Trendon Watford signs qualifying offer, will return to Nets on one-year deal

NEW YORK — Restricted free agent forward Trendon Watford signed his qualifying offer from the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday and will return to the team next season on a one-year deal.

Watford will earn $2.7 million in 2024-25 and will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Brooklyn has now filled 14 of 15 potential roster spots entering training camp in the fall.

“It means a lot to have T-Wat back,” Nets second-year guard Dariq Whitehead said. “I mean, honestly, last year, if everyone was watching, he showed a lot of high upside — especially with us going into a rebuild. T-Wat is a huge piece to have, just knowing all the versatility he brings and what he can do for this young team. And the way he can speak to us, step up and be a leader, I feel like it’s very huge for T-Wat to come back and we’re excited to have him.”

Watford, 23, went undrafted out of LSU in 2021 and spent two seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers before signing with Brooklyn as a free agent last August. He averaged 6.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 63 appearances last season while shooting 52.7% from the field and 39.7% from 3-point range.

While Watford’s minutes were inconsistent throughout the first half of last season, he broke out down the stretch, averaging 12.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game over his final 11 appearances. That included a 21-point performance against the Indiana Pacers on April 1.

“He’s always ready,” Nic Claxton said back in April. “He’s always real positive whenever he’s on the bench or whether he’s on the court just giving us good energy. And you see now he’s getting his opportunity and he’s making the best of his reps.”

Speaking to reporters at the Nets’ practice facility on Monday, general manager Sean Marks made it clear that Watford would be welcomed back to Brooklyn with open arms after showing flashes of potential when given extended minutes last season.

Claxton already signed a new four-year, $100 million extension to remain with the Nets, but there are still no updates regarding Lonnie Walker IV and Dennis Smith Jr., the team’s remaining unrestricted free agents.

“Well, the hope is that Trendon will be back,” Marks said. “I mean, we would love him to be part of this group, so that would be a priority for us. The rest of it, I think we’re just letting the dust settle a little bit on free agency seeing what happens around the league landscape, and then we’ll navigate that, you know, as we will.”