If there’s one word to describe the Brooklyn Nets in the past two years, it’s ‘rollercoaster’.
On August 23, the Nets announced that the organization met with Kevin Durant and his agent Rich Kleiman months after Durant requested a trade from the team. Despite Durant initially wanting out, both sides agreed to stay together.
So Kevin Durant is still a Net for the 2022-23 season. What happens now?
It seems like the NBA world was put on pause after Durant requested a trade on June 30. The free agency market came to a halt because teams wanted to put together the best possible trade package for the former MVP and not waste cap space. But now that the KD drama is over, things can resume.
There are definitely still plenty of valuable players in the free agency market. Solid contributors like Carmelo Anthony, Dennis Schroder, and LaMarcus Aldridge are available fro the playoff contenders looking to add experience and depth, while high-impact players like Montrezl Harrell and Collin Sexton look to re-sign with their former teams or take a sizeable contract elsewhere.
Let’s take a look at the Brooklyn Nets current situation. Before Durant’s trade request, superstar Kyrie Irving opted into his contract with the Nets for the 2022-23 season, and now that KD is back, the fully-healthy Nets are looking to make a legitimate title run.
That’s crazy to say after the past two years. The Nets suffered a second round exit and a first round sweep in the 2021 and 2022 playoffs, both seasons coming with high expectations that they failed to meet.
Ben Simmons did not play a single game in the 2021-22 season, but now he’s looking to silence the doubters in his role as the third star in Brooklyn. But this third option is different from their previous one in James Harden. Ben Simmons does not require the ball in his hands to be effective in this offense. While Irving, Durant, and Harden were all score-first players on the same team, Simmons can do the majority of the dishing, while providing elite-level defense on the other end.
The Nets also have some legitimate depth. Seth Curry, Joe Harris, T.J. Warren, and Cam Thomas highlight the valuable wings that can space the floor. What would be ideal for Brooklyn is to sign or trade for a center to start over Nic Claxton. Claxton is a fine piece for the Nets, but he’s only 23 years old, and the Nets would look more complete with Claxton as the backup center. They need an experienced but still serviceable big, mainly for defense and rebounding.
Now, I don’t mean to hype up the Nets, because let us not forget, they have yet to make it past the second round with Durant and Kyrie. Not to mention, the East is looking even more competitive than last year, with contenders like the Boston Celtics adding more firepower, and low-level playoff teams like the Atlanta Hawks adding volume to make some noise in 2023. Plus, the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat are still very much in the race for the title, and the difference between the Bucks, Heat, and Celtics from the Nets is that those teams have put themselves in the best position to win. Of course, the Bucks are the only one of the four to win a title in the past three years, but there is significant gap between a second-round exit and an NBA Finals loss.
I have the Nets finishing as the fourth seed in the East behind the Bucks, Celtics, and Heat, maybe they could be higher but not a one-seed. Don’t be fooled though, because the fight for the top spot will be astronomically close. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that Sean Marks and Joe Tsai should be thanking their lucky stars that they were able to keep their superstar and didn’t have to blow up the team again, because the last thing they needed was the Nets becoming the laughing stock of the NBA, again.