As a fan of another team, I'm really puzzled by the Nets. The Billy King era was historically bad. They had traded their future for the win now, star powered splashes and it backfired. But then, I thought you guys had done a great job building back organically. Kenny Atkinson was a good coach. Sean Marks seemed like he was doing a great job as a GM. From an outside perspective, I thought that rebuild was really amazing.
Then, as if they Nets had learned nothing, they threw it away and went all in for the big splashes again.
Durant, Irving, and Harden all, in at least some respects, could be viewed as divas. Now, you traded your future again, Kyrie is unreliable, Harden forced his way out, and Durant appears to be trying to do the same. Why? The Nets gave him and Irving everything they wanted, right?
Who would have thought that a team that went all in for stars with varying degrees of volatile personalities would end in drama?
But that's not why I'm on here making this post. I want to dissect where this went wrong and if it can be salvaged.
Where did it go wrong?
Was it when the Nets went from their rebuild to invest in Irving and Durant? Actually, probably not. That team still had a lot of good complimentary players at that point. Acquiring Irving in particular risky since he had so many red flags. But you don't get Durant without him and Durant + Irving isn't necesarrily unmanageable by itself.
The Nets did screw up by giving Irving and Durant too much power over management decisions. They should not have installed a puppet coach or prioritized an aging DeAndre Jordon over Jarret Allen. Still, those weren't fatal blows.
I think where they really went wrong was Harden. They gave up their future for him. They had some really good supporting players like Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert. Had they just kept that supporting cast and tried to make more incremental moves, it probably could have worked a lot better. At least it could have if Irving played.
Either way, they would have been in a lot better shape now. And before any of you call this pure hindsight, let me point out that Harden added another volatile personality to an already volatile star core. It should have been fairly predictable that this would blow up at some point.
My point is I still think a Durant/Irving core is workable. Just not if you had in a third volatile personality like Harden. Unfortunately, Ben Simmons is also not the most stable team presence. But on the court, he could compliment you better if you can get him to actually play.
Let's look at what the Nets have right now...
Durant is still good. Irving is still good if he plays. Simmons is still an elite defender and playmaker if he plays. Curry and Harris are two of the best shooting role players out there. You got plenty of shooting and offense around Simmons where, if he could just be what he was in Philadelphia, that's enough.
Furthermore, Royce O'neale and TJ Warren were great pickups. This is far from bad. You have at least 4 good role players right there. You can even argue that Sean Marks has done a good job outside of the Harden saga.
I only see two needs for the Nets. First, they have a severe lack of center talent. The Nets need a defensive center who can space the floor (because Simmons) sort of like Lopez does for the Bucks or Horford does for the Celtics. Maybe not that quality of player. But somebody who can maybe fill that role. And then they need depth behind that.
The Nets also need their big contract players to shut up and play basketball games. That's it.
A top 8 of Durant, Irving, Simmons, Warren, O'neale, Curry, Harris, and some big that fits better than Claxton would be more than fine if they play. Am I wrong? Is that not a good team on paper?
The Nets biggest mistakes were...
- Going too far in for the big splashes
- Over-empowering their stars.
The thing is that, aside from center, the Nets have actually done a good job at adding role players back. The team looks a little closer to the pre-Harden Nets, minus a Jarret Allen type presence.
Just push back on Durant and Irving. Durant especially is under contract long term. There is no rush or need to trade him. And if Durant, Irving, and/or Simmons refuse to play game, the Nets can probably get the commissioner on their side.
Simmons and Irving already sat out most of the last season. They can't justify doing it again. And Adam Silver has already stated how he thinks Durant's trade demand is bad for the league. I guarantee you he'll get involved if Durant tries to sit out the season.
It's NOT too late!
You still have Durant so you can still contend. Your owner has already pushed back on Durant's demands to get rid of the coach he installed and GM who gave him everything he wanted. Durant has no leverage here. And it's not like the supporting cast Marks has assembled is bad. Just fix the center situation.
If everyone plays, the Nets team actually looks really good on paper. Why is no one talking about that?