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Nets get A’s all around for off-season moves (which still aren’t done!)

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Chicago Sky v New York Liberty Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets are never done, it seems. Here we are nearly a month into free agency and there are still rumors and reports of roster moves. Plus, we’re still waiting on extensions for James Harden and Kyrie Irving. All that said, pundits are giving the Nets A’s all-around for what they’ve done so far. No one gives them less than an A-. (The Athletic and ESPN had multiple writers post rankings rather than grading off-season moves,)

Here are some excerpts...

Sports Illustrated - A+

Every important role player (except Jeff Green) was retained at a price that should have rivals begging the NBA to launch an investigation. Blake Griffin is coming back for the veteran’s minimum, and Bruce Brown will play out the year on his qualifying offer (for some reason?). Patty Mills was stolen with the taxpayer mid-level exception, and with the 27th pick, Brooklyn drafted Cam Thomas, who led all players at Las Vegas Summer League in scoring.

Defense may not matter, but the Nets didn’t ignore it. They traded Landry Shamet for Jevon Carter (a hound with the hands of a welterweight champion) and signed James Johnson, who, for better or worse, personifies the rugged usefulness on that end that keeps him in demand as a small-ball five. Nic Claxton is a year older with seemingly limitless athletic potential and please don’t be shocked if/when he spends a couple of weeks as Brooklyn’s starting center and swats 10 shots in a single game.

Locking Kevin Durant up through 2026 is quite possibly the single most important agreement this organization has ever made with a player, yet given everything that’s already been mentioned it somehow feels like little more than a cherry on top.

Separately, SI also gave the Nets an award for the “Best Under-the-Radar Addition” in Patty Mills...

Adding Patty Mills to the fold should only augment an electric offense. The 12-year veteran still turned in a quality season with the Spurs in ’20–21, shooting 37.5% from three in 24.8 minutes per game. Mills is a solid spot-up shooter, and his zippy playmaking should add some verve to Brooklyn’s isolation-heavy attack. Mills is almost guaranteed to make a key shot in a playoff game at some point in ’22.

CBS Sports: A-

By bringing back Brown and Griffin while adding the veteran Mills, the Nets look to be just as strong as a year ago, when they were the title favorites before injuries derailed their quest. They picked up a couple of talented rookies in Thomas and Sharpe, while adding some serious toughness in (Jevon) Carter, (James) Johnson and (DeAndre’) Bembry. Losing (Jeff) Green may prove costly given how important he was for Brooklyn in the postseason, but overall it was a strong offseason, capped by the Durant extension.

ESPN+: A-

Barring major defections, the Nets would have entered 2021-22 as title favorites no matter what because of their trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Brooklyn did well to bring back starting center Blake Griffin at the veteran’s minimum and key reserve Bruce Brown Jr. for his $4.7 million qualifying offer, then flipped Landry Shamet into a first-round pick and a potentially useful reserve in Jevon Carter.

The most interesting Nets move was using their $5.9 million taxpayer midlevel exception on Patty Mills versus a replacement for Jeff Green in the frontcourt, instead adding James Johnson at the veteran’s minimum. Mills’ shooting and playmaking should help Brooklyn during the regular season, but his role in the deep rounds of the playoffs is more uncertain. (Kevin Pelton)

ESPN+: Biggest “winner”

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. (Zach Lowe)

The Athletic: No. 3

The Nets, literally a foot short from making the Eastern finals despite playing without Harden and Irving, added to their largesse by getting Mills, he of the career 39 percent from deep, from the Spurs. You can’t find a better team guy, but Mills can also be Olympic Patty all he wants in NYC. Durant’s extension will likely be followed by Harden’s long-term commitment, leaving Brooklyn an Eastern power for the next half-decade.

Green was versatile and useful, but the Bembry/Johnson combo will collectively add equivalent sinew to the bench unit. Thomas puts the ball in the basket as well as anyone in the draft, and playing next to the talent he’ll play with in Brooklyn, he’ll have a lot of highlight-reel plays. After dealing Dinwiddie, Brooklyn might want to think about adding another vet as insurance against a long-term injury to Irving. And the inevitable brain drain from the bench began with (Ime) Udoka’s and (Mike) D’Antoni’s departures, though Brooklyn rebounded by hiring well-regarded (David) Vanterpool and (Brian) Keefe, and bringing in (Kyle) Korver as a player development coach. In all areas, Brooklyn is stacked. (David Aldridge)

The Athletic: “Biggest” Winner

[T]he 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. Mills playing off the ball hunting 3s while defenses focus on Durant, Harden and Irving makes for an impossible task for opposing defenses, plus he’s good enough to fill in as a starter if the oft-injured Irving misses time.

Overall, I thought this was the league’s best offseason (so far). Brooklyn would have been the favorites no matter what it did, but with these moves, the Nets appeared to extend their advantage on the rest of the East and sustain it for years. (John Hollinger)

Clutch Points: A+

Durant signing an extension that runs up to the 2024-25 NBA season. This is actually a very big deal since the Nets will likely have Durant up until the former league MVP retires. This simply means that Durant believes that the Nets have the potential. Not just that, but he also trusts in the front office that they’ll continue to build a team good enough to at least remain a contending team in the coming years. For the fans, this means that they’ll continue to see one of the greatest scorers of all-time donning the Nets jersey.

Some pundits graded individual moves and both the Kevin Durant extension and Patty Mills signing for the taxpayers MLE were often cited as the overall best move or best fit. Bill Simmons of The Ringer said on his podcast that, “my single favorite free agent signing is Patty Mills to the Brooklyn Nets for $12 million over two.” Simmons noted that Mills plays bigger in big games and thought the signing was a bargain. He believed Mills could have gotten $20 million over two. Simmons had Blake Griffin at the vets minimum for a year as his third favorite signing.

Similarly, Zach Lowe of ESPN said that signing adds to the Nets’ “sneakily good off-season.”