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In lists of off-season ‘Winners and Losers,’ pundits put Nets atop ‘Winners’ column

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The Olympic Games-Tokyo 2020 Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

As free agency winds down, the pundits are out with the lists of winners and losers — and the Nets are topping most of the winners’ column.

In recent days, Zach Lowe of ESPN, John Hollinger of The Athletic and Ben Golliver of the Washington Post have the Nets as clear winners in free agency. In each case, the lists were compiled before Sean Marks’ comment that he’s “very confident” that he’ll add Kyrie Irving and James Harden’s signatures to contract extensions that will keep them in Brooklyn for another five years.

For Lowe, it’s a no-brainer to have Brooklyn at the top of his list of winners...

The Lakers made splashier moves — discussed in depth on the Lowe Post podcast — but the Nets, pending good health, enter next season as undisputed favorites...

The Lakers’ defense is going to slip a little. Los Angeles faces real questions about how its three stars complement one another on offense, though the Lakers will solve a lot of those questions by go time. The Nets face no such questions. The “only one ball!” pearl-clutching was always overblown given the collective shooting and playmaking of Durant, Irving, and Harden.

Durant has staked an emphatic claim as James’ true equal. You can’t assume the Lakers have an advantage at the No. 1 spot anymore.

If every team is healthy, the 2022 title is Brooklyn’s to lose.

Lowe, like all the pundits, thinks the addition of Patty Mills is a big plus and not just because of his winning ways, but because of his infectious motor He also thinks the Nets signing of James Johnson — who he describes as “a bigger, meaner version” of Bruce Brown — is underrated. He fits neatly into the Nets switching defense, he adds.

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Hollinger mirrors Lowe’s thinking, summing up the Nets summer this way:

[T]he Nets managed to keep most of the key secondary players on their roster, extended their most important player and added at least one very helpful role player to the mix...

Most importantly, the Nets “signed” the most impactful player possible when they extended the deal of Kevin Durant for another four seasons, a move that also puts them in a much better position to extend the deals of James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Irving, in particular, would seem to have an incentive to sign up for a four-year extension right now, since it would give him a raise in 2022-23. Harden, alas, might be better off playing out the year, opting into the final year of his deal and inking a five-year extension to stay a Net in the summer of 2022.

Like Lowe with James Johnson, Hollinger singles out an underrated move. For him, it was the Landry Shamet for Jevon Carter and the rights to Day’Ron Sharpe.

Converting Landry Shamet into Jevon Carter was odd in the short term but gives them another year of a cost-controlled guard and added another four years of cost control on a late-first round pick (Day’Ron Sharpe).

And like Bill Simmons of The Ringer — who called the acquisition of Patty Mills his “favorite” free agent signing, Hollinger thinks Mills acquisition is a big deal.

Finally, the Nets may end up with the most postseason-important free agent from this class, picking up sharpshooting guard Patty Mills on a one-year deal with a player option. Not only was this good value, but the fit couldn’t be better.

Bottom line for Hollinger is that the Nets were always going to be seen as the favorite next year, but what Sean Marks did “appeared to extend their advantage on the rest of the East and sustain it for years.”

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Golliver leads off his analysis of the off-season’s winners by pointing to the quick extension of Kevin Durant as the big deal of the off-season.

Kevin Durant returned from Tokyo with his third gold medal and a four-year, $198 million extension with the Nets. With his 2019 free agency and Achilles’ injury behind him, the two-time champion wisely settled down with an organization that has demonstrated its commitment to building a winner around him...

With another year of continuity and impressive depth around a peaking Durant, the Nets should be viewed as preseason title favorites.

The small deals, though, can’t be underestimated, Golliver notes...

In addition to locking up its centerpiece, Brooklyn brought back Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown on affordable one-year contracts and landed Patty Mills, the star of Australia’s bronze medal-winning Olympic team, on a fantastic two-year, $12 million agreement. The Nets would have beaten the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round if they had had Mills’s shot-making, even if James Harden and Kyrie Irving were injured.

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All three lament the loss of Jeff Green but don’t see it as crippling to the Nets’ championship aspirations and they like James Johnson as his replacement (more than the Nets fanbase.)

Interestingly, there’s no unanimity on the Lakers’ improvement. Lowe says from what he hears, the reaction to the Lakers acquisition of Russell Westbrook is more “shoulder-shrugging that strikes me as the correct reaction.” Golliver in fact calls the Lakers a big loser because of what they lost in bench strength.

The Ringer also took a look at winners and losers as part of a writers’ panel. A number of them singled out the KD extension as the biggest move of the off-season with Rob Mahoney writing this...

The Nets getting Kevin Durant’s commitment on a four-year, $198 million extension. Sometimes these things are incredibly simple. Durant is either the best basketball player in the world or one of the very few, and Brooklyn—which otherwise would have been fretting the possibility of his early opt-out in 2022—managed to secure Durant’s place on the team and thus the Nets’ in the league over a much longer term. Money is no object.

Or as another member of the panel, Seerhat Sohi wrote, “The Nets just locked in the best player in basketball for another four years. Nothing else comes close.”

As Marks told the media Wednesday, the Nets haven’t done anything yet and training camp is still six weeks away. Still, it’s always good to see praise for your favorite team.