Nets immediately flip to the long run after Durant, Irving mega-deals

Should we begin with the glass-half-full view? Sure, let’s be variety to the few Brooklyn Nets followers nonetheless on the market. 

They’ve been via a tough, effectively, week? Month? Season? Year? Years?

You get the purpose.

So, the excellent news: After all that, after tearing down the group they labored so onerous to construct, after changing into — and I haven’t appeared this up, nevertheless it must be true, proper? — the primary group in NBA historical past to commerce two All-NBA gamers inside one week, the Nets, due to the selections of normal supervisor Sean Marks and governor Joe Tsai, are literally in an honest spot. 

Yes, their days of being championship contenders have come to an finish. Yes, their dream of upstaging the Knicks and taking up New York City and changing into the usual for group constructing by no means fairly got here to fruition. Turns out it’s onerous to beat the capriciousness of Kyrie Irving. But as soon as it grew to become clear that the championship window had been slammed shut, the Nets did an excellent job of not solely pivoting, however doing so in a method that places them on a path towards each remaining aggressive within the current and ready for the long run. 

Step 1 was the Irving deal. Back in the summertime, when Kevin Durant requested for a commerce and Irving was canvassing the marketplace for a brand new dwelling, the Nets, in keeping with folks accustomed to their considering, determined that when the time finally got here to tug the plug, they’d commerce Irving first. They acknowledged that dealing Durant would crush their leverage in Irving negotiations; rivals knew the Nets had no real interest in holding onto Irving if Durant was not round.  

The Nets had been additionally capable of reap the benefits of a brand new proprietor desperate to make a splash. According to reporting from ESPN, it was Mat Ishbia, the brand new governor of the Phoenix Suns, who pushed for and closed the Durant deal. Sure, the Nets benefitted from some luck right here — Durant needed to play in Phoenix, a need his circle had made clear to different suitors in the summertime as effectively — however, after principally ignoring Durant’s offseason commerce request, the Nets deserve credit score for pouncing on the proper second. 

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In doing so, they had been capable of pry from the Suns a powerful haul. First, there are the picks. So many picks! Basically sufficient picks to make up for all of the picks they despatched to Houston within the James Harden deal. The Nets, in keeping with ESPN, now have unprotected firsts coming from Phoenix in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029. They even have the fitting to swap first-rounders in 2028. Combine that with the unprotected 2029 first they now have coming from Dallas courtesy of the Irving commerce, and a 2027 top-eight protected first-rounder from the Sixers in 2027 (courtesy of that Harden commerce), and their very own first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027, and immediately you will have a stash that may compete with these belonging to the pick-hoarding Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz. 

Then, there are the gamers. 

Prying Mikal Bridges away from the Suns is a game-changer. You understand how the “3-and-D” label is thrown round in a method the place anybody taller than 6-foot-4, and who strokes an occasional jumper, has it bestowed upon them? Well Bridges is the legit factor, possibly essentially the most “3-and-D” non-star in your entire league. He’s 6-foot-6 and one of many NBA’s premier perimeter defenders. He’s additionally drilled 37.6% of his profession triples, and he’s simply 26 years previous, and he’s signed via 2026, and he by no means misses a recreation. 

That final half is not hyperbole. The final time he was sidelined for a contest was in highschool. 

Combine Bridges with Nic Claxton — main the league in blocks and discipline purpose proportion at simply 23 years previous — and you’ve got a pleasant basis on which to construct. And, hey, possibly Cam Thomas — the man who’s racked up 40-plus factors in three straight video games — is one thing, too. 

There’s additionally sufficient expertise remaining on the roster that the Nets can stay form of attention-grabbing. Remember, the Rockets personal the Nets’ first-round decide this 12 months, so tanking wasn’t an possibility, and so it looks as if the Nets are as a substitute going to lean into a method of tossing a bunch of quick, lengthy and athletic wings onto the court docket and wreaking havoc. And, hey, they’ll most likely win some video games. Likely not sufficient to stay in entrance of the Knicks and Heat within the standings, however they need to have the ability to rack up sufficient victories to get into the play-in. 

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Put this all collectively and the Nets, if they need, can leap proper again into the star-hunting recreation. The subsequent time an A-lister turns into out there, they’ll have the picks to go get whoever it’s and pitch him on the encircling expertise. Considering the gamers they saved — Joe Harris and Royce O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie — I believe it’s honest to imagine that is the plan. As one particular person related to the Nets put it to me final 12 months, after I requested if there was any remorse contained in the constructing about moving into mattress with Durant and Irving: “No, we knew what we were getting ourselves into, but getting superstars was the goal from Day 1.” 

And but, regardless of all that, I’m hesitant to bathe the Nets with an excessive amount of reward. 

For one, it looks as if they left some meat on the bone. Holding onto Seth Curry, an in-demand shooter who can be a free agent this summer season, is puzzling (my guess is the Nets determined they wanted his offense, however that appears foolish). Also, it looks as if the Irving and Durant offers had been accomplished with totally different priorities in thoughts. If the Nets had been actually planning on urgent that reset button and dealing Durant, shouldn’t they’ve flipped Irving for a package deal that featured two win-now gamers, versus simply corralling as many future-oriented belongings as doable? 

Also, have you ever seen the one identify not talked about up to now? Australian native? Former No. 1 decide? Three-time All-Star? Player they acquired in return for Harden? 

If Ben Simmons was the participant he was once, this present Nets group could be intriguing, even with out KD and Kyrie. The downside is that Simmons is not that participant. Sometimes it’s onerous to keep in mind that he’s even a participant. He commonly misses video games. When he does play, he commonly disappears. He’s additionally signed via 2025 and owed about $115 million. 

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Simmons goes to handicap the Nets going ahead. He’s additionally emblematic of why describing Marks, Tsai and the Nets’ group as victims of Irving’s capriciousness isn’t fairly proper. Kyrie did make life tough in myriad ways in which nobody may have predicted. But there have been a number of fork-in-the-road moments that the Nets clearly acquired flawed. Some had been small. Some — like hiring the never-coached-before Steve Nash simply because Durant needed him, focusing on Simmons as their major return for Harden, believing that Irving and Durant could possibly be gained over, and turning their backs on the rules that they’d preached upon rebuilding the group — turned out to be crippling. 

And so, the Nets are left again the place they began. They have some younger items. They have an lively younger coach. They’re prone to speak about rebuilding and resetting the tradition, about getting again to their roots, about their optionality shifting ahead, and the flexibleness they now possess on and off the ground. And in a vacuum, they’re proper. They are in an excellent place. Their future could be vivid. 

They additionally constructed and presided over one of many best flops within the historical past {of professional} sports activities. 

And we should not let some savvy pre-deadline wheeling-and-dealing obscure that truth. 

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA author for FOX Sports and the creator of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process within the History of Professional Sports. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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