Turns out Kevin Durant didn’t play his last game for the Nets.
Almost two months after news of Durant’s trade request broke, the Nets released a statement said Tuesday that they met with the 12-time All-Star and “agreed to continue our partnership.”
In other words, Durant is no longer available.
“We are focused on basketball with a common goal in mind: build a lasting franchise to bring a championship to Brooklyn,” the statement said.
It’s another stop on a tumultuous off-season subway ride for Brooklyn.
While Durant and Kyrie Irving dominated the headlines, the Nets quietly went about their business on their own. Not only did they re-sign Patty Mills and Nic Claxton, they also added TJ Warren and acquired Royce O’Neale in a deal with Jazz.
The result? Possibly the best team the Nets have had since Durant and Irving decided to move to Brooklyn.
MORE: A reminder of Kevin Durant’s undeniable greatness
How good are the Nets with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons?
The nets have the potential to be really good next season. As, Yes, really Well. They’ll only go as far as Durant and Irving can carry them, but the front office have assembled the right mix of players around the dynamic duo.
Seth Curry, Joe Harris and Mills are three of the NBA’s top shooters. O’Neale gives the Nets a much-needed 3-and-D wing. Before injuries that basically sidelined him two straight seasons, Warren was an effortless goalscorer.
And, of course, the Nets still have Ben Simmons, who is expected to be ready for training camp after undergoing back surgery. What version of Simmons will the Nets get? Time will tell, but he has the potential to work alongside Durant and Irving quite nicely.
Defensively, he gives the Nets a legitimate stopper against point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, and power forwards. (This is your reminder of Simmons taking second place for Defensive Player of the Year in 2020-21. He’s extremely disruptive and quite possibly the most versatile defender in the league.) His fit isn’t as clean offensively, but he’ll pass the Nets in the transition give a boost and could thrive in a role like Draymond Green alongside Durant and Irving.
TSN’s Steph Noh gave the Nets an A grade when they acquired Simmons at the close. Much of what he wrote still applies:
The offensive fit will be a bit messier. Simmons works best with the ball in his hands, but coach Steve Nash wants to play a more free-flowing approach and the Nets already have better presenters than Simmons in their roster in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. He mostly needs to play in the dunker spot where he can catch dump-off passes for layups.
One area where Simmons can certainly help the Nets offensively is in transition. They are ranked 27th in the points added about Cleaning the Glass. It’s perhaps best as a grab-and-go point forward on quick breaks. He can also carry lineups when Durant needs a breather or when Irving is missing home games.
With Durant and Irving back on board, the Nets head into the 2022-23 season with the following depth chart:
- PG: Kyrie Irving, Patty Mills
- SG: Royce O’Neale, Seth Curry, Cam Thomas
- SF: Kevin Durant, Joe Harris, Kessler Edwards
- PF: Ben Simmons, TJ Warren
- C: Nic Claxton, Day’Ron Sharpe
Pretty damn loaded, right? They’re light in the middle, but they’re built to play a lot of small balls with Durant and Simmons on the four and five.
With Irving and two shooters around them, these lineups have the potential to be absolutely dynamite.
like that . . . You’re saying the Nets will win the championship?
Stay there. Talented as they look on paper, the Nets have a few question marks.
Injuries have limited Durant to 90 games out of a possible 154 for the past two seasons. Given his age, injury history and the number of kilometers he has accumulated, his availability is a legitimate concern. He was also obviously not happy with his situation because he was requesting a trade.
After not getting what he wanted — don’t forget Durant reportedly gave the franchise an ultimatum — do the Nets have his full commitment?
Irving has been even less available than Durant, only appearing in 83 games in recent seasons. He struggled with a few injuries in 2020/21 and was sidelined for most of the 2021/22 season due to his COVID-19 vaccination status. It wasn’t that long ago that it looked like he played his last game with the Nets as well.
It’s easy to imagine Simmons wreaking havoc defensively and being spoon-fed baskets from Durant and Irving, but the reality is we haven’t seen him play in over a year, he’s coming off back surgery and his role in Brooklyn is going to be pretty looking good unlike in Philadelphia, where he was a three-time All-Star. It will almost certainly be some time before he finds out.
Also, the Nets have been intended to be contenders for the last two seasons and have come up short both times. Every team should know that there are no guarantees in the NBA.