Brooklyn Nets: Breaking down the Nets Final Preseason Win against the Celtics

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

If you’re a follower of Brooklyn Nets news, then you have probably seen the video of Kyrie Irving burning sage prior to the Nets’ final preseason game against the Celtics last night. Irving explained after the game, his “smudging” was meant to cleanse the energy in the arena but to0 many Nets fans, it may have had a slightly different meaning; a fresh start. Not since the early 2000s have Nets, fans had a team with this much hype and excitement around them. With a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, returning key contributors in Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen, and adding Landry Shamet and Jeff Green in the offseason to round out this roster, stakes could not be higher for the Brooklyn Nets as we approach the regular season.

Breaking Down the Nets Final Preseason Game

Kevin Durant Shows Out

While the first preseason game belonged to Kyrie, Durant stole the show against the Celtics last night, scoring 25 points on 9-16 from the field in 27 minutes of action. Whether it was the pull-up three, blowing by his defender for the dunk at the rim, or the un-guardable mid-range shot, Durant showed to everyone last night that he hasn’t lost a step. But elite offense wasn’t the only feature Durant showcased last night; he also led the Nets with 3 blocks, several of them coming at the rim. If this is the Kevin Durant Nets fans will get this season, barring any health setbacks, then there aren’t many teams in the East who can claim their #1 is better than Brooklyn’s.

Kyrie Continues to Lead

There have been several instances throughout the first two pre-season games where Kyrie Irving has shown his leadership among teammates. Yesterday, there were two specific scenarios. One came shortly after a Spencer Dinwiddie drive to the basket, of which there was contact with his defender but no call. This became a reoccurring theme for Dinwiddie throughout the night, as there were not many fouls called on his behalf. After a particularly physical drive, Dinwiddie was visually frustrated on the ground after not receiving the call, and an encouraging Kyrie Irving came over to him to pick him up. Seems subtle and small, but those are the types of actions that good teammates and leaders exhibit on a nightly basis.

The second moment came from Irving leading by example. After the Celtics went on a mini-run midway through the game, Tatum had just finished a sequence in which he had scored 5 straight points and rejected Spencer Dinwiddie on his drive to the rim. With the Nets only leading by 9, the smallest lead since the beginning of the game, Irving demanded the ball with Tatum covering him, immediately took him to the lane, and scored on a beautiful floater. You could feel the Celtics’ momentum vanish as the Nets would go on a scoring run of their own after that moment. These are the types of momentum swings that leaders like Kyrie and KD have to execute in order for the Nets to be dominant. Kyrie finished with 17 pts, 5 assists, and 7 rebs in 28 minutes.

Role Players who Impressed

There were several Nets outside of KD and Kyrie who performed exceptionally last night. Joe Harris had a huge “remember me guys?” moment early on in the game and finished with 14 points. Dinwiddie looked efficient with the starters, despite a 1-7 shooting night, picking his spots on when he should attack and when he should defer to the two stars on the team. And Jarrett Allen continued his excellent play in backing up Deandre Jordan (will return to shortly) with a stat line of 9 pts and 11 rebs. As for the two newcomers in Jeff Green and Landry Shamet, they have given Steve Nash some excellent minutes thus far. Shamet has looked sharp with the 2nd unit and moves well without the ball. Green, playing at the 5, has given the Nets a small-ball lineup with all 5 players on the court capable of hitting a three. TLC gave the Nets 11 solid minutes off the bench and has fought hard this preseason to crack this Nets rotation.

Preseason Summary & Remaining Roster questions

Obviously, the biggest story out of the Nets’ two preseason games has been how great Kyrie and KD have both looked. There needs to be something said about the fact that these guys complement each other’s games very nicely. KD can play with anybody, and Kyrie now feels he has an equal scoring counterpart on his team (sorry, Lebron). The supporting cast has looked exceptional, and Nash has done a great job of mixing and matching rotations in hopes of generating an optimal five players throughout the game. The Nets have dominated their opponents in both preseason games, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions about this team headed into the regular season.

