Nets lose Bruce Brown, Andre Drummond in free agency

All eyes are on where the Nets will send Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but the team already has lost starters Andre Drummond and Bruce Brown in free agency.

Drummond agreed late Thursday night to a two-year, $6.6 million contract with the Chicago Bulls, with the second year a player option. But the veteran center’s departure was a fait accompli when Durant asked for a trade and the Nets went into rebuilding mode. Brown’s departure, early Friday morning, stung more.

Brown agreed to a two-year, $13 million deal with Denver. The second year is a player option, according to ESPN. It seems like a bargain for the Nuggets, and a shot to land on a contender for Brown.

Denver apparently gave Brown the taxpayer mid-level exception. The Nets could have simply matched Denver’s offer with their own taxpayer mid-level exception, but opted to hold onto it.

Bruce Brown
Bruce Brown
NBAE via Getty Images

Instead, they chose to trade one of their two 2023 first-round draft picks and used the largest of their cache of trade exceptions to preemptively replace Brown, dealing for Jazz 3-and-D wing Royce O’Neale. At least O’Neale will attempt to replace Brown.

After a breakout campaign in 2020-21, Brown was expected to get around $8 million to $10 million on the free agent market. He ended up settling for about half of that, coming back to Brooklyn for the $4.7 million qualifying offer. He averaged 9.0 points and shot 40.4 percent from 3-point range, both career-highs.

Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond
Charles Wenzelberg

Logging 72 appearances for a Nets team with a decimated backcourt — Irving missed 53 games, prompting James Harden to demand a trade — Brown turned out to be a Swiss Army knife. Brown’s football mindset and 6-foot-9 wingspan let him start at small forward despite his compact 6-foot-4 size. He served as an undersized roller in the pick-and-roll, and averaged 14.7 points, 5.9 boards and shot 47.2 percent from deep after the All-Star break. O’Neale is regarded as a solid defender and will serve a similar role.

Meanwhile, potential MLE targets, such as Otto Porter Jr., Nic Batum, JaVale McGee and Isaiah Hartenstein, are all off the board and likely no longer would have made sense for a Nets team in the throes of rebuilding. Nets general manager Sean Marks might now hold onto the MLE to see if it can be used in a later trade, inking a player to possibly reroute as they retool in the wake of Durant’s trade request.

The Nets’ Summer League roster is out and includes 2021-22 rookies Cam Thomas, Kessler Edwards, David Duke Jr. and Day’Ron Sharpe, as well as all five incoming undrafted free agents, led by Alondes Williams. RaiQuan Gray, taken in the second round last year, is going to Las Vegas, but Marcus Zegarowski isn’t.

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