The Nets, with a Big Three that rivals the talent of any trio ever assembled on a single NBA roster, are close. That much was made clear this past season when they routinely played championship-caliber basketball before unexpectedly being knocked out in the second round of the playoffs.
Still, it’s equally clear Brooklyn needs more than Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving if it hopes to run down a title next season. Depth will be crucial, a fact that became evident as injuries plagued Brooklyn’s Big Three and others throughout this past season.
With that in mind, the pressure is on general manager Sean Marks to make things happen this offseason with only a small degree of salary-cap wiggle room at his disposal. One free agent from across town is beginning to become a focal point of rumors across the league — and the Nets appear to be in the middle of the discussion.
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Nets Reportedly Interested in Nerlens Noel
The Nets are expected to have interest in free agent Nerlens Noel, according to a report from SNY’s Ian Begley on Wednesday. Noel, a 6-foot-11 center, played for the Knicks last season and averaged 5.1 points (on 61.4 percent shooting), 6.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.2 blocks over 64 games. It’s those defensive stats that have teams like the Nets intrigued.
NBA writer Mike Mazzeo later confirmed Begley’s report, noting that Brooklyn has a $5.9 million mid-level exception at its disposal this offseason, and that “Noel figures to command more than that off a strong year at MSG.” Begley also addressed the financial hurdles standing in the Nets’ way, writing: “Nets are also expected to have Noel on radar, depending on how offseason plays out/money available to them.”
Begley also reported that the Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets are expected to have interest in Noel, a Kentucky product who was the No. 6 overall pick in 2013.
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Busy Offseason in Store for Nets
With so much talent on the perimeter, the Nets’ biggest area of need certainly lies inside. Padding depth there will be important, and Noel is the type of defensive-minded asset that could seemingly be a perfect fit in Brooklyn.
Still, that’s only one piece of the puzzle this offseason for the Nets. There’s also the question of Spencer Dinwiddie, who said he plans to opt out of his contract though he’d loved to remain in Brooklyn. There’s the future of free agents like Blake Griffin, Jeff Green and Bruce Brown.
There’s… a lot.
“Inevitably, there’s going to be change, here,” Marks said in June, per SNY. “That’s the tough thing with pro sports. You love continuity throughout and so forth, but there’s going to have to be changes. They may not all be because of the decisions that we decide to make. Our players have to make these decisions too. We have multiple players that whether it’s options on their contract, their free-agent status is up, and so forth.
“We’ll come together as a collective group and the opportunity for them and the opportunity for us is to go up there and put the best Brooklyn Nets team forward to start training camp next season.”