For example, who will start at the center position, Deandre Jordan or Jarrett Allen? In two preseason games, Coach Nash has yet to insert Jarrett Allen into the starting lineup. Now, this is where many Nets fans have disagreed with Nash; anyone with eyes can see Allen has the ability to contribute much more than Jordan, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, the narrative is that because Jordan has a close-knit friendship with KD and Kyrie, he will continue to start over Allen. This is something that may change if the Nets go on a losing skid early on in the season.

Another question Nash will have to answer is who will start alongside Kyrie, Spencer Dinwiddie, or Caris LeVert? Yesterday, we saw Dinwiddie get the start, who seemed to mesh well with Kyrie and KD despite the off shooting night.  LeVert led the 2nd unit and eventually would get some time with KD and Kyrie in the 3rd. While it seemed as though Nash’s strategy worked as LeVert managed to score 18 points in 21 minutes, the Nets are still unsure on who will start and who will come off the bench between the two.

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Durant, Irving look good together but Nets’ title hopes still fragile

For the first nine minutes and 27 seconds of the preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Washington Wizards last Sunday night, the world saw a glimpse of the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving potential.

The 119-114 final scoreline in favor of the Nets didn’t tell the whole story.

Worth the long wait

It was a long wait for the Nets, who signed both superstars to separate four-year deals as the culmination of the reclamation project of GM Sean Marks in Brooklyn. But definitely worth it.

Started from the bottom, the Nets have gone a long way, morphing from a team with no cap space into a fringe playoff contender and now a serious title threat in the NBA.

In that glorious stretch in the opening quarter, the long recovery of both Durant and Irving from serious injuries was an afterthought. Irving’s contentious relationship with the media was sidetracked. James Harden was never needed.

Durant dusted off anxious moments and shrugged off nervousness with a baseline dunk for his basket since tearing his Achilles back in June of 2019.

The former MVP was back to his silky-smooth ways scoring 11 points on 3-of-3 shooting, while Irving’s court wizardry produced 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. The Nets were in full control with Durant and Irving on the floor. They opened up a 12-point lead, 30-28, that ballooned to as many 26 points.

‘I was anxious, nervous’

It didn’t matter the Wizards tried to come back when Durant went out for good in the third quarter while Irving didn’t see action in the second half. What mattered was they showed it’s really worth the wait.

“I was anxious, nervous. I visualized this moment for so long — nine, 10 months of thinking about how it would be, this next phase of my career,” Durant said postgame. “I felt like I was chomping at the bit, especially once COVID hit because I didn’t see a future — when the season was going to start in the future. I was going through it.

“So to go through this felt solid.”

Durant played a total of 24 minutes and finished with 15 points, three rebounds, three assists, and two blocks.

He looked confident in his first game back.

‘The world missed Durant’

Irving led the Nets with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting despite sitting out the whole second half.

“That’s one of the perks of this position, is you get to coach two incredible players,” said first-time head coach Steve Nash. “Ky was super sharp and Kevin, after such an extensive layoff was very good and close to being incredible.”

“When you have that type of injury,” Nash said of Durant after the game, “it is kind of remarkable he’s at the level he’s at.

“It’s amazing. This is an injury that very few people have conquered, so to speak. It’s beautiful to see him back on the basketball court. I think the world missed him — I certainly did.”

Without Durant and partially Irving (shoulder injury), the Nets were still able to contend for the last playoff spot in the East.

This season, they are expected to contend for the title.

But that will hinge on Durant and Irving’s fragile bodies to hold up for the condensed season.

Bench depth over Harden

James Harden could be their insurance. But if there’s anything their first preseason game revealed aside from the Durant-Irving dominance, the Nets also saw the depth they will potentially miss if the Houston Rockets’ superstar gets his wish.

The Rockets have maintained they do not want the Nets’ complimentary players plus picks, per ESPN report. They may need a third team where the Rockets can get a young star.

But Marks have earlier remarked that the Nets don’t want to mortgage their future for Harden. Durant, on the other hand, denied recruiting Harden.

