While the Kyrie Irving melodrama had dominated much of the NBA discussion — and all of the talk surrounding the Nets — Brooklyn still has other roster questions to answer this free-agency period besides those concerning their enigmatic All-Star.
Half of the Nets’ roster could get turned over — with Nic Claxton, Patty Mills and Bruce Brown still very much up in the air.
Mills has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to decide whether to pick up his $6.2 million player option for next season. If he doesn’t, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent and could sign with any team, though he could still return to Brooklyn.
Best suited as a sixth man, Mills was thrust into logging career-highs in starts (48) and minutes (2,346) due to Irving’s absence for most of the season. He shot 41.9 percent from 3-point range and 85.4 from the free-throw line in the first half of the season before getting run into the ground after the All-Star break and managing just 33.1 from deep and 63.6 from the stripe, clearly on fumes.
Once Brooklyn gets clarity on Mills, then the attention can turn to Claxton and Brown, with the Nets expected to try to retain both.
Brown had been expected to garner as much as $8 million-$10 million last offseason, before having to settle for the $4.7 million qualifying offer to return to Brooklyn. He had a solid second half of the season — averaging 14.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 47.2 percent shooting from deep — and is due a raise. The Nets have his Bird Rights, so can go over the cap to retain one of their few perimeter defenders.
Claxton is potentially a restricted free agent, so the Nets can match any offer for him. But despite the fact they discussed a deal for a first-round pick with Toronto at the trade deadline, and the Houston Chronicle wrote they’re “unlikely to match a mid-level offer” — presumably the full $10 million mid-level exception (MLE) — sources have told The Post the Nets value the 23-year-old center’s switchability and want to keep him.
On Tuesday morning, ESPN reported that league executives expect Claxton to return to Brooklyn, and that he and the Nets have “an understanding.” They have until Thursday to ink him to an extension for up to four years, $55.6 million to keep him from entering restricted free agency.
Andre Drummond is an unrestricted free agent and has appeared in multiple offseason videos sporting Nets gear. They seem disinclined to bring back aging centers LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin, having shelved both down the stretch. That leaves last year’s first-round pick Day’Ron Sharpe and current undrafted rookie signee Brison Gresham as the only big men under contract.
One intriguing option out there could be backup Clippers center Isaiah Hartenstein, who had mutual interest with Brooklyn last summer until the Nets decided on Paul Millsap. The latter has since been bought out by the Nets.
Now with the Clippers set to sign John Wall (presumably for the $6.3 million MLE), re-signing starting center Ivica Zubac to a three-year, $33 million extension, according to ESPN, and even linked in trade talks for Knicks center Nerlens Noel, it implies Hartenstein could have to settle for the minimum or nothing at all in L.A. He could be in play for Brooklyn’s taxpayer MLE, as could teammate Nic Batum or Golden State free agent Otto Porter Jr.