The Brooklyn Nets' season has come to an end at the hands of a dramatic overtime finish in Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Nets will now shift their focus to an offseason with a couple important decisions to remain a contender next year.
The 2021 NBA Draft
Picks: No. 27, No. 44, No. 49 and No. 59
Prospects to target: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Villanova), Miles McBridge (West Virginia), Quentin Grimes (Houston), Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois)
Brooklyn has its own first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, which will be 27th overall by way of having the fourth-best record in the NBA this season.
The Nets have a few directions they could head in with this draft pick. Because they will not have any cap space available this offseason, they could try and move the pick as part of a package to bring in a more established player that can contribute immediately to their championship aspirations. Alternatively, they could make a selection and either aim for an upperclassmen in hopes that the player will get accustomed to the NBA game quickly and be able to potentially crack the rotation or pick a young project late in the draft and allow them to learn under veterans like Durant, Harden, Irving and Harris.
According to my 2021 NBA Draft Big Board, I had Arizona State freshman Marcus Bagley, brother of former No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley, as the No. 27th-ranked prospect in this draft class. While Bagley would be more of the latter option, as a 19-year-old wing scorer who could one day be a solid shot-maker and versatile defender in the NBA, it would make more sense for the Nets to go after another ball-handler.
For more established prospects, West Virginia junior guard Miles McBride, Houston junior guard Quentin Grimes or, if he were to slide this far, Illinois junior guard Ayo Dosunmu, would all be great fits in Brooklyn. For younger guard prospects, look for G League Ignite 19-year-old Daishen Nix or Arizona State freshman Josh Christopher.
Upcoming free agents
The Nets' Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving are all under contract for another season, each with a player option heading into the 2022-23 season before becoming unrestricted free agents in 2023-24.
Joe Harris is under contract until 2024-25, DeAndre Jordan is under contract until 2023-24, Landry Shamet and Nicolas Claxton are both under contract for one more season before becoming restricted free agents in 2022-23 and Alize Johnson has two more years of non-guaranteed money on his deal.
That leaves Brooklyn with a handful of key rotation pieces that will enter free agency this offseason.
It has already been reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that Spencer Dinwiddie, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear three games into the year, will elect to decline his $12.3 million player option and become an unrestricted free agent. Joining him in unrestricted free agency will be two of the most important cogs during Brooklyn's playoff run in Jeff Green and Blake Griffin, while reserves Tyler Johnson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot will also be unrestricted free agents.
Bruce Brown, who played a major role for the Nets as a key reserve or fill-in starter all season, will hit restricted free agency this offseason. The only other restricted free agent on the roster is Mike James, who the Nets picked up on a 10-day contract midway through the year before signing him to a "rest-of-season" deal.
|Unrestricted Free Agent(s)||Restricted Free Agent(s)||Player Option(s)|
|Spencer Dinwiddie||Bruce Brown||None|
|Blake Griffin||Mike James|
According to RealGM's Keith Smith, the Nets will not be able to create any cap space this offseason, over the cap by the largest number in the NBA at $46.4 million.
How will the Nets fill out their roster this offseason?
The Nets are in a difficult spot to put talent around their Big 3 because they have no cap space to sign potential free agents (beyond the veteran minimum) this offseason.
Did Green and Griffin play too well to shed their veteran minimum contracts? Or will they be willing to put money aside at this point in their respective careers to continue a pursuit for a championship ring in Brooklyn?
What type of offers will Brown receive as a restricted free agent? The 24-year-old Swiss Army Knife proved he can play anywhere from point guard to centre this season and his contributions to the Nets' success just may have put a price tag on his head that is too rich for Brooklyn to afford.
The Nets will surely be a desirable destination for any veterans willing to take the minimum to chase a ring, but aside from those types of players and deals, they are in a bind to fill out their rotation for next season if the current players on their roster elect to sign elsewhere.
One key stat
12: The total number of games - regular season and playoffs combined - the Nets' Big 3 played together this season.
Despite acquiring Harden 13 games into the season, Brooklyn's Big 3 could not stay healthy enough to maximize the team's potential. The idea was that if the Nets could have all three superstars at full strength by the start of the playoffs, the team would contend for a championship.
We saw the slightest glimpse of that in the Gentleman's Sweep of the Boston Celtics in the first round of the postseason, as the trio combined to average 85.2 points per game, the most by a threesome in NBA Playoff history.
The Nets Big 3 averaged a combined 85.2 points this playoffs.- StatMuse (@statmuse) June 2, 2021
To put that in perspective, the 1999 Knicks (who went to the Finals) averaged 85.0 as a team. pic.twitter.com/lCCizfDbep
When Harden went down with a hamstring injury just 43 seconds into Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, that hope of the Big 3 staying healthy was put in jeopardy. He would miss the next two games before Irving would go down with a brutal ankle injury in Game 4 that caused him to miss the remainder of the series. Harden would fight through the pain and return for Games 5, 6 and 7, but without that third star, the Nets wouldn't have enough firepower to get the job done.
Would the Nets have won the title if all three players stayed healthy? That's a question that will remain unanswered.
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