The Nets, who played without young rising star Caris LeVert due to patella contusion, had four more players in double figures aside from Durant and Irving.

Spencer Dinwiddie had 10 points and seven assists. Newcomer Landry Shamet, acquired via Draft Day trade, his 3 of 5 from the outside to finish with 13 points. Taurean Prince and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot each added 11.

Irving breaks media silence

Irving, who skipped the postgame interviews, finally broke his media blackout Monday morning.

The Nets and their star point guard were fined $25,000 each for the media blackout to which he responded with a controversial Instagram:

“I’ve had enough of someone else propaganda… I pray we utilize the ‘fine money’ for the marginalized communities in need, especially seeing where our world is presently… I do not talk to Pawns. My attention is worth more.”

Irving addressed them in his first media session, denying it was directed to NBA writers.

“It’s really just about how I felt about the mistreatment of certain artists when we get to a certain platform of when we make decisions within our lives to have full control and ownership… We want to perform in a secure and protected space,” he said.

He also retracted his earlier statement on Durant’s podcast that he really didn’t see them having a coach.

“Steve’s been amazing,” Irving said Monday. “He kind of commands the respect. I think I’ve got to take back my comments in terms of the head coach back a few months ago. But it’s just like, man, we have such a great synergy. Everyone feels like we’re coaching one another to be better, so I’m grateful for that.”

If their first game together is any indication, the synergy looks great. Credit it to Nash for not having a big ego and having the right temperament to handle the issue that could have otherwise gone south.

While the Nets are off to a good start, their title hopes still hang in the balance of their superstars’ fragile bodies and egos. 

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Report: Nets, Rockets verbally agree on James Harden blockbuster trade

The Brooklyn Nets and the Houston Rockets are nearing completion of a blockbuster deal that will send James Harden to Brooklyn, according to Anthony Puccio of Front Office Sports.

Multiple sources have told Puccio that there’s a deal in place, and both teams already have a verbal agreement.

Shortly after the news broke out, Farbod Esnaashari of Sports Illustrated put out more details on the imminent trade.

The Rockets are seeking a massive haul in return for Harden, who has been the face of the franchise since 2012. The 2018 MVP earned his third scoring title last season after averaging 34.3 points. In addition to his dynamic scoring, Harden also averaged 7.6 assists, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals, becoming just the third player to lead the NBA in total points and steals to join Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson in the exclusive group.

Harden, 31, earlier rejected a two-year, $103-million extension offer putting more pressure on the Rockets to trade him to his preferred destination.

The Nets rose on top of Harden’s wish list after conversations with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the West Coast, and with former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni joining the Nets in an assistant role to first-time head coach Steve Nash.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Report: Brooklyn on top of James Harden’s wishlist but Nets divided on the idea

The Brooklyn Nets have emerged as the preferred top destination for Houston Rockets’ superstar James Harden, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ramona Shelburne, and Zach Lowe.

However, the Nets and the Rockets have yet to engage in a trade discussion as everything has been player-driven so far.

Harden and Durant reportedly have talked about a possible reunion as the Rockets’ superstar is mulling over his future in Houston. But Ian Begley of SNY also reported that not all the Nets players contacted are receptive to the idea of trading for Harden.

Harden’s future with the Rockets alongside Russell Westbrook came into question earlier this week on the heels of the sweeping changes in the organization.

Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey, the two architects of the small-ball Rockets featuring Harden, have left the team following their Western Conference semifinals defeat at the hands of the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Morey has since joined the Philadelphia 76ers as team president while D’Antoni accepted an assistant coaching role under his former player and first-time coach Steve Nash, in Brooklyn.

The Rockets have maintained that they intend to contend with Harden. But things could quickly escalate if Harden would demand a trade.

The 31-year old Harden has led the Rockets to the active longest playoff streak — eight seasons in a row — since he was acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he was the third star to the Durant-Westbrook tandem.

The Nets have the ability trade for Harden with a chest of young assets (Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen) and draft capital (they own all their first-round picks starting next season). Harden is owed $131.5 million over the next three seasons, including a $46.9 million player option in 2022-23.

