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If any team has caught the attention of the National Basketball Association, along with its fanbase, the Brooklyn Nets are definitely one of them. After the all-star break, they find themselves in the middle of a rather tight playoff race at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. They have been playing well this season, bringing an intensity to every game. Usually, that intensity they play with is what pushes them over the edge and allows them to win these games. Another reason could be the career year being put together by their all-star point guard D'Angelo Russell. But with big decisions regarding their cap room, Russell's rise gives the Nets more questions than answers.
D'Angelo Russell has taken advantage of his new start with the Brooklyn Nets. After being traded from the Lakers in 2017, many didn't know what would become of Russell. D. Loading showed us his ability to be great in spurts in L.A. However, the situation in L.A. seemed a lot for him, as he couldn't get things to work smoothly there. Magic Johnson's leader comments didn't help either.
Now in Brooklyn with a new start (and new tattoos, he's inked up now), he has capitalized on the opportunity, becoming one of the leagues young stars. He jumped from averaging 15.5 points last year to 20.2 this year. He is also is averaging a career high in assists. His improved shooting is something to point out, as his field goal, three-point, and free throw percentages have all increased.
Earning his first all-star nod this season as well, it's safe to say that Russell has arrived in the NBA. He is definitely a strong candidate for most improved player. He said that his trade from L.A. was the best thing that happened to him and I agree. His increased maturity on and off the court is visible (just like his tats like he is really inked up), and he is the franchise player the Nets expected him to be. But this poses a problem for their finances
Russell is coming out of the all-star game on fire..and it was his birthday!
The Nets are in a good spot as a team. They have a couple solid pieces with Jarrett Allen anchoring at the center spot (I still remember that block on LeBron), Caris Levert just returned from that horrific injury, and Joe Harris just beat out Steph Curry in the Three-point Challenge. But those pieces aren't enough to win a championship, honestly, they aren't enough to get out of the second round in the east this year. Their financial situation is interesting, to say the least.
They are projected to have around $55 million in cap room, but that's if they don't' retain Russell. That would be enough room to a max player, and if you didn't know, 2019 potential free agent class is stacked. However, He's turned out to be the player the Nets wanted him to be and he could be their cornerstone piece. He is only 22 and hasn't even hit his prime years yet.
If the Nets are committed to finishing the loading process (see what I did there), they would need to get the all-star guard locked down, but is he worth paying now, and possibly giving up your shot at a max-caliber player? Well, they can't offer Russell an extension until July 6, and with him being a restricted free agent, that cap hold over $20 million would put a dent in their max player dreams as well.
Russell's impressive year puts the Nets in quite the conundrum. Do they commit to Russell and hope he can evolve into a greater talent than he is now? Or do they take the risk and let him go, hoping they can sign a player in free agency? Russell's timely rise to stardom put the Nets in a situation that has high risk and high reward on both sides. It's just a matter of which reward is going to be the sweetest for them?