The Brooklyn Nets roller coaster of a season has come to an end. The Nets had arguably the most chaotic season in recent memory with two All-NBA talents being traded in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The first domino to fall however was the firing of former coach and Hall of Famer Steve Nash.
Before the trade deadline, the Nets were holding the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and after a massive roster overhaul, it was going to be interesting to see if they could hold onto a playoff spot and they did by finishing the sixth seed.
Despite a rocky post-deadline record of 10-12, the Nets should be commended for not falling into the Play-In Tournament with essentially a new roster. Here’s a breakdown of their season:
It is hard to gauge the expectations for this team this year due to everything that transpired and seemingly changing their team goals in a blink of an eye. But with all the controversy surrounding Irving, and Durant with his trade request the past summer, it felt like this team was a ticking time bomb.
NBA fans could feel that the inevitable was coming for this organization and the Irving and Durant window was closing. However, the unexpected trade request from Irving still caught everyone off guard. The unexpected aspect was that he requested a trade a week before the deadline. Eventually, Irving would be traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith.
BREAKING: The Brooklyn Nets are trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a first-round and multiple second-round picks, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 5, 2023
Then less than 24 hours left in the deadline, news broke that Durant was being traded to the Phoenix Suns, a team he listed in his trade request during the summer. There were mixed opinions on if the Nets got enough back with Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson.
The Nets are trading Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns for a package including Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, four first-round picks and additional draft compensation, league sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. https://t.co/fJoFHv3i7M
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 9, 2023
From a fan’s perspective, it was hard to tell if the front office had a sense of direction with this new iteration of the Nets. It is to be mentioned that the Nets had to be competitive due to the team not owning their own first-round pick this year, which belongs to the Houston Rockets from the James Harden trade.
Sean Marks and company had to play damage control from their previous win-now moves and got four unprotected picks from the Suns plus a 2028 pick swap. Just like that, a team that had championship aspirations is now in a retooling or rebuilding scenario, depending on how you view it.
It is hard to get a high grade for expectations, seeing how the Nets at one point had Durant, Irving, and Harden all on the same team and only one playoff series to show for it. A true “what could’ve been” for the Nets.
The emergence of Bridges played a factor in this grade, he was the main piece in the Durant trade. There was some speculation if Bridges would be able to be the number one guy to build around and surprised many with his play.
Bridges exceeded expectations for Nets and NBA fans due to his dynamic offensive play. Bridges was able to shoot efficiently from three (37% on seven attempts) and two-point land (53% on twelve attempts). Surprisingly, Bridges could create looks off the dribble and be a shot-creator, which wasn’t showcased for the Suns.
Johnson, who was also a part of the Durant trade, did not miss a step since coming back from his knee injury. Averaging a solid 16.6 points and was able to shoot 37% on 6 attempts from the three-point line during his short time for the Nets.
Dinwiddie has been up and down for the past two seasons from his time with the Washington Wizards and the Mavericks, same for his second stint in a Nets uniform. Dinwiddie averaged 16.5 points, shooting 49% on his two-point attempts, but struggled from three only 29% on 6 attempts.
When it came to a playoff matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, their offense was a reason why they struggled. The Nets were able to remain competitive in several of these games, but their offense simply did not have enough firepower.
The Sixers would key in on Bridges and it was hard for the Nets to score due to Dinwiddie being the only shot creator besides Bridges, the rest of the roster is mainly spot-up three-point shooters.
Overall, the Nets need to look at diversifying their offense and not making it predictable and easy to stop for their opponents.
Nic Claxton was a youthful project for the Nets when he was drafted, a raw prospect, but had the tools to be an athletic defensive center. It was hard for him to fit in with a competitive team at the time and develop. But this year, he showed his potential.
On the year, Claxton averaged a career-high 2.5 blocks and was able to protect the rim at a high rate, which not many expected coming into this season. The only downside for Claxton is his wiry frame and it showed when guarding Joel Embiid. Claxton was simply not able to guard him one-on-one, so adding some weight and muscle will help.
Bridges, Royce O’Neale, and Finney-Smith earned their reputation and value as Three-and-D wings. All three of these players were a great help in bolstering the Nets’ defense, other teams would love to have the services of one of these players.
The Nets have size and defensive-minded players, as well as a defensive-minded coach in Jacque Vaughn, who demanded energy and effort of the team. If you watched only their playoff series, it is easy to see that Vaughn was able to run good defensive schemes, and his players executed them.
Overall Grade: C+
The Nets went through a huge upheaval in a short amount of time, it seemed like everything in the book went wrong for them, and the ability to be able to salvage their season somewhat and make a playoff appearance is commendable.
It looks like Bridges has made it no debate that he is going to be the organization’s building block moving forward, but there are still roster questions to be answered this offseason.
Johnson is heading into restricted free agency this summer and it is safe to assume that there will be a market for his services. According to Hoops Hype, he could be signed to an offer sheet for around $80-90 million.
Seth Curry is an unrestricted free agent, which seems like he’ll be looking for a new team due to not necessarily fitting the organization’s timeline.
Arguably their biggest roster question mark this summer is Ben Simmons. Simmons has been beyond disappointing in his limited tenure as a Net and has seemingly been dealing with nagging injuries and for the cherry on top making $37 million next season. Thus making him the highest-paid player on the team.
The Nets have started their new era without Irving and Durant. Marks has made solid moves up to this point, but his work is not done yet. There are thirteen players under contract for next year, but cannot rule out the potential to trade veterans like O’Neale, Finney-Smith, and Joe Harris for some more draft capital or young players.
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