The Brooklyn Nets are going through one of the most improbable rebuilds in sports history. With no first round draft picks for the past three years, GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson have done a stupendous job of turning the franchise around.
The Nets are currently in playoff contention and are one of the hottest teams in the league at the moment. With the developed talent on the roster and a plethora of cap space, Brooklyn is finally reading to take the next step to become a contender.
The team currently sits in sixth place in the East and show no signs of slowing down. Although they wouldn’t be considered a title contender they are almost a lock to make the postseason. That is, barring a complete second-half meltdown. The best part about their success is that they are doing it with homegrown players and castoffs.
This past offseason Marks brought in guys such as Shabazz Napier and Ed Davis for cheap. He has also traded for veteran guys such as DeMarre Carroll and Jared Dudley. Yes, some of the trades were made to acquire draft picks and shed other contracts, but these guys have found almost new life with the team. They have developed a nice young core of players as well who contribute game in and game out.
The question now is “What’s next?” But before one can answer that, there needs to be a look at what the Nets have now. The team owns their draft pick this year and are projected to have over $50M in available cap space. Caris LeVert, arguably their best player and who hasn’t played since early November due to a gruesome ankle injury is expected to return this season.
Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris are the sole reflections of the development staff in Brooklyn. Dinwiddie, before his recent hand injury was in the running for sixth man of the year and Joe Harris has become one of the premiere 3-point shooters in the league. The Nets also have Jarrett Allen who is budding into an elite rim protector. He’s blocking NBA superstars like how Thanos collects Infinity Stones. Rookie Rodions Kurucs has become a solid role player for the Nets at the wing position. And last but certainly not least is D’Angelo Russell who is having a standout year and was just recently chosen as the replacement for Victor Oladipo in this year’s All-Star game.
Immediately the Nets should do absolutely nothing next. The trade deadline is in just a few short days and the best course of action for the team is to do nothing. They are basically playing with house money this season and can make the playoffs with the roster they have now. However, Brooklyn needs a few things to become a legitimate title contender next season. One is a stretch-four.
Atkinson runs a very shooter friendly system which focuses on shots either at the rim or from 3-point range. One free agent the Nets should look heavily at is forward Tobias Harris who is currently on the Clippers. Harris is currently having his best year in the league and is right in the middle of his prime. His style of play fits almost like a glove to the way the Nets run their offense.
The Nets should also look to clear their books of either Allen Crabbe or DeMarre Carroll’s contract. Brooklyn acquired both players via trade over the past two seasons. Crabbe’s contract has him scheduled to make $18.5M this year as well as next year. The team also owes Carroll $15.4M this season. Unless the Nets move him at the trade deadline they’ll just have to eat that contract. If the Nets can move Crabbe either at the deadline or during the offseason, it would help financially wise as to what they can do this summer.
And finally the next big step for the Nets this offseason is signing a big name free agent. This may be one of the most anticipated free-agent draft classes since 2010 when LeBron hit the market. This year the big names are Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, and Klay Thompson.
The general feel is that Klay and Kemba won’t leave their respective teams which leave KD, Kyrie, and Kawhi. With the Knicks just recently trading away a bunch of assets including Kristaps Porzingis, they now have enough cap space to sign two free agents to max deals. As much money as the Knicks have, the Nets have almost as much and a team ready to win now.
A star free agent going to the Knicks means it will take a year or two for serious contention. If the Nets can land Kawhi or Durant, they instantly become a favorite to make it to the Finals. And wouldn’t it be something if the Nets were able to bring a championship to New York before the Knicks?