Westbrook, meanwhile, has been linked to several trade rumors, including the Nets’ crosstown rival New York Knicks, but nothing is imminent at this point.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Nets Rumor: James Harden names Brooklyn as one of 3 potential destinations if Rockets blow it up

Could James Harden be the third star that the Brooklyn Nets covet?

With all the unrest in Houston brought by the sweeping changes in the coaching staff and front office, Rockets’ superstars Harden and Russell Westbrook have reportedly expressed concern about the franchise’s direction, per ESPN.

Adding more fuel to the fire, Kendrick Perkins said on The Jump on Wednesday that Harden isn’t picking up the phone calls of the members of the Rockets’ organization.

Five Reasons Sports Network’s Clutch NBA reported shortly after that Harden already has a list in mind on where he wants to go next if the Rockets decide to go in another direction.

The 31-year old Harden has $131.5 million left in his contract, including a $46.9 million player option in 2022-23.

Nets’ possible package for Harden

ESPN’s front office insider Bobby Marks also named the Nets as one of the five teams who have the combination of draft capital and tradeable contracts that can satisfy Rockets’ possible asking price. The four other teams are Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, and the 76ers where Daryl Morey, the former Rockets general manager, has indicated that he will trade for Harden if he is made available.

The Nets, according to Marks, can dangle a package composed of Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince, and future draft picks.

The Nets have internally discussed last season on how to acquire a third star, acknowledging that their championship window has arrived with the acquisition of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

They were previously linked to Bradley Beal and Jrue Holiday, but nothing concrete came out of it.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Bobby Marks: Brooklyn Nets’ big man Jarrett Allen looking for Clint Capela-type of extension

Brooklyn Nets, Jarrett Allen

Will the Brooklyn Nets extend or cash in Jarret Allen?

This is one of the biggest questions that Net’s general manager Sean Marks would have to address aside from re-signing Joe Harris and finding the third star to complement the returning Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Allen’s contract extension talks could be tied with the last one as his name constantly pops up in trade rumors.

Conventional wisdom says the Nets would likely play out Allen’s rookie deal and have him as a restricted free agent next year. But that would be tempting Allen to walk away after this season without getting anything in return.

Former Nets’ assistant general manager and now ESPN’s front office insider Bobby Marks recently weighed in on Allen’s contract situation.

“He’s looking for a Clint Capela-type of money,” Marks said on Brian Windhorst and the Hoop Collective Podcast.

Capela signed a five-year, $90-million extension deal with the Houston Rockets in 2018 before he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks last season. Capela was 24 at the time of the deal.

“I would think it’s hard for me to extend him to that type of number and the other thing is if you extend these guys, you’re basically off the board for a year because of the poison pill restriction in your contract. So it’s not like he’s tradeable so I think if I’m Brooklyn and if I can get him in that $12-14 million range, I’m looking for a below-market type of deal here,” Marks added.

But would Allen agree to a discount in a reduced role for the next three to four years?

 

Marks and Windhorst’s ESPN colleague Tim MacMahon chimed in, suggesting that it’s more complicated than it seems.

“The other thing is the strange dynamic with KD and Kyrie’s guy, DeAndre Jordan, as $10-million a year dude, paying him that much to play 18-20 minutes a game. Do they want DeAndre in the starting lineup? You can’t ignore that whole dynamic when you’re making these decisions and obviously, the Nets’ front office isn’t ignoring anything that KD and Kyrie have to say when it comes to making major decisions,” MacMahon said.

The 22-year old Allen was one of the homegrown Nets but could see himself as another casualty of the new order with the team’s championship window arriving.

The markings were on the wall when Irving left him out of their core during a controversial post-game talk early this year.

“Collectively, I feel like we have great pieces, but it’s pretty glaring we need one more piece or two more pieces that will complement myself, [Kevin Durant], DJ, GT, Spence [Dinwiddie], Caris [LeVert], and we’ll see how that evolves,” Irving said after losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in January.

