The Brooklyn Nets have made the first splash of the NBA trade deadline. Just days after Kyrie Irving requested a trade, Brooklyn found a trade partner in the Mavericks. They sent Irving to Dallas in exchange for Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, an unprotected 2029 first-round pick, a 2027 second-round pick, and a 2029 second-round pick.
Simply put, expectations haven’t been met since Brooklyn signed both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. It may feel like this entire push is crumbling at the seams, but there’s still hope for the Nets. So much so, this organization should actively be thinking with a buyer’s mindset as we near Thursday’s trade deadline.
Kevin Durant is still one of the best players in basketball, and around him are a ton of shooters & high-impact defenders. Nic Claxton has taken a big step forward this year, emerging as a premier rim-running center whose name has entered the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. Seth Curry remains one of the league’s best shooters, Joe Harris is heating up, Yuta Watanabe has been a sniper in a small bench role, and most importantly, Royce O’Neale has been a 30-plus minute wing, offering both complimentary shooting & defense.
Newly acquired Spencer Dinwiddie is making his return to Brooklyn after five previous seasons with the team. He’s taken a scoring efficiency leap with the Mavericks, tallying a career-high in true shooting percentage (60%) and his second highest career point per game mark (17.7) so far this season.
And then there’s Dorian Finney-Smith, an underrated pro that provides nice catch & shoot value on offense, with tons of defensive value as a lengthy, athletic on-ball presence that can take on some of the league’s best offensive creators.
From Giannis to Ja—Dorian Finney-(lock)Smith. Incredible at absorbing contact and having the body control to contest or strip the ball. F.U.S.D. (Fake up-stay down) close out master. 99th percentile in both defensive versatility AND matchup difficultly (!!!). A star in his role. pic.twitter.com/cICS8AIWXG
— NBA University (@NBA_University) July 26, 2022
Those who think the Kyrie Irving trade marks the official end of Brooklyn’s title quest is wrong. This roster is still in a position to make a push. Brooklyn has plenty of depth & impact role players with a superstar in Kevin Durant leading the charge, which has been reflected within the results. The Nets currently sit at 32-20 this year, good for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. And keep in mind, that’s with Kevin Durant missing over ten games.
With that being said, Brooklyn’s roster as currently constructed doesn’t make me believe they’re amongst the top contenders in the NBA. With Irving now gone, Brooklyn is in desperate need of a secondary on-ball offensive creator alongside Kevin Durant. As this roster is currently constructed, their best option for the role is either Spencer Dinwiddie or Cam Thomas.
Neither are ideal though, as Dinwiddie has settled into more of an off-ball shooter with Dallas, and he’s not a sufficient enough creator for a championship team. Cam Thomas can get to his spots with ease and make tough shots from all levels of the court, but the 21 year olds sample size is limited, and he hasn’t showcased the development as a passer just yet to fully take over such a big role.
Fred VanVleet seems like the optimal fit of all rumored names on the trade block. He’s an expiring contract the Raptors might flip at the deadline given the teams disappointing season thus far. He’s a volume three-point shooter that can facilitate an offense, and his menacing on-ball defense would only add to Brooklyn’s prowess on that end.
Terry Rozier fits a similar bill to VanVleet. A guard that doesn’t put a ton of pressure on the rim, but can serve as a volume three-point shooter that gets to his spots and facilitates some offense. VanVleet is a better defender & shot creator from the perimeter, making him the optimal option in my opinion. But in fairness to Rozier, he might be a more enticing option for the long term, given his contract doesn’t expire until 2026.
Despite being 33 years old, Bojan Bogdanovic has enjoyed a career-year offensively with the Detroit Pistons this season. He’s posted career-highs in points per game (21.4), field goal attempts per game (14.8), usage rate (25.7%), true shooting percentage (62.9%), and free throw rate (34.4%). Bogdanovic is a premier shooter that can spot-up from three and offer spacing, while also taking some on-ball duties. Bogdanovic utilizes his three-point gravity and quick knack for reading and reacting to defenders to attack closeouts and overplays off the bounce. He’s both getting to the charity stripe and finishing at the rim extremely well this year.
Bojan Bogdanovic put on an absolute shooting clinic against the Heat last night.
