The Brooklyn Nets are about to enter one of the most pivotal free agency periods in franchise history. After All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving agreed to opt-in to the final year of his deal with Brooklyn, the outcome of the 2023 season will be a factor in whether he decides to re-sign with the Nets next summer. Consequently, his decision next summer could also decide Kevin Durant’s future with the franchise.
The Nets have several key free agents set to hit the market when the period officially opens on June 30. Some pivotal names include Nicolas Claxton, Andre Drummond, and Bruce Brown, all front-court players who were great contributors to their defense last season. Unfortunately, with Durant, Kyrie, and Ben Simmons on the payroll, it is not likely that they can keep all three of those front-court players next season. ESPN NBA analyst Kendrick Perkins says to fill the void of the free agents that will ultimately depart the Nets should target Phoenix Suns’ center, JaVale McGee.
“I don’t know if he’s under a two-year deal, but I like JaVale McGee. JaVale McGee is playing that backup center role but can still play starter minutes,” Perkins said per Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports.
“He can put that pressure on Claxton to go out there and perform because you always want to have a guy that pushes him as a veteran but can also push him to say, These minutes are NOT guaranteed! That’s how you get the best out of your players, especially when they’re role players and guys that are not called ‘superstars’.”
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Claxton Expected to Return to Nets
Per “Basketball Reference,” Claxton had career highs in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage in the 2022 season. He has increased those averages in each of his first three seasons. At 23 years old, Claxton has a lot of raw talent but still has significant strides to make to be a consistent starting center. ESPN insider Brian Windhorst expects Claxton to be back with the Nets next season.
“The word is among executives … talked to a couple of executives today … The word is that they believe Nic Claxton will be back with the Nets,” Windhorst said during the latest episode of the “Hoop Collective” podcast. “That’s been worked out. I shouldn’t say ‘been worked out.’ There’s an understanding.”
Windorst: Kyrie Trade Not off the Table
Nets fans may feel relieved now that Kyrie has opted into the final year of his deal. But Windhorst notes that Irving opting in doesn’t necessarily equal the end of the tug of war between him and the Nets.
“Depending on what the Nets want to achieve, it’s not impossible that could be revisited this time in trade form. With Irving opting in, a sign-and-trade is off the table,” Windhorst continued.
“I know Kyrie said I’ll see you in the fall, but maybe this is Kyrie’s strategy move. Now that I’ve got your money, I’m going to be a problem till you trade me.”
The Nets have a big offseason ahead of them. It will be interesting to see if Kyrie could still be traded.