Now that the NBA Finals have officially ended after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 6, the NBA offseason is officially underway. The Brooklyn Nets came into the season as the favorites to win this year’s title. But after a tumultuous year headlined by blockbuster trades and vaccine mandates, the Nets suffered a disappointing first-round exit at the hands of the Celtics.
After back-to-back playoff eliminations before the second round, Nets stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will be under a microscope. Durant and Irving were brought to Brooklyn with the goal of making the Nets title contenders, and the time has come for them to put up or shut up. But if the Nets decide to go another route this offseason and blow the team up, one NBA general manager notes they could pull off a blockbuster trade for All-Star big man Karl Anthony-Towns.
“For me, the only guy you could realistically trade Kevin Durant for is Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota is not trying to move him, and the Nets are not out there pushing for KD to be traded. But if it is something KD wanted, that is a team he could go to and turn into a contender right away,” the NBA GM said to Heavy’s own Sean Deveney.
“You give Anthony Edwards a really, really good mentor. They have some role players there. You add a free agent, and they’re one of the better teams in the West. But it is a tough thing to do, to trade a player like Durant.”
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Kevin Durant Ranked 8th in Trade Value
Last season, upon his return from winning an Olympic gold medal, the Nets inked Durant to a 4-year $198 million extension that kicks in next season. But as we have seen before with superstars such as Ben Simmons and Kawhi Leonard, players can force trades. Durant is widely viewed as a tier-one superstar, but despite the fact, “HoopsHype” ranks the Nets star just 8th in trade value in a new report.
“Durant’s age and the Nets’ lack of clarity with their other two All-Stars make his situation potentially just a smidge more open to interpretation than the players above,” The “HoopsHype” staff writes. “But assuming Kyrie Irving is committed long-term, and Ben Simmons is good to go, Brooklyn is unlikely to trade Durant for even the biggest of hauls.”
Nets Shortcomings Have Been Slightly Bloviated
The NBA is a results-based league, so the scrutiny the Nets have come under for their lack of success is understandable. But not all of it is warranted when you contextualize the last two seasons and everything they have had to overcome.
In 2021, the first season that Kyrie and KD were healthy, Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL in just the third game of the season. They also had to gut their entire roster to land James Harden in a trade last January. Then after defeating the Celtics in the first round in 2021, Harden and Irving got injured in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, leaving Durant to go it alone. Even after overcoming that, the Nets still came within a possession of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals but eventually lost to the Bucks in Game 7.
In 2022, Kyrie’s refusal to get the mandated COVID-19 vaccine led to Harden forcing a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline. And though Brooklyn acquired three-time All-Star Ben Simmons from the Sixers, a back injury sidelined him for the remainder of the 2022 season. Bringing a depleted roster into the playoffs led to the Nets being eliminated by the Celtics in the first round.
Brooklyn has not lived up to expectations in their first two seasons, but they also have not competed with a full roster. With all of their main guys scheduled to return at full strength, it will be interesting to see what they can accomplish in 2023.