The Brooklyn Nets (32-20) will look very different the next time they take the floor with Kevin Durant following the trade of his friend, Kyrie Irving, to the Dallas Mavericks. In return, Brooklyn welcomes back guard Spencer Dinwiddie as well as forward Dorian Finney-Smith, a 2029 first-round pick, and a pair of second-rounders, one each in 2027 and 2029.
However, the Nets may not be done making changes in their efforts to not just remain competitive in the jumbled-up Eastern Conference but also keep Durant happy.
That could mean Ben Simmons is not long for Brooklyn.
“Whether or not Durant wants to remain in Brooklyn with Irving — the only other star on the roster — out of town is unclear,” reports Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News. “Ben Simmons has missed the last four games with left knee soreness, but sources familiar with Durant’s thinking tell the Daily News the star forward has been less than enthralled with Simmons.”
If this is indeed the case, it would be quite the turnaround from Durant’s previous stance on Simmons following the latter’s debut in early October.
“Just more reps I think, just more game time. He looked great to me,” said Durant on Simmons’ debut in early October via Sports Illustrated. “I mean, obviously he just wanted to get his feet wet a little bit, and then as time goes on he’ll continue to find his rhythm.”
Simmons’ play has not improved since then despite some promising signs.
And, in many ways, he was regressing even before Durant went down and the Nets’ had their winning streak snapped.
The 26-year-old Simmons – who is less than a year removed from microdiscectomy surgery – is averaging 5.4 points on 47.4% true shooting in his last 12 appearances. He has added 7.3 assists, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.6 steals in that span. But Simmons, a three-time All-Star and two-time All-Defensive selection, also has a minus-9 net rating in that same window, per Basketball-Reference.
Many of the issues that plagued Simmons toward the end of his tenure in Philadelphia – frequent injury-relate absences and a lack of aggression – have followed the talented but mercurial forward.
He spoke as if he was trying to address the latter issue.
“I think it starts with being aggressive knowing that my team needs that,” Simmons told reporters during his postgame availability after playing 26-plus scoreless minutes in a 109-98 loss to the Boston Celtics on January 12. “I think I’m giving the ball up way too many times when I know who I am. I know I need to get to the rim and get buckets.”
Simmons’ field goal attempts increased from 5.3 per game in the seven contests leading up to that 0-for-3 showing to 6.2 in the seven games that followed.
Without a healthy Durant, however, his plus-minus went from plus-5.3 to minus-6.
Simmons is in the third year of a five-year, $177 million contract and has a $40 million cap hit in the final season. Given his injury history, regressing play, and aloofness he could be hard to find a new home for, though that does not mean general manager Sean Marks is not trying.
Nets Still Working The Phones
“One thing worth noting here, the Nets in their conversations on Kyrie Irving, members of the organization have also touched base with Toronto about a subsequent deal,” reported Ian Begley of SportsNet New York. “So, maybe that’s something that could be in play here as the trade deadline approaches”
The Nets are now armed with three tradeable first-round picks and a few players that could be intriguing to contending teams and rebuilding teams alike putting them in a nice position.
Durant’s stance could spin everything on its ear with another trade request amid reported interest from what will likely be every other team in the league but has been confirmed to at least include the Phoenix Suns meaning the drama is far from over