What the Nets’ blow-it-up path might look like
While the Nets shook off a frenzied week in the press, head coach firing and 1-5 start to their season with some improved play as of late, it’s hard to find much comfort in their team as assembled.
Kyrie Irving is serving out a suspension that could extend itself if he doesn’t perform remedial measures, while Ben Simmons is trying to shake off rust and injury to get his season on track. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant is surrounded by an uncompetitive and unserious team that he already requested out of mere months ago.
It all feels like it’s on thin ice, and general manager Sean Marks, or whoever might replace him, will need an exit strategy.
The obvious reset button is trading Durant, a top-10 player still performing fabulously, to kickstart a rebuild or retool. Unfortunately his trade value only dropped from a summer that featured few suitors for his talents.
Brooklyn should still be able to net a young player and draft capital, even if they’re in desperate positioning. Perhaps a DeAndre Ayton or Mikal Bridges package from Phoenix, or just a full pick package if they want to rebuild through the draft. The Nets have done well drafting out of poor positions, imagine what they could do in the lottery.
Even if the Nets settle, Durant assures them a collection of assets. It’s what to do with their other two stars that’s in question.
Irving has no trade value across the league, and can’t stay on the court long enough to bring value there. Hence why upgrading around Durant isn’t a viable option.
Luckily for the Nets, Irving’s only their problem for the rest of the season, so waiving him or sending him home until his cap impact clears is a simple enough out. Hoping his proclivity for tomfoolery and worse rehabilitates after blowing up three separate teams is folly. It’s just time to move on.
That leaves Simmons, who like Irving, isn’t an appealing trade candidate. He isn’t looking at the rim and hasn’t made the intended impact defensively.
Still, he’s only 26 years old and has the opposite of Irving’s locker room presence. The Nets would be wise to keep him around, building his game back up and his trade value with it.
It’s no simple task, but if Brooklyn moves on from Irving, there’s one adjustment that could help turn Simmons’ season around: moving him to point guard.
He’d get to defend perimeter players, the role he’s played his whole career, instead of figuring out how to be a rim protector. His offense wouldn’t be relegated to the cramped high post and short roll, but instead give him the ball with movement and an open court. Brooklyn’s spacing between Simmons and Nic Claxton, its best big, could improve with the ball in Simmons’ hands more.
Turning Simmons into an asset instead of another dead contract would accelerate a Nets rebuild. It’s no sure thing, but perhaps a change in position could instigate it.
The rest of Brooklyn’s veterans are on relatively short-term, tradeable contracts.
Joe Harris would be a good keeper as a dependable wing and leftover from the early Kenny Atkinson days. He also rakes in just short of $20 million a year, so could potentially interfere with free agent plans. Guys like Royce O’Neale and Seth Curry could fetch first-round picks.
Then there’s the young core, and how they fold into the Nets plans. Cam Thomas certainly looks promising, and would get much more freedom on a rebuilding Brooklyn squad.
If he’s their best prospect outside of Claxton, does that inspire confidence? Day’Ron Sharpe and David Duke Jr. have moments, but aren’t franchise cogs.
Brooklyn is short on picks and young talent. If this ship is going nowhere and needs upending, it’ll take fully maximizing Simmons and Durant’s trade return.
Maybe the right young All-Star combined with an improved Simmons keeps Brooklyn in the postseason hunt as they wash off the stink of their Big Three. A Simmons injury and full-on picks trade for Durant could allow them to get a quick head start on their tank.
Despite the mistakes that led us here, the Nets aren’t stuck. If this collective fails, there are avenues to starting over. Will they end up needing them?
Source: Yahoo Sports