The Brooklyn Nets were on the verge of imploding this past NBA offseason. With it seeming as if Kyrie Irving was dead set on declining his player option and signing elsewhere. Kevin Durant then took his future into his own hands, requesting a trade himself. This all came months after James Harden requested a trade, forcing his way to Philadelphia.
The Nets were deemed a failure, and rightfully so. But due to a last second shocker, Irving decided to exercise his player option, with Durant taking back his trade request for the time being. This set the stage for what may be Brooklyn’s final chance at a ring in this era of basketball.
After a rough start, Brooklyn found their stride after firing head coach Steve Nash and bringing in interim head coach Jacque Vaughn. They tallied an 18-2 record from November 27th, 2022 to January 8th, 2023, playing electrifying basketball on both sides of the floor. Durant looked like a two-way monster and MVP candidate. Irving produced at a highly efficient rate to give Brooklyn layers offensively.
Others such as Nic Claxton, Royce O’Neale, Ben Simmons among more chipped in. The Nets looked to be a dominant force in not just the East, but the entire association, and it looked as if their title chances had finally been revitalized. That was until the very recent news they had received about their All-Star point guard.
After not getting the hefty contract extension he was hoping to sign, Irving once again requested a trade from the organization on Friday, February 3rd. This came to the shock of the entire fanbase and team, including Durant himself. The Nets wasted no time moving him, dealing him to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a first-round pick and multiple second-round picks. This is a fair amount of compensation for a guard who was bound to leave come free agency, but what’s in store for Brooklyn going forward?
On paper, the Nets can still truthfully contend in the East if healthy. Durant is proven to be one of the best players in basketball and is good enough to take on an even heavier load if that means they can maintain their success. They have one of the defensive player of the year candidates in Claxton, along with other complimentary pieces to move forward. If Dinwiddie can flourish as an offensive weapon with Finney-Smith bringing his all as a three-and-D wing, the Nets will still be one of the deeper teams in the league from top to bottom.
Despite this, Brooklyn likely will be one of the more active teams at this coming trade deadline. They’ve been linked to Toronto guard, Fred Vanvleet, who would make a great fit on this roster. With his combination of pace, spurt scoring, passing and tenacious defense, Vanvleet can be a solid option for this group if Brooklyn can find extra bodies to compliment him and Durant.
Another move the Nets need to make if they would like to sustain this elite level of play is find a backup big to hold down the fort. There aren’t many realistic names Brooklyn can inquire about, but some guys they could look to snag are Jakob Poeltl, Mo Bamba, Mason Plumlee and Kelly Olynyk. With Claxton being Brooklyn’s second most impactful player on the current roster, they need to find a big to help manage his minutes so he can conserve energy come playoff time. All four of these guys bring something different to the table who can play decent minutes come playoff time.
There’s ways to win in this current NBA that don’t require a true dynamic duo. The Nets have a top five player in the league, and truthfully, all they need is elite depth and coaching. Durant is good enough to lead the charge and take on more responsibility as the engine, and with more moves, Brooklyn can still easily be considered a contender in the East.