The additions to the Nets’ roster this off-season suggest they are still trying to compete for a championship. The dark cloud hanging over the franchise in the light of Kevin Durant‘s trade request, on the other hand, would suggest otherwise.
The truth, as incumbent head coach Steve Nash likes to say, lies somewhere in the middle: Durant’s trade request has created a bit of an uneasy situation in Brooklyn, but the Nets seem willing—at least on the surface—to take this stalemate further in the off-season, and possibly training camp, if they’re not blown away by a deal that far exceeds the catch Utah Jazz got in the Rudy Gobert mega deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The reality is that Durant has four years left on his contract and is one of the best basketball players to ever set foot on an NBA court. The Nets will not rush to sell low. And if Phoenix’s best offer — without Devin Booker at least — Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and six or seven years of combined picks and pick swaps isn’t enough, it’s unclear what any other team could reasonably offer. would make the Nets front office comfortable to agree to an exchange.
But amid what was a worst-case scenario — the utter thought of losing the greatest player in franchise history to a real run at an NBA championship — Nets GM Sean Marks delivers on his promise to improve Durant’s supporting cast in opening week. from NBA free agency. If he can put together a deep and talented supporting cast with the limited financial resources at his disposal, given the Nets’ status as a tax-paying team, Marks may be able to make Brooklyn’s grass green enough to convince Durant to stay put. .
Many have pointed to the Nets’ decision not to offer Bruce Brown a contract this off-season, and on the face of it, letting Brown walk to Denver on a modest two-year deal of $13 million seems like a blunder. But the Nets are expecting a healthy Ben Simmons for the first time since taking him in the James Harden deal. A healthy Simmons plays an average of about 34 minutes per game, and Nash said in his exit press conference that the team plans to use Simmons not only as the point guard and the initiator of the attack, but also as a center—a screener— and roller of Brown’s ilk in the last two seasons.
The Nets have made a business decision: not pay too much to have roster redundancy. Instead, they used their trade exception to acquire Utah Jazz 3-and-D grand piano Royce O’Neale.
O’Neale has long been a player the Nets have been looking for, and Brooklyn tried to trade for him last season, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto. While Brown shot 40% of the three-point range last season, his shooting rates were not only high in his career, but also an outlier. Brown must cement his mark as a shooter with an encore next season before teams start treating him as a legitimate outside threat.
O’Neale is a threat, and it could be argued that the Nets overpaid by picking a first round in 2023 to persuade the Jazz to a deal. The answer to that argument, however, is that the Nets don’t own the rights to that choice after all. It will be the least favorable of their own, the Houston and Philadelphia first-rounder next season. time.
Which brings us to the other signings: The Nets signed veteran scorer TJ Warren, and The Athletic reported getting him on the veteran minimum. Warren has missed all but four games in the past two seasons with what has been reported as a navicular fracture to his left foot. In the last three full seasons, Warren has played but averages close to 20 points per game. He’s a six-foot-8 forward who ticks two boxes: meeting Durant’s criteria when he tweeted “it’s a wing’s league”, and adding size to a Nets team that was bullied in their first round last season by the Celtics.
The Nets also added a big guard: Edmond Sumner, who missed the entire season last season after having surgery on his Achilles tendon, but the last time he played games for the Indiana Pacers, he shot a 39% clip from center.
While Nets made these improvements, they still have their best available tool for adding an impact player to free agency: the average taxpayer exception, which can be a one-year deal at $6.5 million or a three-year deal. worth $20 million. The MLE can also be split across multiple players, so if more players like Warren are willing to accept a pay cut to join a championship contender, the Nets can host them for a few hundred thousand dollars more than the veteran minimum. Some players that make sense given Brooklyn’s roster construction are shot-blocker Hassan Whiteside, defensive dog Avery Bradley, backup speed demon Dennis Schroder, reserve big man Nemanja Bjelica, three-and-D wing Ben McLymore; and annoying and former NBA champion Rajon Rondo.
Those free agents, however, want clarity on Durant’s status in Brooklyn before making any commitment. Durant’s trade request has frozen things in basketball. But what’s clear in Brooklyn from their moves in the wake of Durant’s request is that they’re still trying to win games.
Can Marks put a good enough supporting cast around Durant to make him rethink a future in Brooklyn? Kobe Bryant once asked for a trade on Los Angeles public radio, saying he would rather play on Pluto than return to the Lakers, only to win five championships and never play for another team.