What’s next for the Nets following the Mikal Bridges trade?

Knicks, Mikal Bridges
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets finally made the decision to move on from Mikal Bridges in a blockbuster trade with crosstown rivals, the New York Knicks. The saga of will they or won’t they trade their prized star has finally come to an end. But with the move, little clarity has actually been achieved.

Many wondered if the Nets would actually trade Bridges, their prize from the Kevin Durant trade just about a year and a half ago. Those in favor saw a directionless franchise thrusting a supporting player into a starring role while lamenting that his age didn’t align with the timeline of the rest of the roster.

Those opposed didn’t want to lose their prized possession and instead yearned for another star to be brought in to pair with Bridges. The hope was that another star would take some of the pressure off of him and allow for him to thrive as an elite two-way player.

The Nets needed to make a decision

Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) looks to drive past New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) in the first quarter at Madison Square Garden
Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) looks to drive past New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) in the first quarter at Madison Square Garden Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Without control of their own picks for several years, the Nets needed to pick a direction. Either push the chips all in and build around Bridges with another star, or accept that Bridges wasn’t the player to build around and trade him while his value was highest. Not choosing a path would only lead to more directionless mediocrity.

As much as the Nets loved Bridges, his timeline didn’t match up with their young core. Cam Thomas is turning 23. Noah Clowney is turning 20. Dariq Whitehead is turning 20, and Day’ron Sharpe is turning 23. Nic Claxton just turned 25. Bridges turns 28 in August, and with two years left on a below-market contract, his timeline just doesn’t align with the young core.

So, standing pat wouldn’t align with Bridges’ contract situation, the young core’s development, and everyone getting paid. There was no star available that would vault the Nets into true contender status while paired with Bridges, especially considering the young players they’d have to send out.

The choice became clear, move him for a treasure trove of assets now, or risk diminishing returns later on while also wallowing in mediocrity without control of your own picks. The Nets made the wise move.

The path forward is still murky

Mikal Bridges, Knicks, Nets
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In both a good and bad way, the Nets’ path forward is still murky. Now with an absolute haul of draft picks, some intriguing young players already in the fold, and some valuable veteran role players on the roster the Nets can operate in a variety of ways.

They have their own picks back for the most part, which allows them to stay the course and rebuild through the draft. However, the number of picks they’ve accumulated combined with some of the young talents already on the roster gives them the flexibility to go star-hunting to pair with the veteran role players already on their roster.

The beauty of this trade is that they now have the flexibility to be patient, and then pounce if the right star comes on the market. In the meantime, they can also add to their future assets by shipping off veterans like Dorian Finney-Smith to add to the draft capital they’ve already acquired.

In many ways, this is a new dawn in Brooklyn with Sean Marks rising from the ashes of the failed Big Three experiment and making the best of a bad situation. What he does next will ultimately determine whether this move was a success or failure.

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