He scored 28 of his 31 points in the 2nd half, leading Detroit to a 20-point road victory in Miami.
Bogi's ability to shoot off the bounce is simply absurd—BUCKET 🔥📈 pic.twitter.com/S3OrR1LkUL
— Jack Kelly (@jack_kelly_313) December 7, 2022
Neither VanVleet, Rozier, or Bogdanovic are optimal secondary options for a championship roster, but they would still satisfy a big time need for on-ball creation on this roster. And given all their strengths elsewhere, this upgrade might be enough.
If the Nets really want to go all-in for another creator, Zach LaVine enters the conversation. Given his massive $215 million dollar contract that doesn’t expire until 2027, a host of knee injuries in his past, and the most expensive trade tag of these four options mentioned, LaVine is the riskiest route for Brooklyn to venture. With that being said, it also offers the most upside. LaVine is an out of this world athlete that can get to his spots all over the court. Given his high-volume and creation load, LaVine’s efficiency from all levels of the court are extremely impressive. I don’t think this is super likely, as LaVine most likely stays put in Chicago, and Brooklyn might have trouble fielding a sufficient trade offer. Regardless, it’s fun to entertain all possibilities.
On-ball creation isn’t the only need for Brooklyn, though. Nic Claxton has been awesome this year, but depth behind him has been far and few. One stat worth noting; Brooklyn ranks bottom four in both defensive & offensive rebounding percentage. Ben Simmons has mainly served as Brookln’s center when Claxton isn’t on the court. I actually don’t hate the idea of Simmons as a small-ball center, and it might be his best chance at making a positive offensive impact. He should look to live off of setting screens, cutting to the basket, and utilizing his passing chops to thrive as a short roll playmaker.
Unfortunately, the results haven’t quite been there. This is mainly because Simmons doesn’t look to set effective screens or cut to the rim often enough, meaning his days as a momentum killer in the halfcourt have continued. I would love to see Brooklyn move off of Simmons at the deadline due to continued health issues, a massive contract over the next three seasons, and what I view as an absolute ceiling killer to your halfcourt offense. And yes, his defensive value is otherworldly, but that becomes a bit more expendable when you have all the versatility and defensive weapons that Brooklyn has.
Trading Simmons will be easier said than done, but if Brooklyn can pull it off, a backup center goes from a notable need to a must-make move. If Simmons is too difficult to trade, there are other option. Dinwiddie could get flipped for the second time this week. NBA rules prohibit the Nets from packaging other players together with Dinwiddie in a deal before the deadline, but he can still be traded straight up. Joe Harris & Seth Curry are two veteran sharp shooters that should absolutely be on the table. Brooklyn has plenty of shooting and wing-depth at the ready. And yes, you can never have enough wing-depth, but both Harris and Curry lack the versatility that really makes that depth as important.
And if the Nets are willing to part with youth (which will definitely have to be considered), Cam Thomas most definitely has trade value on the market. As I mentioned earlier, whenever Thomas has been given an opportunity this season, he’s run with it. It’s been a showcase of high-level shot-making in bunches from many areas on the court. If Brooklyn is attacking a more experienced, well-rounded on-ball creator from a rebuilding team, Thomas’ name will be on the table.
Cam Thomas tonight:
Back-to-back 40 pieces 👀 pic.twitter.com/ei08v96rOc
— NBA (@NBA) February 7, 2023
Although Brooklyn’s not rich on draft resources, they do have a few first-round picks that could garner interest. It wouldn’t be anything significant, given those expendable picks are years in the future, all belonging to either Dallas or Philadelphia, teams that are expecting to be contenders for years to come behind their franchise cornerstones. But regardless, draft capital will always hold value, particularly to sellers on the market.
The Nets have invested so much into this Kevin Durant era. Don’t let the Kyrie Irving trade deter you from the facts, because this is no time to accept sunk cost. Brooklyn is having a solid season, and this is a very good roster. They’ve got a superstar leading the charge with a great collection of role players around him.
But time is of the essence, as Durant could easily request another trade this offseason if Brooklyn fails to deliver in the playoffs. Brooklyn needs to get aggressive at this year’s trade deadline if they want to take this roster over the top. I’m not guaranteeing a title, but their best course of action is to give this thing a shot.