The Brooklyn Nets have much to do in the upcoming offseason to prepare for the 2020-21 season. With Kevin Durant making his Brooklyn debut, and Kyrie Irving returning to the starting lineup, many are looking at Brooklyn to emerge as serious contenders coming out of the East. Brooklyn has a championship on their mind, and for the first time since their back to back Finals losses in 2002 and 2003, the Nets have a real shot at bringing home their first NBA title in the next few years. Get excited Nets fans.
So here is my list of things that the Nets must address before hitting the court in December for the start of the season.
The Head Coach Hunt
After the very unexpected firing of Kenny Atkinson back in March, there have been wild rumors as to who could emerge as the next head coach for the Brooklyn Nets. This firing took many by surprise, as Atkinson was the coach that took Brooklyn through their rebuild and developed key players to the Nets future such as Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen (and formerly D'Angelo Russell)
But that's all the Nets front office viewed Kenny Atkinson as. A coach who could only take a young developing team so far. Nets general manager Sean Marks felt Atkinson was incapable of leading a star-studded team to a championship. And after the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signing, that's what the Nets became; a team that is no longer in need of a rebuild and development, they are now viewed as contenders.
Many names have been thrown around in the Nets hunt for a head coach. Tyronn Lue, Jason Kidd, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and current interim head coach Jacque Vaughn. But perhaps the most recent development is the most interesting thus far. It was recently reported that Brooklyn will be "aggressive" in pursing long time San Antonio Spurs legendary head coach, Gregg Popovich. Popovich has emerged as the Nets favorite for their vacant HC spot, with Ty Lue seemingly lurking as runner up.
General manager Sean Marks said in a press conference that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will not be the only two Nets players that he consults when making his final hiring decision.
A Third Star?
At about the half-way point in the season, reports emerged that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving did not think the Nets had what it took to compete for a championship, even when Durant makes his debut. Almost immediately, Brooklyn's front office got to work and rumors started to fly. The biggest rumor that was being discussed was that the Nets were exploring possible trade packages to get Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal. After being asked about such a trade, Beal and his agent both reiterated the same thing they've repeated many times in the past; Beal wants to stay in Washington. He's comfortable there, he wants to help be apart of their rebuild, and as of right now, he doesn't want to go anywhere else. After that, the Brad Beal rumors slowly died out.
Fast forward a little bit, Caris LeVert comes back from an injury, drops 51 points against the Celtics in Boston, leads the team down the stretch before the season was postponed, and goes off in the bubble. LeVert finished the season averaging 18.7 PPG, 4.2 REB, and 4.4 AST. In his last ten games of the season, LeVert averaged 24 PTS, 5.9 AST, and 5.1 REB. People quickly started noticing Caris LeVert's talent.
So what do we think? Did Caris LeVert emerge as Brooklyn's third star down the stretch? Has he changed KD and Kyrie's mind about needing to sign/trade for a big name? During the bubble play-in tournament, KD and Kyrie were both very vocal about how impressed they've become with LeVert's recent play. LeVert told media that he was in touch with Kyrie after every game, and that Irving had very high praise for him via text message.
Other free agent names the Nets have been linked to are Toronto's Serge Ibaka, Miami's Goran Dragic, Chicago's Zach LaVine and Brooklyn's own Joe Harris.
What to do with Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie...
Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Harris is hitting free agency this offseason, and he ought to be a hot commodity to a lot of teams. The 3-point shooting whiz has been solid for Brooklyn over the last few years. The only problem is that Joe Harris isn't the only small forward on the market this offseason, and Sean Marks has been known to explore every possible scenario before making his final decisions. If Marks isn't careful, Joe Harris could be scooped up before Marks and the Nets can get to him. I think re-signing Joe Harris would be the best fit for the Nets. He is a fan favorite, and we know what he can do in a Brooklyn uniform. Before the season was suspended due to COVID-19, Harris carried a stat-line of 13.9 PTS, 4.3 REB, and 2.1 AST with Brooklyn. He was shooting 41.2% from beyond the arc, 47.1% from the field, 74.7% from the free throw line. He isn't the highest scoring option out there, but with a starting lineup that consists of both KD and Kyrie, you have to wonder how much ball time Harris will receive anyway.
Spencer Dinwiddie is another player on the Nets roster that has garnered a lot of attention from other teams via trade. Dinwiddie was the starting point guard for Brooklyn for a majority of the year since Kyrie Irving missed a lot of time due to injury. Dinwiddie averaged 20.6 PTS, 6.8 AST, and 3.5 REB in 2019-20. But unfortunately for Dinwiddie, the only way he gets a starting spot is if Kyrie (God forbid) goes down with an injury.
Dinwiddie could be a great starting asset to a young rebuilding team that needs a veteran PG presence in their locker room. As much as it would benefit the Nets to have a player of his caliber coming off the bench, he deserves to be a starter somewhere, and Dinwiddie's asking price is at an all time high right now. If the Nets are ever going to trade him, now would be the time. If the Nets manage to re-sign Joe Harris, the projected 2020-21 staring lineup (as of now) would go as follows;
Kyrie Irving - PG
Caris LeVert- SG
Kevin Durant - PF
Joe Harris - SF
DeAndre Jordan - C
As you can see, there is not much room for Dinwiddie in that starting lineup.
It all comes down to two factors; does Spencer Dinwiddie want to come off the bench in Brooklyn, where he has a chance to be a champion? And what kind of return can the Nets get for him? Both of these questions and more will be answered soon.
A question to ask yourself for now would be; would you want to be a role player for a contender? Or would you rather go somewhere where you'd be The Guy? Even if it means starting for a struggling team?
Shoring Up the Defense
Brooklyn's defense ranked 19th in 2019-20. I personally watched the Nets blow many leads late in games due to poor defense. It doesn't matter how many super-stars they have on their team, in any sport, no defense means you're not winning. Brooklyn needs to get to work scouting possible defensive-minded free agents whom can be subbed in late in games in order to protect a lead. This was Sean Marks' and Brooklyn's goal when they signed Iman Shumpert back in November. Shumpert's time with Brooklyn was short lived however, when less than a month later he was waived to make room on the roster for Wilson Chandler.
So, Nets fans... After a tough loss to the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs, not all is lost. The best is yet to come. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving suit up in 4 months, and our ride to a championship officially starts. There is nothing to be unhappy about right now, all is right in Brooklyn. The future for this Nets team is as far as the eye can see. Enjoy the rest of the NBA playoffs!
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