With the Lakers closing out the Heat to win the 2020 NBA title, the Nets officially face what might be the biggest offseason in franchise history.
The status in Brooklyn? It’s go time. The urgency level must be high.
In a perfect world, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving retire as Nets. They are dominant forces for the next decade. And the Nets are a true contender for all of those seasons.
But the world is not perfect. When the 1995 Magic and 2012 Thunder made the finals, those young cores were supposedly poised to make multiple finals and dominate the sport. Neither returned. When the 2011 Bulls played the Heat in the 2011 eastern conference finals, it was billed as the East finals of the next decade. The Bulls never returned.
Contrast this with the 2019 Raptors. They were not true contenders before acquiring Kawhi, and despite their record without him in 2019-20 are not true contenders now. They had a one year window to win a title. They took it. That’s what the Nets need to do
Even when title windows open, they are often cut short quicker than expected. The Heat big three counted more titles at their welcome party than years they ultimately played together. The Warriors were seen as the next decade long dynasty. Two freak injuries and Durant’s departure to Brooklyn later, and their window is shut after five years … maybe for good. The Cavs? After LeBron said he was done with free agency for good, he still left. They won one title by the skin of their teeth. A bounce here or there, and they win zero.
You might think hey, what is there to worry about? Durant and Irving said they will be here long time. They might be! They also might not be. Stars these days join teams to eventually leave, Durant and Irving included – even when they say that’s not the case. Both KD and Kyrie are on their third team, the former after talk he was not the free agency type and the latter after pledging to stay. Third teams are also the standard for Leonard and George – after the latter said he was here in Oklahoma to stay. LeBron has jumped ship in free agency three times. Chris Paul chose the Clippers then left by choice for a third team. Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Gordon Hayward, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh left their teams.
All of this is to say, the following. No matter who you are, if you have a window to win a title, you have to assume the window is this year and this year only, and your window is only as long as your star decides to stay in town. Assuming you have years and years and acting accordingly, is a mistake. Just ask the Thunder: they traded Harden for long term sustainability.
What does this mean for the Nets? It means this offseason is not the time to be content with the roster. This is not the time to say let’s “see how this mix works,” with the logic being you can make trades later if this mix does not work. Do that, and you just burned one season with Durant and Irving.
And, for all you know, that one season may have been your only chance to win a title.
So, for this offseason, the key is to be aggressive. This Nets roster has real weaknesses. Every non LeBron led title winner in this era has had multiple high level two way wings to throw at the league’s premier players – LeBron’s, Kawhi’s, Giannis, Butler, George, Durant (we are covered there!), and etc. The Nets are really weak in that area, and the taxpayer midlevel is not fetching that caliber of player.
For this reason, you hear the trade word so often around this team. Kyrie Caris and Spencer cannot play as a unit. While 1-2 sit in crunch time (read: the last two), the Nets are forced to finish with players like Chandler Kurucs and Prince – that’s how poor their wing rotation is. This team needs substantial upgrades in that area of the roster, or a third star so talented that he can compensate for the lack of defense. A center who can shoot would not hurt either – nobody outside of Harris truly spaces the floor around Durant and Irving, and they will need that space to operate in the paint.
Moves will likely mean the Nets bid farewell to some players the fanbase has come to love. One or Spencer or LeVert is likely gone to truly make this team a champion. Allen, too. And perhaps more than that. I get the nostalgia of hoping guys stay. Warriors fans love Curry over Durant, Heat fans love Wade over LeBron, and neither Durant or LeBron were adored at other stops like they were in Oklahoma and Cleveland. It’s not hard to understand why that is. And I get the feeling that the Nets may feel like a bunch of ringers if too many “here for the tough times” pieces are moved.
Still, a title heals all wounds. I think Lakers fans are just fine with how this season ended. And if the Nets win, the love for the group that does it will be so deep, that the wounds of trading anyone – even LeVert – will disappear.
Maybe it’s Beal. Maybe Holiday. Maybe Covington or Gordon. Or maybe someone we are not thinking of right now. All I know is the Nets, armed with tradeable contracts and a full arsenal of picks, have an opportunity to improve substantially this offseason. And they must take advantage.
Because yes. We like all of these players. But I remember the Nets making the NBA finals.
I like that more.
Sean Marks has shown that he is not nearly as big on continuity and sticking with who brought him here, as he may want portrayed publicly. The fabric of the Nets after his first three years was DLO and Kenny. Marks dumped both. That gives me confidence he will do the same with the current long term Nets, if it makes us better.
For fans desperate to get back to the finals, that is a relief.