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Houston Rockets: Projecting the Brooklyn Nets’ draft picks to 2027

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 05: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) James Harden #13, Kevin Durant #7 (L) and Kyrie Irving #11 (C) of the Brooklyn Nets look on against the Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center on February 05, 2021 in New York City. The Raptors defeated the Nets 123-117. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 05: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) James Harden #13, Kevin Durant #7 (L) and Kyrie Irving #11 (C) of the Brooklyn Nets look on against the Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center on February 05, 2021 in New York City. The Raptors defeated the Nets 123-117. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets
James Harden #13,Joe Harris #12 and Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets: Projecting the Brooklyn Nets’ roster to 2027

The Nets may have built a title contender with James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving but they seriously hamstrung their roster flexibility to do so. The trio will earn a combined $119.6 million next season with the salary cap projected to be $112.1 million and the luxury tax threshold at $136.6 million.

Add in Joe Harris and DeAndre Jordan are already under contract for a combined $27.1 million, and the Nets have no way to make significant upgrades through free agency. While they could make fortifications through trades, they can’t trade any of their draft picks because the Rockets either own them or have swap rights. The Nets roster, outside of small moves, is what it is.

Houston Rockets: The Brooklyn Nets make or break summer of 2022

The other impending reality is that the 2021-22 season is a make-or-break season for the Nets. Not only will the trio be one year older but each of Durant, Harden, and Kyrie have player options for the 2022-23 season.

If all three opt-out, the Nets have to choose between losing their stars or seeing their financial situation become even more muddled. There is a future where the Nets are locked into an aging roster with little ability to add on the fringes.

The Nets will have the trio’s bird rights, which allows a team to exceed the salary cap to retain a player, but re-signing all three will make bringing in additions around them nearly impossible.

Houston Rockets: The staggering cost of the Brooklyn Nets retaining the Big-3

Since Harden, Kyrie, and Durant each have ten or more years of service time, they will command 35-percent of the salary cap with 8-percent annual raises. The 2023-24 salary cap is projected to be $119.2 million, assuming they each take maximum money, the financial commitment the Nets would have to make to keep all three is staggering.

35-percent of 2023-24 projected salary cap is $41.7 million and with 8-percent escalators, that would grow to $45 million in 2024-25, then to $48.6 million in 2025-26, and finally reach $52.5 million in 2026-27. Adding another wrinkle into this is that both Harden and Durant are set to earn close enough or more than $41.7 million in 2022-23, which means their starting salary will actually be 105-percent of what they earned in 2022-23.

Brooklyn Net’s potential financial commitment to their big-3

                                 2022-23   2023-24   2024-25   2025-26   2026-27

Kevin Durant:     $40.9M     $42.9M     $46.3M     $50.1M     $54.1M

Kyrie Irving:        $34.9M      $41.7M     $45M        $48.6M     $52.5M

James Harden:   $43.8M      $45.9M    $49.6M     $53.6M     $57.9M

              Total:     $119.6M   $130.5M   $140.9M   $152.3M  $164.5M

Irving, the youngest of the trio, will turn 30 next March, meaning an extension will cover his age 31 through 34 seasons. Durant’s would cover his age 35 through 38 seasons, and Harden’s would cover his age 34 through 37 seasons.

To build this superteam the Nets had to put all their resources into just three players and to keep it together they’ll have to do the same. The team’s success will ride and die on their big-3’s performances and availability, which is a scary thought for a team relying on three players signed deep into their 30s.

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