After finding a semblance of stability when they won 18 of 20 games, uncertainty again rules within the Brooklyn Nets franchise after finally dealing away disgruntled star Kyrie Irving.
The Nets delayed making the trade official with the hopes of landing a star replacement for Irving by expanding it to a three-team trade.
They reportedly sought Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, in no particular order, from the Toronto Raptors to reshape their roster around Kevin Durant to no avail.
According to HoopsHype, the Raptors were interested in Nic Claxton, who’s risen to become the Nets’ third-best player behind Durant and Irving before the trade. Ben Simmons and draft compensations were also discussed. But Simmons has a negative value around the league.
According to Marc Stein, Brooklyn also tried to re-route Spencer Dinwiddie and the draft compensations for VanVleet.
With nothing coming to fruition, what’s next for the Nets?
They still have time ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline to make some moves. But it’s an uphill battle as they can no longer aggregate Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith’s salaries in trades.
If Durant returns from his second straight MCL sprain to a Nets team with more depth but lacks star power in the wake of Irving’s departure, it’s not the ideal situation for a team with championship aspirations.
Theoretically, the Nets can mitigate Irving’s shotmaking with Dinwiddie and Cam Thomas, who have scored 91 points in two games since Irving requested a trade. Finney-Smith, Royce O’Neale, and Ben Simmons, when healthy, form a formidable rotation of strong wing defenders.
Without a second superstar, Durant’s load gets heavier. Can his 34-year-old knees survive a deep playoff run? The Nets are one more Durant injury away from wasting a once-promising season.
Losing one superstar is enough. Twice is too much.
The Nets are desperate to salvage this season because there’s no other way than winning to keep them from losing their last superstar.
“At the end of the day, Kevin wants to win,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “That’s always been our goal. He wants to win at the shootaround. He wants to win any game of the week. That’s why he loves to play. That’s why he wants to play 82 games. That will be our holy grail.”
That holy grail has become doubly harder to reach.
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