So where do we stand and where do we go from here?
This IS a Net rebuild no matter how it’s spun. The concept that you can win while rebuilding is every GM’s dream. It is also a fallacy. You have to make a choice. If the Nets get a decent return on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, then you might get a playoff team, but if you don’t — and history says they may not — they are at the beginning of a long process.
Yes, the GM has done it before and yes, in some ways, the situation now is a MUCH better situation than it was in 2016 when Sean Marks walked in the door. But this time, the Nets will also be saddled with what happened Thursday, their credibility as a well-managed franchise in question ... and that’s being kind. They will need to prove themselves and be the beneficiary of a lot of good fortune. It is unlikely to be a short process.
So where do we stand.
UNDER CONTRACT BUT WANT OUT:
—Kevin Durant, 6’11” PF, 33 years old
—Kyrie Irving, 6’2” SG, 30 years old.
NEWLY ACQUIRED OR RE-SIGNED:
—Royce O’Neale, 6’4” SF, 29 years old
—Patty Mills, 6’1” SG, 32 years old
—Nic Claxton, 6’11” C, 23 years old
—Kessler Edwards, 6’8” SF, 21 years old (unrestricted)
—David Duke Jr., 6’5” SF, 23 years old (two-way)
—Ben Simmons, 6’11”, PG/C, 25 years old
—Joe Harris, 6’6” SF, 30 years old
—Seth Curry, 6’2” SG, 31 years old
—Cam Thomas, 6’4’ SG, 20 years old
—Day’Ron Sharpe, 6’11” C, 20 years old
—Nikola Milutinov, 7’0” C, 27 years old
—Marcus Zegarowski, 6’3” SG, 23 years old
—RaiQuan Gray, 6’8” SF, 22 years old
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS:
—Alondes Williams, 6’5” PG, 23 years old (two-way)
—Taze Moore, 6’5” SF, 24 years old
—Donavan Williams, SF, 23 years old
—Noah Kirkwood, 6’7” SG, 22 years old
—Brison Greshman, 6’9” PF, 24 years old
We aren’t counting Bruce Brown who’s bound for Denver; Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic who are both bound for Chicago; Blake Griffin, who’s bound for either L.A. team; or LaMarcus Aldridge, who may very retire.
Is that enough to make the playoffs? No way. DraftKings currently has the Nets at +2200 to win the NBA title next year, just behind the Memphis Grizzlies; and that’s with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving still on the roster. You have to imagine they need to hedge if - crazier things can happen, right? - they change their mind and decide to come back.
Still, back in reality, there are big holes to fill at center, at point guard, and in bucket-getters. Ben Simmons may be a three-time All-Star and one-time All-NBA but he is by no means a scorer. Joe Harris and Seth Curry are among the top 3-point shooters in NBA history but they are not go-to scorers and rumors make it seem one of them won’t be back. There is no one on the roster who can take the last shot.
Up front, they have two, count ‘em, two centers in Claxton, who’s not proven to be durable in his three years of league player, and Sharpe, who is very raw. Maybe you play Simmons upfront but the deficiency in scoring becomes even more glaring.
They are almost certainly a better defensive team, with Simmons, two-time All-Defensive team as well, and Royce O’Neale, improving what the Nets always hoped would be their brand. Clax is back too.
So, going forward with KD and Kyrie as assets, the Net need that All-Star wing, a back-up point guard and depth among bigs. Could Russell Westbrook, a likely return for Irving, fill the role at PG, permitting Simmons to move underneath? And can the Nets get an All-Star wing or big for KD?
Then, there are the draft picks. The Nets have few going forward. They traded the lesser of their two first rounders to Utah for O’Neale and they owe, owe, owe the Houston Rockets: unprotected first rounders in 2024 and 2026 swaps in 2023, 2025 and 2027. IF the Nets fade, no matter who they get, those are the timebombs in the rebuild. The Nets do have a protected (1-8) first in 2027 from Philly and tradeable firsts in 2028 and 2029, Their second round cache is even less impressive.
The Nets, as of Sunday night, had not used their $6.4 million taxpayers MLE which could help get the Nets something of value.
Forget the list of trade exceptions. Their biggest one is no more. The Nets used $9.2 million of the $11.3 million to acquire O’Neal. And although the Nets still have the remaining $2.1 million on that exception — and three others of $6.3 million, $3.2 million, $1.7 million and $1.3 million — expect a lot of movement where they could be moved and where others are generated.
Then, there’s the luxury tax and salary cap question which will not be decided until after the Nets complete deals for Durant and Irving. Will it top the $97.7 million Joe Tsai will have to pay the NBA next week? Perhaps. Will it be worth the expense particularly with the Nets likely to be in the repeater tax in 2023-24?
The franchise also has to restock its coaching staff. Four coaches are gone — Jordan Ott, Adam Harrington, David Vanterpool and Amar’e Stoudemire, Ott to L.A. for a better job with the Lakers, the other three not renewed. Names mentioned but not yet confirmed as replacements include Igor Kokoskov, Adam Caporn and James Borrego. There’s been a turnover in the front office, too.
Overall, it is a daunting job. The hopes are that the Nets can get top players for Durant and Irving, maybe fill a roster spot with the TMLE and maybe so time their deals that they get the larger full MLE worth $10.5 million. Maybe one or more of the kids will further develop their game, maybe there’s a gem among the five undrafted free agents, but those things are at the margin.
The Nets have lost generational talent, lost a golden opportunity to win it all. Now, the stone is at the bottom of the hill ... again. It seems heavier this time.
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- Ben Simmons now key to Nets’ rebuild with Durant, Irving on their way out - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- What would a Phoenix Suns trade offer for Kevin Durant look like? - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic