Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and the future

(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets accomplished exactly what they sought out to do in 2019 NBA free agency. What does this mean for next season and beyond?

The Brooklyn Nets had long been rumored as a potential destination for star free agents this summer, and the front office got it exactly what it wanted.

With the imminent signings of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the fruits of culture-building and cap space-clearing will be fully realized.

The additions elevate Brooklyn’s eventual ceiling from a second round playoff team to a Finals contender, but there have been plenty of other changes to the roster over the last few months. Here’s a summary of the changes:

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Irving and Durant both agreed to slightly less than the max, clearing the way for DeAndre Jordan to agree to a four-year, $40 million deal. The team’s one other free agency signing will be 33-year-old forward Garrett Temple, who agreed to two years and $9.8 million.

As expected, these signings didn’t leave the cap space to bring back any of the team’s free agents. Ed Davis and DeMarre Carroll agreed to deals with the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs, respectively, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is still figuring out his future. Another free agent in D’Angelo Russell was shipped off to the Golden State Warriors via a sign-and-trade. Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham were part of the deal as well.

Everything went according to plan, but what are the team’s prospects for 2019-20 and beyond? In terms of next season, there may be growing pains as the new additions get comfortable in their roles and learn to play together, and Kevin Durant’s absence will definitely limit the ceiling.

On first glance, somewhere in the range of a 3-6 seed seems feasible for the Nets next season. The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers will likely be better than Brooklyn, as will the Toronto Raptors if Kawhi ends up returning. The Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and Nets could end up competing for the next tier of playoff spots.

The following season, assuming Kevin Durant comes back to almost 100 percent, the Nets could potentially be championship contenders. The fact that contending could be a realistic possibility in the near future makes this summer a smashing success.

Below are some key thoughts and questions regarding the updated Nets roster.

Kyrie Irving:

-Will some of the “chemistry issues” that became an issue in Boston carry over to Brooklyn?

-Can he still be the second-best player on a championship team? He really struggled against the Bucks this past postseason.

-Will he stay healthy? He’s been a bit injury-prone in the past.

Kevin Durant:

-Will he fully recover from his injury or never quite be the same player? If he’s anything near his former self, the Nets could be contenders in two seasons.

DeAndre Jordan:

-Will Jordan be revitalized as he heads to Brooklyn, or will he continue his “so-so” play?

Garrett Temple:

-Can Temple hold down minutes at the small forward position in Durant’s absence? Even when Durant returns, Temple’s 3-point shooting and defensive acumen should make him a solid role player.

Taurean Prince:

-See my extended thoughts on Prince here. Durant’s absence should open up some minutes for him as well. It will be an important developmental season for him as he adjusts to a new team. If he can improve his defense and maintain his 3-point shooting, he could be solid role player going forward.

Nicolas Claxton:

-See my extended thoughts on Nic Claxton here. Although the Nets will still look to be competitive, head coach Kenny Atkinson won’t want to compromise the development of his young players. Making the playoffs will definitely be important, but with a championship unlikely to be in the cards, seeding may be less of a priority.

-As a result, Claxton may get more minutes than he otherwise would have if Durant were healthy and the team were all-in on contending. The Nets have a deep roster, however, so his minutes may still be limited.

Jaylen Hands:

-The rookie isn’t likely to receive too much playing time and could very well spend most of the year in the G League.

Jarrett Allen:

-With Ed Davis’ departure and DeAndre Jordan signing on, Allen and Jordan will anchor the frontcourt. As really the team’s only “big-man” options, both should receive plenty of minutes. Allen made some positive steps last season, and maybe Jordan will help guide the 21-year-old further.

Rodions Kurucs:

-See my extended thoughts on Kurucs here. The second-year player could benefit from another year of development; he showed signs last season but needs to improve his jump shot. He’ll be competing for minutes at the forward position with Temple, Prince, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris, but as mentioned in the Claxton section, Atkinson will likely try to develop the young players still.

-The Nets had the most bench minutes in the NBA in 2018-19, and a similar approach next season could help provide these players the opportunity for growth.

Caris LeVert:

-Although LeVert missed a lot of games last season due to injury, he looked like an All-Star at times when he was on the court. Will he continue on this trajectory next season?

-Brooklyn’s best path for championship contention is 1) Kyrie not causing any “issues” 2) Durant’s recovery going well and 3) LeVert emerging into the team’s third “star.”

Spencer Dinwiddie:

-Can Spencer Dinwiddie continue to be one of the league’s best sixth men? He finished fourth last season in Sixth Man of the Year voting behind Lou Williams, Domantas Sabonis and Montrezl Harrell.

-A reasonable starting lineup next season would include Irving, Harris, LeVert, Prince and either Jordan or Allen. Dinwiddie may be good enough to start, but it seems likely he’ll maintain his sixth man role. This should be the case even when Durant returns. A projected starting lineup would be Irving, Harris, LeVert, Durant and Jordan/Allen (with Dinwiddie as the sixth man).

Joe Harris:

-See my extended thoughts on Harris here. He put on an incredible shooting display last season, and although his percentages might come back to earth a bit, he should still be pretty solid. Once Durant returns, there will be even more attention directed away from Harris, which should only help him get more open looks.

Dzanan Musa:

-He spent most of last season in the G League, and with the team’s depth, he may spend a lot of time there next season as well. He seemingly developed well, but he might not be ready to contribute just yet.

Final takeaway

Next season will be key in terms of building roster continuity, developing young players and continuing to build a competitive culture with a playoff appearance.

Next. 2019 NBA free agency tracker - grades for every deal so far. dark

If all goes as planned, the foundation will be laid for Kevin Durant to step in the following season and make the team a contender.