Allen subsequently lost the starting job to Jordan after Kenny Atkinson, his biggest backer, left the team. While Allen has said all the right things since the demotion, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow after showing he’s a capable starter on a playoff team before last season.

Would he want to play as a backup in a championship contender or secure the bag and play as a starter with another team?

Nets owner and Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai has no qualms about paying the luxury tax. Still, Bobby Marks, speaking from his experience with former Nets’ owner Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, warned that Sean Marks and the Nets’ front office could be courting trouble if they flame out while being the league’s top taxpayer.

“Here’s the deal with these guys (rich owners). They may be making 20 billion dollars a year and I’ve said this all along. When you’ve got to write a luxury tax cheque, or wire money for $40 or $50 million and you lose in the second round or conference finals, it’s not a pleasant meeting with the ownership. So I don’t care what they’re worth. Nobody wants to spend $50 million on tax,” Marks said.

Earlier, Marks told Empire Sports Media that a Harris deal worth $12 million annually would net the Nets a $50-million tax bill. A lucrative Allen extension would push Tsai to dig deeper into his pocket.

Even with a healthy Durant and Irving, the Nets are not a surefire favorite. They would have to contend in a crowded East with at least five more solid contenders in Miami, Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Boston.

Sean Marks showed his chops as an executive pulling the Nets out of the rabbit hole by extracting value out of nothing.

Now that he’s got something, will he keep it or flip it?

Marks has his work cut out for him.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Bradley Beal leaves door open for Nets, other contenders

New York Knicks, Marcus Morris

The Brooklyn Nets have an outside chance to land Bradley Beal, if not this offseason, in the foreseeable future.

Expect the Beal trade chatter to continue until next season after the Washington Wizards superstar left the door open for him to bolt out from D.C.

Beal, appearing on J.J. Redick’s podcast The Old Man and the Three, explained why he only signed a one plus one extension instead of the three or four-year deal.

“I want something built around me. I have that opportunity to do it here. I signed my deal and structured it to have some flexibility,” Beal said. “Because at the end of the day, I still want to win. The (Wizards) organization have to show me that we want to win. I want to see what John (Wall) is like [when he returns] as well.”

Beal suprised the league when he signed a two-year, $72 million extension that will keep him in Washington until the summer of 2022 when he can exercise his player option to enter free agency.

If he declines his player option, he would be eligible for a lucrative five-year, $266 million deal or sign elsewhere for a four-year, $198 million contract.

“You still want to be able to protect yourself and kinda be selfish. How can I create some type of flexibility for myself if we aren’t winning, if I do choose to get out.”

The Nets have reportedly discussed last summer on how to acquire Beal as the team’s third star after Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joined them last year.

At that time, Beal took the news as a sign of respect.

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of talk,” Beal told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. “It’s interesting. To me, I look at it as a sign of respect, that I’ve been doing good things and guys want to play with me. That’s an unbelievable feeling. When you hear that Kyrie and KD want you, s—, that’s amazing.”

“At the same time, you don’t know how much there is to it, or how easy it would be to do. And I’ve put down roots in D.C. I’ve dedicated myself to this town, this community. I love it here, and it would feel great to know I could grind out winning here instead of jumping to another team. But I’d be naive to say that I don’t think about it when these stories come up.”

The Wizards are hoping that Wall’s comeback will ease up the load on Beal and help them get back into playoff contention in the East which has gotten stronger with a healthy Durant and Irving in Brooklyn.

Wall has only played 73 games since 2017-18 but looks fine in a recent workout against, ironically, the Nets that surfaced on social media.

Without Wall, Beal had to shoulder much of the load and despite a stellar campaign last season, he wasn’t named to any of the All-NBA teams. Beal averaged 30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists while shooting 45.5 percent from the field, 35.3 percent from beyond the arc and 84.2 percent from the free throw line.

He was the first player to average 30 points and six assists who wasn’t named to any All-NBA team.

The Nets as well as the other contenders will be closely monitoring Beal and the Wizards situation.

The pressure is building up in Washington.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Will the Knicks hit or miss on Nets’ unrestricted free agent Joe Harris?

