Now that the dust has settled following the Nets' dismal 2022-23 season and general manager Sean Marks' annual press conference, it appears the Brooklyn brain trust is seeking to take its time. Right now, they will move slowly and give this year's squad more time to grow. Here we will look at three major offseason fixes the Brooklyn Nets must make to become a contender in the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

“Let’s be strategic. Let’s have some patience and poise,” said Marks during his postseason press conference. “That doesn’t mean we won’t make changes to the roster, I mean it’s pro sports. I think the decision is not entirely going to be up to the Nets, right? The players have to make their decisions as well. So hopefully we’ve put ourselves in a place to attract our own group to come back, attract free agents.”

The Nets are not planning to assemble another Big Three. That's according to comments made by Marks and players on the team. Instead, they will focus on incremental moves to address their weaknesses. These include rebounding, which has been a longstanding issue for the team. Yes, Marks expressed hope for point guard depth with the return of Ben Simmons to full health. Still, he did not prioritize bringing on another big star.

Keep in mind as well that losing the contracts of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving has given the Nets newfound flexibility in the form of draft capital and large trade exceptions. They may even secure the full mid-level exception and bi-annual exception if they time things right between the draft and free agency. This might mean that the Nets are in a favorable position to make interesting offseason moves.

Again, while the Nets have options available to them, they are not likely to pursue another Big Three. Instead, they will focus on improving incrementally. With their newfound flexibility, they have the potential to make strategic moves in the upcoming draft and free agency to strengthen their roster.

Now let's look at the major offseason fixes the Nets must make.

1. Keep Cam Johnson and Yuta Watanabe

The Nets currently have 13 players on their roster, including two first-round picks, heading into the offseason. The team's most notable free agent is Cameron Johnson. He is a restricted free agent who may receive a lucrative offer sheet from other teams with cap space. Re-signing Johnson would likely push the Nets back over the luxury tax line, though. They are projected to be $10 million below it for next year.

Johnson is a desirable target for many teams with significant cap space, These include Houston, Orlando, Utah, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio. His youth would fit in with their timelines. He could receive an offer sheet in the range of four years and $80-90 million. That would be comparable to recent deals for other players. For us, this means that the Nets have to act fast in keeping him before other teams swoop in.

Yuta Watanabe is another important free agent for the Nets. He played a regular role in the team's rotation throughout the season. However, the Nets will be limited in what they can offer him as they hold his Non-Bird rights. They may have to use their mid-level exception to offer him a salary higher than the minimum range. Still, the Japanese hotshot should be a worthy investment.

2. Get rid of Ben Simmons

Despite high expectations for the Nets after forming the Big Three, they were only able to reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2021 playoffs. However, even without Irving for the last three games due to injury, they almost defeated the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7.

Recall that the front office broke up the trio by trading James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2022 trade deadline. Ben Simmons was the main asset coming to the Nets. While some believed Simmons could complement Durant and Irving with his defense and playmaking, he failed to meet expectations. In fact, Simmons averaged low points, rebounds, and assists in 42 games with the franchise.

To make matters worse, the Nets ended up trading both Durant and Irving during the 2022-23 season. Simmons was then shut down for the remainder of the season due to a nerve issue in his back. Despite this setback, the emergence of young players like Mikal Bridges and Johnson may serve as potential cornerstones for the team’s future, allowing them to move on without Simmons.

As such, the Nets would do themselves a favor by packaging Simmons in an offseason deal. They could go after future draft capital or young guys who fit their own timeline.

3. Trust this core

During the first 27 games of the season, the Nets showed some promise with players such as Nic Claxton improving as a full-time starter in his fourth season. However, the team went 12-15 during that stretch and struggled with rebounding and shot creation.

This raises questions about how much faith the team should have in this group for a full season. Additionally, the team must decide whether to keep struggling free agent Spencer Dinwiddie, and whether to trust Claxton. Take note that he will be due for a new contract the following summer, based on his performance this season. Royce O'Neale's $9.5 million salary also becomes guaranteed on July 10.

While the team has six players on expiring contracts for 2023-24, it is uncertain whether this core is a playoff contender or at best a solid team led by Mikal Bridges. We believe, however, that Sean Marks and Jacque Vaughn should trust this core. They need time to gel and grow together. Perhaps they aren't a playoff contender now, but they have intriguing young pieces who just need more seasoning. And with some other players who can plug some holes on this team, a fresh start with this core seems like the bright light at the end of the dark tunnel they've been on these past few years.