For most of their history, the Brooklyn Nets (formerly New Jersey) have not been a prime destination for free agents. A number of free agents of the past opted to go to their cross-river rivals in the New York Knicks. The majority of their franchise stars came from either trades or top selections in the draft.
However, times appear to be changing after the Nets’ massive haul this past summer. With a well-run organization and a transfer to a more premier location in Brooklyn, the Nets finally were able to make a splash in free agency.
That haul dominates this list of the best signings in Nets history.
5. Todd MacCulloch
Todd MacCulloch is far from the household name that you’d expect on this list. In fact, the Canadian big man only played four seasons in the NBA. That just goes to show just how unfortunate the franchise has been in the past in terms of acquiring a big name in free agency.
During the 2001 offseason, the Nets wanted to fill a need at center. MacCulloch was coming off a pretty solid run as a backup center for the Philadelphia 76ers, who made the NBA Finals the previous season. With this, New Jersey signed MacCulloch and he eventually became the starting center.
In his lone season with the Nets, MacCulloch put up pretty decent numbers with 9.7 points and 6.1 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game. New Jersey made the 2002 NBA Finals with MacCulloch as the starting big. In 20 playoff games, he averaged 6.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in under 20 minutes per game.
MacCulloch was forced to retire from basketball following the 2002-03 season (he was traded back to the Sixers) due to an inherited neurological disorder. The 7-foot big man eventually carved out a career in pinball and became really good at it. The more you know.
4. DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre Jordan was part of Brooklyn’s massive haul this past summer. After splitting time with the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks in the 2018-19 season, Jordan once again became a free agent in the offseason.
With buddies Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant coming to town, the rebounding specialist tagged along. The Nets signed Jordan to a four-year, $40 million deal.
In his first season in Brooklyn, Jordan has played mostly off the bench, starting in just six of his 56 appearances prior to the sudden hiatus of the 2019-20 season. He played backup to Jarrett Allen for the majority of the season, but gained the starting spot when the Nets fired Kenny Atkinson.
Prior to the hiatus, Jordan averaged 8.3 points and 10.0 rebounds. Brooklyn is still awaiting Durant and Irving’s return from their respective injuries next season. After essentially redshirting the 2019-20 season with their new-look roster, the Nets should be ready to compete in 2020-21. It still remains to be seen, however, if the 32-year old Jordan can be the productive center he once was for the Los Angeles Clippers.
3. Jason Kidd
After leading the New Jersey Nets to two straight NBA Finals appearances, Jason Kidd became a free agent in the 2003 offseason. The San Antonio Spurs, the team that defeated them in the 2003 Finals, pursued the All-NBA point guard.
However, Kidd opted to remain in New Jersey with a six-year $99 million deal due to unfinished business. Likewise, the Nets’ acquisition of Alonzo Mourning became one of the reasons the 10-time All-Star stayed with the team. Unfortunately, Mourning had a disastrous Nets career mainly due to issues with his kidney.
Nonetheless, Kidd continued to perform as an All-NBA player with New Jersey. However, for the rest of his Nets career, he never reached the same heights he did back in 2002 and 2003. After making back-to-back Finals, New Jersey never made it back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
For what it’s worth, Kidd played the peak of his career with the Nets. In six-plus seasons with the franchise, the Hall of Famer turned in nightly averages 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 9.1 assists.
2. Kyrie Irving
As mentioned earlier, the Brooklyn Nets finally hit the jackpot this past summer. A lot of this has to do with Kyrie Irving choosing to join the team.
After a tumultuous 2018-19 campaign with the Boston Celtics, many speculated Irving would leave. Many assumed that he might go to the New York Knicks. However, as free agency neared, rumors grew louder that he was highly considering the Brooklyn Nets. On July 7, the Nets made it official, signing Irving to a four-year $141 million deal. The six-time All-Star was the piece that led to all the dominos falling Brooklyn’s way.
Irving kickstarted his Nets career with a bang, scoring 50 points in his debut with his new team. Unfortunately, Irving’s debut campaign was hampered with injuries. In late February, the Nets announced that Irving would undergo season-ending surgery to repair his injured right shoulder.
1. Kevin Durant
As mentioned, Kyrie Irving is ultimately responsible for bringing in DeAndre Jordan and this two-time Finals MVP to Brooklyn. Although he is coming off a potentially career-altering injury, Kevin Durant is undoubtedly the biggest fish the Nets have landed in their history as a franchise.
Prior to his Achilles tear in the 2019 Finals, Durant was arguably the best player in the world. Signing a superstar of his magnitude certainly established Brooklyn as a premier free agent destination.
Much of Golden State’s 2018-19 season had been clouded with Durant’s impending free agency. Many believed he would bolt the Warriors, which, as we know, eventually happened. However, most believed he would sign with the New York Knicks. But with the Knicks being a disaster of an organization, Durant looked elsewhere and eventually took his talents across the bridge to Brooklyn to join buddies Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan.
Of course, the 2014 league MVP has yet to debut for Brooklyn. As mentioned, Brooklyn essentially took this season off while KD recovers from his Achilles injury. With a healthy Durant and Irving leading the way next season, the Nets will be ready to compete for an NBA championship.