Nets face significant financial challenges to improve roster

Mike Ehrmann

The Nets will have their hands full deciding what to do with Paul Pierce as they enter the 2014 NBA Draft without a pick and no cap flexibility.

Things went decently for Brooklyn this season. Eventually.

After an abysmal start, the Nets were one of the best teams in the NBA once the calendar turned, racking up wins and shutting down opposing offenses. Playing without Brook Lopez didn't seem to hamper them much at all, and with Mason Plumlee emerging, the rotation under first-year coach Jason Kidd solidified as the Nets became contenders in the East.

Shaun Livingston became a quiet surprise after years in the NBA and a tragic injury early in his career. His value skyrocketed over the course of the season, as the Nets forced their way to a second round matchup with the Miami HeatThere, Brooklyn proved unready to take on championship-level competition despite its wildly successful second half of the season.

Now, as the Nets enter the summer without any cap space and a pick, it's difficult to know how they improve as their aging team tacks on another year.

The assets

Picks: None
Free agents: Paul Pierce (UFA), Shaun Livingston (UFA), Jason Collins (UFA), Andray Blatche (UFA)
Cap space: -$28.5 million

Depth chart

PG: Deron Williams, Marquis Teague, Jorge Gutierrez
SG: Shaun Livingston (UFA), Marcus Thornton
SF: Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko, Alan Anderson
PF: Paul Pierce (UFA), Mirza Teletovic
C: Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee, Andray Blatche (UFA), Jason Collins, Brook Lopez

Team needs

Figuring out what to do with Pierce is likely to be their first priority. Letting Pierce walk isn't going to help the Nets sign someone else, and after this year's playoffs, the grizzled veteran still has something left in the tank. Brooklyn looks likely to lose Livingston and/or Blatche, which will pose a significant problem.

What was perilously obvious is that Brooklyn's roster as it is built now isn't good enough to make it out of the East. With their cap situation locked and situation deteriorating, it's unclear how the Nets can significantly improve. At least Lopez is slated to return next season, which will clarify the big man rotation.

Of course, Deron Williams' ankle might change their need for another ball handler sooner than we think if Livingston leaves. The Nets reportedly offered Thornton for Cleveland's Jarrett Jack to help solve this problem.

Targets

Pierce is largely their target moving forward, with a backup ball handler second on the list. Several useful guards will be available in free agency for a discounted price, including former Net Devin Harris.

There is talk that Brooklyn might purchase a pick in the first round outright. In the unlikely event that Brooklyn can trade or buy a pick, getting a young and cheap guard is the team's most likely direction. That also could mean moving one of their pieces, such as Thornton. He has an expiring contract, which may entice other teams to seek cap relief next summer.

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