After watching the Nets in the playoffs against Boston you begin to think the league is passing them by. In the series the Nets didn’t have much after Kyrie and Durant. The team wasn’t very deep, guard dominant with average at best defenders. Durant, for the first time in his career, didn’t seem unstoppable.
What is the future for this team. it’s a good question but before we look at that let’s look at the decision that led to their present situation. Four years ago the Nets were without stars but had a fun team coached by Kenny Atkinson. The team went forty two and forty and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The team had a young Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris. They were a hustling group that was highly likeable.
That summer the Nets made their first big move. They signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. During Irving and Durant’s first season Atkinson was fired. We later have learned that Irving and Durant’s fingerprints might have been on the firing. In looking back at that decision it when we could realize the team now had their best two players involved in more than just playing. The team was still fairly deep and with their two stars reaching their prime seemed destined for a title.
That summer the Nets hired Steve Nash to be their coach. Nash, a great player, but it seemed silly to hire a person who had no coaching experience. After all the team believed that could win a title and that places a great deal of pressure on Nash.
During that season the Nets made a trade that told everyone they were going for it. They traded for James Harden. In the trade the Nets dealt Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, Caris LeVert and Radians Kurucs along with three draft picks. Allen has since become an all star but more importantly he and LeVert are young with bright futures. The nets lost their depth and now became a three man team. The Nets lost to Milwaukee in the playoffs. Irving was injured and Harden, though hurt, tried to play in those playoffs. He was only a shell of himself.
This year we had the Irving vaccination issue and Harden didn’t like the situation and asked to be traded. At the trading deadline the Nets dealt Harden to Philadelphia. in return the Nets got Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond and Seth Curry. To date, though talented, Ben Simmons has not played. There are questions about whether Simmons wants to play though to be fair he says he has a back issue and some psychological problems.
Where does that leave the Nets as far as their future. Next year Durant will begin the season at thirty-four years old. Players at that age begin to break down missing parts of the season with injuries as Durant did this year. It didn’t help that Durant averaged over thirty-seven minutes a game. During those games Durant handled the ball and often played the four. This is taxing for even a young player. If Durant is expected to continue to log heavy minutes it will be tough for him to continue as the great player he is.
The next piece is Kyrie Irving. The Nets have a major decision to make on him. He can sign a contract for five years and over two hundred forty-million as a free agent. This for a player talented but has only played one hundred three games over the last three years. The Nets are in a bind. It doesn’t seem there is much interest in Kyrie because he has burned a few bridges in his career. He left Boston after saying he would re sign with them and wanted out of Cleveland while there. Durant and Irving are good friends and Durant wants him to stay. It is also complicated by something he said. during the press conference after the Celtics series. Kyrie intimated he wanted to be a part of the management team. This from a player though talented but never plays.
The Nets are in a corner, they would be crazy to sign him for five years, would have problems doing a sign and trade because there isn’t a great deal of interest for him. It seems the only way out is to offer him a one or two year contract. Would Kyrie accept that, who knows.
The next problem is Ben Simmons. Simmons, on a large contract, doesn’t appear to want to play. He is a talented defender and playmaker but doesn’t shoot from the field and at the free throw line. If Simmons doesn’t come back like he was in Philly the Nets are doomed. The market for Simmons is also weak so trading him could be a problem.
Meanwhile Joseph Tsai is way above the cap and paying out a nice amount of money in tax revenue. Owners usually don’t mind paying if their team does well in the playoffs and has a chance at a title. Durant and Irving’s age complicate the matter. Both are over thirty in an NBA that is quickly becoming a young man’s league.
What do the Nets do. It seems there is two choices. One is to pay Irving and hope he plays. They also need to hope Simmons can get over his problems. They also need to fill out their team because only Curry, Harris, Cam Thomas and Day Ron Sharpe signed for next year and little money to spend. The other option is to admit the moves of the last few years didn’t work out and keep Durant and try to build something around him while trying to get something for Irving it Simmons. If that is the option they need to begin the season with Irving and Simmons and hope they play decently to give them some market value.
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