The Nets’ roster additions this offseason suggest they are still trying to compete for a championship. The dark cloud hovering over the franchise in light of Kevin Durant’s trade request, on the other hand, would suggest otherwise.
The truth, as incumbent head coach Steve Nash likes to say, is somewhere in the middle: Durant’s trade request has created a bit of an awkward situation in Brooklyn, but the Nets appear – at least on the surface – willing to take this stalemate further into the offseason, and quite possibly into training camp, if they aren’t blown away by a deal far superseding the haul the Utah Jazz got in the Rudy Gobert megadeal with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The reality is Durant has four years remaining on his contract and is one of the best basketball players ever to set foot on an NBA court. The Nets aren’t going to be rushed into selling low. And if Phoenix’s best offer — without Devin Booker, that is — is Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and six or seven years worth of combined picks and pick swaps and isn’t enough, it’s unclear what within reason another team can offer that would make the Nets’ front office comfortable agreeing to a trade.
Yet amid what has been a worst-case scenario — the utter thought of losing the best player in franchise history before a true run at an NBA championship — Nets GM Sean Marks is making good on his promise to improve Durant’s supporting cast in the opening week of NBA free agency. If he can put together a deep and talented enough supporting cast with the limited financial tools at his disposal given the Nets’ status as a taxpaying team, Marks might be able to make Brooklyn’s grass green enough to convince Durant to stay put.
Many have pointed to the Nets’ decision not to offer Bruce Brown a contract this offseason, and on the surface, allowing Brown to walk to Denver on a modest two-year, $13M deal looks like a blunder. But the Nets are expecting a healthy Ben Simmons for the first time since acquiring him in the James Harden deal. A healthy Simmons averages about 34 minutes per game, and Nash said in his exit press conference the team intends not only to use Simmons as the point guard and offense initiator, but also as a center–a screener-and-roller of Brown’s ilk in the last two seasons.
The Nets made a business decision: Not to overpay to have roster redundancy. Instead, they used their trade exception to acquire Utah Jazz 3-and-D wing Royce O’Neale.