The Brooklyn Big 3: The Assets
Updated: Apr 22
Recently, on his ESPN podcast The Hoop Collective, Brian Windhorst said "they’ve telegraphed that they intend to try to use some of their young talent to acquire a third star along Kyrie and Durant" and "they are going to swing for the fences whenever the offseason comes." Evidently, he was talking about the Brooklyn Nets and their aspirations to improve their roster this offseason before the start of next year, where they will find themselves in a new position –– contending for a championship –– for the first time in seemingly forever.
Of course, Brooklyn was able to make a "clean sweep" –– as many fans remember it –– on the opening night of NBA free agency in 2019, signing Finals MVP Kevin Durant and NBA Champion Kyrie Irving, alongside their good friend and former All-NBA center, DeAndre Jordan. Durant had already been ruled out from playing in the 2020 season, but the Nets organization hadn't seen talent on this level since the days of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter in the early 2000s.
Even after the sudden influx of talent, the season for the Nets was still an absolute calamity. Kyrie Irving was only able to suit up for 20 games after weeks of mystery regarding his health, and Caris LeVert was only able to play for 39 contests. The spark that the club had startlingly struck the year before –– catapulting themselves into the playoffs –– had clearly died out. They parted ways with upstart coach Kenny Atkinson citing an inability to mesh with the team's stars as a result of the new superstar "culture", which came along with the blue-collar signings in the summer of 2019.
The Nets are now in what many call "win-now" mode. Their opening for an NBA championship started as soon as those contracts were inked, but with both Durant and Irving being on the older side compared to other NBA players, 28 and 31 respectively, the Nets need to capitalize on the 2020-21 season in a major way. Thus, the Windhorst report from earlier makes sense. In a time when the league is full of Big 2’s such as LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and Russell Westbrook and James Harden, the Nets want to add a surefire star to their already excellent core. Let's take a look at how that would be possible.
The first option is to hope that a player already on the roster develops into this third star, namely Caris LeVert. Windhorst mentioned this on his podcast saying, "Now, we can enter a healthy debate here about whether Caris LeVert is that third star, and they may make the decision that he is." After Irving was ruled out for the rest of the year at the All-Star break and LeVert was placed in the starting lineup, he showed out tremendously, with a 51 point performance in Boston during an impressive OT comeback on the road and a triple-double against the San Antonio Spurs in a blowout at Barclays.
LeVert flourishing into the star to round out the Nets' star-studded core isn't a novel idea, as Marks has stuck with him and kept him on the roster amidst adversity. Strictly speaking, that adversity has been injuries, year in and year out. LeVert is no stranger to getting hurt, in fact, the only reason the Nets were able to snag him at the 20th spot in the draft is that he suffered a foot injury in his sophomore season. Injuries continued to plague him once he arrived in Brooklyn, where he has played 57 games, 71 games, 40 games, and 39 games in each season.
After reviewing LeVert's injury history, it is reasonable for the Nets and Sean Marks to pursue more solidified options to add star power to this team. The most likely way for this to happen is via a trade, which was supported by Windhorst, he said that he was "aware of some conversations that they had at the trade deadline, which was some sticking the toe in the water on some things". What's more, The Athletic's Chris Kirschner reported at the trade deadline that Brooklyn inquired on Atlanta's young star John Collins, but talks were not reported as to be "advanced".
Assuming Brooklyn did feel so inclined to make a move for another star, who are their assets?
To start, Brooklyn's best asset –– with Durant and Irving off the table –– is the aforementioned Caris LeVert. Though he has been hounded by injuries, when healthy the Michigan product has shown nothing but good signs, and his biggest weakness –– an outside jump shot –– improved drastically this year, with LeVert shooting 38 percent from behind the arc this year.
Next in line –– and some might argue first –– comes Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie has been an elite ball-handler off the Nets bench for multiple years now, and with Irving missing significant time, his averages skyrocketed to 20 points and 7 assists per game and was even named Player of the Week on November 25th. Dinwiddie is a good point guard who would fit in most situations since he can play on and off the ball, can score and facilitate, only makes $10 million per year, and his contract is set to expire after next year, but he has a player option should he finds himself in a situation he likes.
Up next is Jarrett Allen. The 'Fro has established a reputation of being an elite rim protector and star-stuffer, having denied LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and James Harden at the hole. His 65% field goal percentage ranked third in the entire NBA, and he was the fifth-most efficient rim protector. Turning only 22 years old in a week, he will definitely be a hot commodity on the trade market.
Rounding out the asset stash is Taurean Prince, who is coming off an extremely disappointing season. He arrived in Brooklyn as the return in a draft night deal involving Allen Crabbe, a move that cleared up the cap space to sign Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Prince had shot 39 percent from 3 in the past few years and was seen as a potential 3-and-D option at the wing. In pre-season, Prince shot 69% from three and earned himself a two-year, 29M dollar extension. This extension proved to be a grand error in the regular season, however. Prince was consistently lost on the defensive end, hesitant on offense, a poor decision-maker, and worst of all, a below-average shooter. That $14.5 million salary is now a useful asset for Brooklyn to match salaries in a potential blockbuster deal for a big time player.
Loaded with all of their own first round picks in the coming years and a plethora of second-rounders, Brooklyn should be in the driver’s seat in the trade market.