Another loss has dropped the Brooklyn Nets to sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Perhaps, should be the latest sign that they are closer to a full rebuild than they are to being in the title chase without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Still, there is plenty of reason for them to remain in a competitive state and not completely look to sing to the bottom of the East standings in search of prime positioning in the NBA Draft even beyond this season.
“Brooklyn…has little incentive to bottom out with all of the draft picks it owes the Houston Rockets, but the Nets should be very much in the asset-collection game,” argues Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report.
Trail Blazers Get:
Simons has already been paid, inking a four-year, $100 million contract with the Blazers this past offseason. The 23-year-old scoring dynamo is averaging career-highs with 21.1 points (on 58.3% true shooting) with 4.1 assists and 2.7 rebounds.
“I don’t get the vibe from them that they’re super interested in [trading Simons],” Zach Lowe said on the ‘Lowe Post’ podcast-‘Hoop Collective’ crossover on February 6. “They love Simons, he’s their guy, he’s the bridge to the future, they traded McCollum to free up his minutes, etc.”
The Blazers are 2-5 since the trade deadline, perhaps softening that stance.
They would still need to be ready to cash in on the promising Sharpe, the athletic, promising seventh-overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft.
Sharpe is averaging 7.9 points and 2.5 rebounds. More importantly, he is shooting 37% from deep over his last seven games and has provided numerous highlight-worthy dunks that energize the team.
“We want to be championship-level as soon as possible,” Blazers general manager Joe Cronin said on February 10 after the trade deadline via the Blazers’ official YouTube channel. “And we’re borderline anxious to push all of our chips in. We can’t wait for that moment to happen. It just hasn’t come up yet.”
Trading away Simons and Sharpe along with the draft capital would certainly qualify as “pushing their chips in” and would require Portland to remove the protections on the future first-round pick it owes to Chicago.
Currently protected for the top-14, it would not convey this season with the Blazers sitting 12th in the West, though they are just two games back of a guaranteed spot.
A Wrench in the Trail Blazers Potential Pursuit of Mikal Bridges
Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian reported that the Blazers inquired unsuccessfully about Durant while also noting that they were linked to OG Anunoby. Anunoby’s name came up ahead of Durant’s trade as a potential peace-making move by the Nets and general manager Sean Marks to appease Durant who asked for and got a trade to the Phoenix Suns.
Fentress adds that the asking price on Anunoby – three first-round picks – was seen as too steep for Portland.
They might find Bridges’ price tag to be similarly prohibitive with at least one team expected to pursue the talented swingman this coming summer after they already rejected a franchise-altering trade of four first-round picks from the Memphis Grizzlies.
Bridges has averaged 23.4 points on 65.5% true shooting with 5.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 steals in seven appearances with the Nets.
He has quickly earned the praise of his head coach, Jacque Vaughn.
“Mikal Bridges is open-minded but at the same time has a consciousness about him that he can communicate with his teammates,” Vaughn said via the Nets’ official YouTube channel after the win over the Miami Heat on February 15. “Extremely pleased that he’s a part of our future going forward.”
Nets Future Far From Settled
As fond as Vaughn is of Bridges, the Nets have to assess their timeline in relation to the 26-year-old’s prime years and decide if it wouldn’t be more prudent to maximize the return than try to cobble something around a player Buckley says has a ceiling “somewhere between stardom and starring in his role.”
Their slide post-Durant and Irving has been nothing short of a revelation that they need more help to get back in the mix they found themselves in just one month ago.