a one-year deal worth $18 million with the Lakers is evidence Nets general manager Sean Marks made a strategic decision to preserve his future salary cap space.
After Caldwell-Pope turned down the Pistons’ offer of a five-year contract worth $80 million, it became clear he wanted something approaching a maximum contract. The Pistons chose to trade for Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley rather than overpay Caldwell-Pope, and Marks made a similar judgment.
“If the right deal comes along that uses all of our cap space, we could jump at it,” Marks said Sunday in Las Vegas, where the Nets still are involved in Summer League play. “If it doesn’t and we take this cap space into the season, I’m excited about that.”
The Nets’ pending trade of Justin Hamilton for veteran Raptors small forward DeMarre Carroll plus first- and second-round picks in the 2018 draft should become official Thursday when the money the Nets committed to an offer sheet for Wizards restricted free agent Otto Porter Jr. is freed. Carroll is owed $30.2 million over the next two seasons, which reduces the Nets’ cap space to about $17 million this season, but they might have as much as $30 million available for the 2018 free-agent market.
Taking on salary dumps, as Marks did with the Carroll deal and in a trade with the Lakers for D’Angelo Russell that also included center Timofey Mozgov, who is owed $48 million over the next three seasons, has proven to be a successful strategy.
“We were able to be strategic,” Marks said. “For us, it involved being patient and being as prepared as we could be.”
Because of their crowded backcourt situation, the Nets did not have a pressing need for Caldwell-Pope, but they still might turn their attention to their need for frontcourt scoring. Hawks unrestricted free-agent power forward Ersan Ilyasova is one possibility, or Marks could test the RFA waters again with an offer sheet to Grizzlies power forward JaMychal Green.
“I think we all like having the space we have right now, and we’ll see what comes across our way,” Marks said. “I don’t think we have to do anything. If the right deals come across, we’ll certainly look at them.”