The Brooklyn Nets played their first game after their star Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury on January 12 against the Boston Celtics. Brooklyn lost 109-98 to the Celtics, but the game was much closer than the box score suggests. The Nets got the welcome news that their superstar forward will likely only miss a month of play with his sprained MCL. After their first game without Durant, Brooklyn’s depth stood out. Kyrie Irving praised the depth of the Nets roster in the postgame press conference following Durant’s January 8 injury.
In the absence of Durant, Brooklyn got an extra boost from T.J. Warren, who scored 20 and continues to look good in his return from injury. Joe Harris also had his best game of the year, dropping in 18 points, making four three-pointers on the night. Their depth was evident in each position except for center. The Nets struggled in the minutes Nic Claxton wasn’t on the floor, and the storyline all season of the Nets needing big man depth was evident in KD’s absence. As the trade deadline approaches, that is the need the Nets are most likely to address.
Nets Linked to Jakob Poeltl and Kelly Olynyk as Big Man Answers
On January 11, Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report linked the Nets to two big men that could solve their frontcourt needs in the San Antonio Spurs’ 7-foot-1 center Jakob Poeltl and the 6-foot-11 forward from the Utah Jazz, Kelly Olynyk.
“Outside of Nic Claxton, Brooklyn doesn’t have a lot of reliable big men to turn to, which will be a problem should they run into bigger teams like the Milwaukee Bucks or Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs.
Poeltl is a good interior scorer, defender, and willing ball mover who would blend well with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and others. Olynyk is also a talented passer who can bring a new dynamic to the frontcourt with his outside shooting (41.3 percent), which would be especially important if Ben Simmons continues to ignore the three-point line,” Swartz writes.
The Nets need some rebounding help. They are currently ranked 29th in the league in total league rebounding. Poeltl is averaging 9.5 rebounds per game for the Spurs while also scoring over 12 points per game and blocking a shot per game. Olynyk isn’t putting up quite the same numbers averaging 5 rebounds per contest for the Jazz, but he still brings depth to the big man position that the Nets desperately need.
Nets Could Also Look for Power Forward at Deadline
On January 7, Heavy Sports reported that the Nets were potentially looking at trading for power forwards at the trade deadline from a league executive source. If they don’t look at center, a versatile power forward could be their answer.
“The Nets are definitely looking for a deal, but they want to bring in a star who can play alongside what they have. They’d be in the market for a power-forward type, maybe a rebounder,” the executive suggested to Heavy Sports.
The Nets have been linked to no shortage of power forwards as the trade deadline approaches. Kyle Kuzma, John Collins, Jarred Vanderbilt, Jae Crowder, and Bojan Bogdanovic have all been named as potential pieces to add depth to the Brooklyn frontcourt.
In the January 11 Bleacher Report article from Swartz that linked Poeltl and Olynyk to the Nets, Swartz included Crowder in potential pieces that could be finding a home at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“Crowder gives Brooklyn a playoff-tested wing who can play and defend either forward position and should be well rested while being away from the Phoenix Suns all season.
If the Nets can weather Kevin Durant’s MCL sprain and add one more piece at the deadline, this is a championship-caliber team,” Swartz continued.