Brooklyn Nets, Joe Harris

The Brooklyn Nets and their unrestricted free agent Joe Harris have both maintained they want to stay together.

Sean Marks has openly said that Harris will be the Nets’ No.1 priority in the offseason. Harris has also maintained since February that he intends to re-sign with the Nets and play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. 

“Definitely, why wouldn’t you? Obviously, those are guys who I’ve gotten close with now that I’ve been with them this past year,” Harris said. “They’re obviously incredible players. You see what they’re able to do when they are healthy and playing. I don’t think there’s anybody in the NBA who wouldn’t want to play with those guys.”

But it’s easier said than done.

The Nets, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently said in his podcast The Lowe Post, will face stiff competition to retain Harris.

“I have news for the Nets,” Lowe said. “They’re going to have competition for Joe Harris. These teams with cap room all view Joe as a potential very good fit on the floor and a good culture guy.”

Their stiffest competition could come, according to multiple sources, across the river, the New York Knicks.

“Obviously, he’s someone who can spread the floor for RJ (Barrett) and Mitch (Robinson). But he’s so much more than just a spot-up shooter. His locker room presence will be tremendous for the culture they’re building there,” one league source told Empire Sports Media.

An Eastern Conference league executive also believes Harris will definitely command a big contract but he doesn’t see him bolting out of Brooklyn.

“He’s entering the prime years of his career. He will definitely be one of the top free agents at a time when there are no superstars in the market,” the executive told Empire Sports Media.

“But the Nets ownership has been open about their willingness to pay the luxury tax. They have their championship window in front of them. I don’t think they will let him walk,” he added.

Former Nets assistant general manager and current ESPN’s Front Office Insider Bobby Marks said that Harris would command a substantial offer from teams with cap space. He recently broke down the Harris free agency scenario with the Nets:

“Brooklyn would have only the $5.7 million tax midlevel if Harris does not return. They would also lose a possible future trade asset that cannot be replaced. Harris has already established Bird rights with Brooklyn, meaning that the Nets can pay him up to 30% of the cap (which is very unlikely) and an additional five years.

If the luxury tax comes in at $132.7 million, the Nets would start the offseason $9.9 million over the threshold and with a $15.9 million penalty. A Harris contract starting at $12 million would push the Nets’ tax bill to $49.9 million — a combined $46 million in 2020-21 to retain the 28-year-old.”

In the 2018-19 season, the Thunder paid the highest luxury tax at $61.6 million while the Golden State Warriors were second at $51.5 million. The last time the Nets were over the limit was in the 2014-15 season when they paid $20 million in luxury tax.

The Nets will return to that list of tax paying teams next season in their hopes to retain their core.

They will likely face a bidding war with the Knicks or even the Atlanta Hawks for Harris’ services. Both the Knicks and the Hawks are in rebuilding mode and armed with cap space.

Harris checks all the boxes that the Knicks are looking for.

The former three-point champion was once a reclamation project just like what the Knicks have in their current youngsters. His four-year stay with the Nets and the culture built by GM Sean Marks and their former coach Kenny Atkinson transformed him from a forgotten man into one of the elite role players in the league.

Harris has become a solid three-point threat — 38.5%, 41.9%, 47.4%, and 42.1% in each of his past four seasons with the Nets — and so much more that led to his inclusion in the last Team USA.

New Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau spoke about defense, ball movement, efficiency, and three-point shots as the staples that he wants to inject into the team’s DNA.

Harris definitely fits that profile.

The 29-year sharpshooter could come in and show the way for the younger Knicks players how to become a playoff team.

His defensive win share has steadily increased from 0.2 in his rookie year to 1.8 last season. The stocky guard has shown his willingness to play defense and offers a lot of intangibles more than just his outside shooting. His ability to drive to the basket has become the most underrated part of his game. This past season, Harris made half (50.2 percent) of his 6.5 drives per game.

The Knicks can free up to as much as $50 million in cap space this offseason. And with no marquee stars in the NBA free agency, Harris will be up there along with Toronto Raptors’ Fred Van Vleet and Miami Heat’s Goran Dragic on top of the free-agent list among guards.

This is an opportunity for Harris to leverage his position and earn what could be the biggest contract in his career.

Harris’ agent Mark Bartelstein has negotiated Joe Ingles’ four-year $52-million deal in 2017 and a $14 million one-year extension last year to stay with the Utah Jazz. They could be looking for a similar type of contract with the Nets.

The Knicks could dangle more money and a chance to be a catalyst for the franchise’s turnaround. But the Nets’ likely cheaper offer comes with an immediate shot to contend for a ring with Durant and Irving.

Those options will be there for Harris.

Which will he choose?

Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving offers words of encouragement for Caris LeVert

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

The Brooklyn Nets are without roughly half their roster in the NBA bubble due to a combination of injuries and players opting out of play. Subsequently, those present have assumed larger workloads in head coach Jacque Vaughn’s rotation, one of them being Caris LeVert.

In the six games he has appeared in since the regular season resumed, LeVert has averaged 25.0 points, 6.7 assists and five rebounds per game while shooting 48.0 percent from the field.

Kyrie Irving is among the Nets players absent from the bubble, but the star point guard has offered LeVert words of encouragement (quotes per Marc Berman of the New York Post).

“I talked to Ky [on Friday] morning, talked about the games and playoffs coming up and giving me encouragement,’’ LeVert said on a Zoom call Saturday. “He’s watching all the games. He’s been in this position before, fighting for something.’’

The Nets took the Portland Trail Blazers, who were playing to get into the NBA playoffs, to the final buzzer of their Thursday night matchup. Despite losing 134-133, there were positives for the Nets to build on, specifically LeVert’s performance.

The homegrown first rounder finished with 37 points, nine assists and six rebounds while shooting 16-of-29 from the field. LeVert finished the 2019-20 NBA regular season averaging 18.7 points, 4.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Vaughn feels Irving reaching out to LeVert is “huge.”

“It’s huge Caris got a call from Ky — that’s a great thing this isn’t an individual sport,’’ Vaughn said. “Just because we don’t have the group with us, doesn’t mean they can’t be part of it. Caris appreciated that.’’

The Nets finished the regular season 35-37, which is good for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, and 5-3 in the bubble. They’ll begin their first-round series matchup with the second-seeded and defending NBA-champion Toronto Raptors on Monday. Tipoff is at 4 p.m.

Brooklyn Nets: Sean Marks talks Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving’s health and input

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

Last summer, the Brooklyn Nets signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to four-year, max-level contracts. Durant has missed the entire 2019-20 season as he rehabs from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the 2019 NBA playoffs. Meanwhile, Irving has been limited to 20 games this season due to a handful of injuries.

As the NBA gears up for the resumption of the 2019-20 regular season, Nets general manager Sean Marks feels it’s important to take into account the long game with Durant and Irving regarding them playing this season (quotes by means of Brian Lewis of the New York Post).

“[Irving] is doing well. But like Kevin, you have to look at the risk-reward. When you have a lot of money and your future tied to a couple guys — the whole team, but these two guys are an integral part of it — they haven’t had the appropriate buildup,” Marks said Friday on WFAN. “The last thing you want to do is put these guys out there when they haven’t had the appropriate workload and buildup.”

The Nets parted ways with head coach Kenny Atkinson in March, subsequently promoting Jacque Vaughn to interim head coach. Vaughn coached two games prior to the NBA season being suspended.

Marks feels that Durant and Irving should have some input on the team’s head-coaching future.

“It would not be smart of us if we were not to involve some of these key players in this decision,” Marks said. “Kevin, Kyrie, we’re going to pick their brains on what they’re looking for in a leader, what they need. They’ve been brutally honest so far.”

Marks makes it clear that the two stars want to win a championship with the Nets.

“I’m not going to be asking Kevin to come down to Orlando to evaluate anybody. When you get to the level of those elite players, they have ultimate goals in mind. They want to be held accountable. Kevin and Kyrie have told me they want to win a championship in Brooklyn.”